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What It's Like to Be an Extroverted Introvert and Highly Sensitive Male

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Try to explain to people that you are two things that don’t make sense to most of the population, including, at one time, myself. Tell them you are an extroverted introvert and highly sensitive male (HSP) in today’s world. The first question I usually get as people learn this about me is “are you gay” (not that anything is wrong with that. Nod to Seinfeld). But the sad truth is that it is unexpected for men to act a certain way and to have certain feelings and issues. But I am not alone and it took me a long time to find others who were like me. It took me a long time to learn about me.

It started innocently enough as a young boy. I remember having strong emotional feelings most of my young life. Things were either up or down and I felt I was relating to what others felt around me. I also remember, very early on, that music, television and movies were very important to me. All were for the same reason — that I could relate and remember how I felt and where and when it was I saw or heard each of these things. I also recall always being very touched by the lyrics in music. It’s not that the beat wasn’t important either, but songs could make me sad and cry or be happy and energetic. Music has always held a very close place in my heart. That is because musicians pour their hearts into lyrics and depending on your age and feelings, these affect you. At least they did me.

But as I grew into a school age boy, I found the weakness in my extroverted introversion and high sensitivity. Well, I didn’t find the weakness — bullies at my schools did. They found me easily affected by their bullying and as hard as I tried, I could not mask these emotions. At the same time, my extroverted introversion had me wanting to be liked and be part of the crowd, yet also made me different. As time went on my conditions became my insecurity and my own disbelief in myself. I wondered for many years what was wrong with me. Why didn’t others feel these feelings strongly like I did?

As time went on, these bullying years would haunt me and I would struggle through my high sensitivity to ever let them go. This is what us highly sensitive people don’t share — we don’t ever forget how we felt during both the highest happy times in our lives and particularly the lowest painful times. We can recall them on a dime. For years after all these things happened, I didn’t even believe it myself, trying my hardest to bury my authentic self every day and be who I thought others wanted me to be.

But this was quite painful. Yes, it was mentally painful, but fighting, trying to be an extroverted non-sensitive male was physically painful for me. I would have stomach problems all the time from age 16 until I learned about my personality issues. Of course, I would learn in a hard way also, by experiencing low self-worth, leading to stress, to anxiety and finally to depression as I fought my authentic self. I could have given up so easily at this point. It was the lowest point of my life and I thought every day that I would lose my job, my wife and my children. It physically hurt very badly.

But, the good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there is nowhere to go but up. So, the choice was to wallow in my self-pity or do the work to learn about who my authentic self was. I chose the latter and through the help of mentors, professional mental health experts, coaches and self-help books, I found out who I truly was. But, best of all, I found out that being an extroverted introvert is a real issue, as is being a highly sensitive person. I found out that my authentic self was nothing more than the makeup of who I was… who I was supposed to be. So, I embraced it and built skills to work with these personality traits — to both work with them and not allow them to run my life, but work my life around them.

I am a male with these traits. I like sports OK, but like a good conversation around feelings much more. I like to feel my emotions, both laughing and crying. I like to listen to others and have an empathic sense about what they tell me and what they need. I learned to change aspects of my life so that I lived healthier and could work through my personality. I embraced who I was and now realize I am lucky to feel so much and to be able to be an extroverted introvert, because I know that even this writing is because of these personality traits. No, I’m not easy to live with. I have never been, even with myself. But truly, is anyone? No, most people don’t understand when I share this with them. They just don’t have the same empathetic ability to understand what I tell them I’m feeling. I accept all that, and those who love me and want to be with me make that choice as well.

I look at it this way in the end. I would rather feel too much than not feel at all. I would rather deal with the dichotomy of being an extroverted introvert than to only be one or the other. But most of all, I embrace the uniqueness of me, but that also I am not alone. There are many of us out there and once we stop hiding behind what we think others expect us to be, we become who we were meant to be. And that is the true blessing of being our authentic self.

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Originally published: June 17, 2017
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