When I was in high school, my psychology class did a project on introversion and extroversion. For the project, we were supposed to identify each of our friends as either an introvert or an extrovert. My entire class “marked” me as being an introvert.
There was just one problem. I’m actually an extrovert.
But I’m not the stereotypical extrovert you may think of when you hear that word: a raging social butterfly, speaking over others and always jumping to be the center of attention. No, I’m an extrovert who is also a highly sensitive person (HSP) — someone whose nervous system processes all experiences very deeply. That can make my actions and emotions seem pretty surprising to people.
In fact, the very idea of being both highly sensitive and an extrovert is often seen as a contradiction, as if those two things can’t “go” together. But they can — and it’s more common than people think. About 30 percent of all highly sensitive people are extroverted, which means they may be quiet, thoughtful, and cautious like many introverts, but still get their energy from being around people.
It’s time to break that misconception. Here are nine things I wish other people knew about me as a highly sensitive extrovert.
Join the HSP revolution. One email, every Friday. Posts that heal, transform, and make you feel understood. Subscribe here.
What Highly Sensitive Extroverts Wish You Knew
1. I may be an extrovert, but social events can exhaust me.
Yes, I always want to be invited. I like to mingle, and I love making memories. However, being highly sensitive means that I process every single bit of sensory information deeply. It also means that other people’s emotions can totally drain me.
As a result, I need time to recover from the social stimulation, or to regain my balance after an event. I do this by scheduling downtime, taking naps, walking alone, or meditating. Please, don’t question or judge these coping mechanisms — I really do need them.
2. My emotions aren’t a sign of weakness.
I tear up in museums. I avoid horror films. I have insanely deep thoughts about life. That is me.
Many people associate these traits with some kind of weakness. Like, I can’t do a job as well as others, or I can’t handle situations as well. This ultimately isn’t true.
Yes, I might cry at a commercial. Yes, sometimes I get overwhelmed when clothing is uncomfortable. Yes, if you show me a video of violence, I will become really unsettled. This doesn’t make me weak; this just makes me sensitive.
I’m strong willed and incredibly stable. Never overlook that.
3. I secretly lack confidence.
As an extrovert, many people just assume that I’m swimming around with tons of confidence. Honestly, this is another misconception about extroverts in general. However, as a highly sensitive extrovert, the idea that I’m confident couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead, my highly sensitive mind is designed to think through every possibility, which means I often second-guess myself. And my confidence can especially dip at times when I’m feeling overstimulated or emotionally overwhelmed.
The way I deal with this is by taking it slow. I ease into things, rather than just charging in. When others help me do this — for example, by telling me the plan in advance — it really helps me feel more comfortable and confident.
4. Being hangry is a real thing.
I get so incredibly irritable when I’m hungry, and people often assume that I’m being childish or spoiled. But honestly, it’s tough for me to tolerate. I know everyone can get cranky when they’re hungry, but it’s especially common for highly sensitive people.
As an extrovert, this can be even harder for me to deal with. My need to hang around people means that my sudden mood drop when I’m hungry can come at the worst time.
I wish people knew that my bad mood has nothing to do with them, or even gently remind me that I may need a snack.
5. I still need alone time.
When you identify someone as an extrovert, you might find it strange when they stop answering messages or miss an event. This might make you worry, or it might make you believe you did something wrong.
I can’t fault you for checking up on your friends. Always make sure they’re okay.
However, remember that people do need alone time to be at their best — and HSPs need more of it than others, because our nervous systems require that downtime to avoid overstimulation. That’s why it can be so damaging if you shame us for missing a party, or try to pressure us to attend.
Personally, I just need a little bit of a break, and then I’ll be completely fine. (And yes, I’ll want to see you again!)
6. I’m constantly learning.
If you think I’m overthinking something, it’s usually because I am. As a highly sensitive person, I am continually learning new things, looking for new ways to better understand situations, or thinking about small things I can do to help other people.
This can seem a little strange to others, but it’s definitely how I cope with my often overwhelming surroundings.
But it is something that can really conflict with my extroverted personality. Since I’m constantly doing things, meeting new people, and attending new events, there’s a lot to overthink about. My brain puts in a lot of overtime shifts.
Again, this stresses the importance of my need to be alone, so I can recharge and soak up all the information.
7. However, I really hate being alone for too long.
As much as I need downtime, being alone for too long is something I really can’t stand. There have been many work and study situations which have forced me to spend too much time alone. Pretty quickly, it starts to feel unnatural to me.
Why? Because I love being around people, I get my energy from being around them or involved in events, and I get terrible FOMO (fear of missing out) a lot.
I often get asked why I’m always busy, why I never do things alone, why I’ve never solo traveled, etc. My honest answer to this is because I really hate being alone, at least in large doses.
Just like introverts would rather relax in solitude, I would much rather be with my friends or family. For me, reading transforms into a book club, watching a movie turns into a cinema trip, and a quiet night in usually leads to accepting an invite out.
8. I’m my own worst critic.
For an HSP, all emotions are felt very strongly, including negative emotions. I’m prone to self-doubt, rumination, and self-criticism. So, even though I’m often putting myself in front of other people, I can also feel embarrassed easily, and I hold onto those embarrassed feelings for far longer than I should.
For example, If I’m trying out something new and challenging, I hate to be watched or asked about it. This is out of fear that I’ll make a fool of myself, or worse, fail. It’s quite strange; I cheer on my friends through all their new endeavors, and I give them nothing but support if things don’t go their way. However, I can’t usually give myself this same kind of treatment.
So, yes, this has made me into a perfectionist (I’m sorry if it can be a little bit annoying at times!). It also means that I really value gentle, low-pressure encouragement from my friends.
9. Creativity is my escape.
Being an extrovert means I love to express myself, but being highly sensitive means I often feel things that are hard to express. For me, creativity is my outlet. It keeps me grounded, helps me work off a bit of my extra energy, and adds a positive experience to my schedule.
Personally, I like to paint, write, and design. Many other highly sensitive extroverts enjoy performing or script writing. It’s a coping mechanism for us. It’s how we can put our feelings out into the world, without just screaming into a pillow. And, at its best, creativity is a way for others to share in our experiences that would otherwise be difficult for most people to understand.
As highly sensitive extroverts, our behavior can seem like a contradiction at times, making it that much harder for others to truly understand us. But, I’d like to think that we’re worth it: We give the best of two worlds, being both sensitive and caring but also vibrant and outgoing. Being a highly sensitive extrovert is a gift, and one I would never change.