It’s a sad fact that many HSPs (highly sensitive persons) develop personality disorders and elaborate defense mechanisms like NPD or BPD just to cope with the world because they feel like they have no normal defenses against being hurt or abused. The double whammy is that so many HSPs have disordered parents who scapegoated or abused them, just because they can see the truth about their parents’ malignancy through their mask of sanity. Of course, this makes it even more likely for an HSP to develop a disorder where they successfully or unsucessfully attempt to hide their high sensitivity (true self). High sensitivity/vulnerability is a wonderful quality and is needed in this unfeeling world, but is not well understood or accepted in a narcissistic, materialistic society. HSPs who have developed NPD or BPD or some other personality disorder are not happy people.
Having the gift of high sensitivity is especially hard on children, who tend to be easily bullied at school, even if their parents are accepting and loving, because these qualities are seen as “weak” or uncool by other kids and sometimes teachers too. Also, since children are naturally narcissistic, HSP qualities in a child tend to manifest as being easily offended or hurt. A child hasn’t yet learned to use their gift of sensitivity for good purposes or to help others. So an HSP child can easily develop a personality disorder, even if it’s less severe than a child who has been abused from early childhood.
But there are rare people who are highly sensitive who seem to come through childhood and adolescence unscathed. I’d like to talk about one such person. It was a young woman I knew at one of my old jobs. Her name was Meghann. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person so attuned to life, so in touch with her emotions, so accepting of others, and so joyful.
Meghann was physically beautiful but never seemed that conscious of her appearance. She dressed casually and wore very little make-up, but she didn’t need it. While not classically beautiful or what most would call sexy, Meghann’s beauty came from within. Enhancing her natural beauty with cosmetics or baubles would be like gilding the lily (although I did see her dressed up on occasion and thought she was equally stunning).
I trained Meghann when she was a new employee at a call center I used to work for. I liked her immediately; so did everyone else. She learned quickly and was quick to laugh but never AT anyone. She just laughed because she found humor in just about anything it was possible to find humor in, and that included herself.
Meghann had a way of attracting people to her. Both men and women loved being in her presence, because it was so loving and positive. Not obnoxious-positive, in the sense of fake-perky “positivity nazis” that pervade our society, but she had a subdued optimism and there was a kind of glow that seemed to emanate from her whenever she walked into a room.
Meghann was one of those rare nice people who rises quickly through the corporate ranks. I’ve found in most places I’ve worked, the most narcissistic and cold people seem to get ahead, but Meghann was so smart, likeable and good at her job that she was promoted to a supervisory position within 6 months of my training her.
As a covert narcissist, I was envious at first. What was this? I had trained her! As it always seems to be for me, I was still stuck in my low level job; no one would promote me there, and this–girl–who was young enough to be my daughter had moved way ahead of me and in such a short time. In fact, she was to be my new supervisor!
But it was strange too–I really didn’t mind. Somehow I was able to forget about my envy because she was just such a genuinely sweet person and I loved her too. You just couldn’t stay angry or envious of someone like that for long. And, I had to admit, she had done everything to deserve her promotion. I realized I was actually happy to be working under her and I told her so. I was rewarded with a dose of supply because she told me that if it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have been where she was,because I had been such a great and patient trainer.
Meghann laughed a lot but it was always a musical, natural laugh, never forced or fake, and she never laughed at people in pain or at tragedies. She laughed at herself as well as at all the absurdities the world has to offer if you just look for them. When Meghann laughed, people gathered around her to feel her joyful presence and be touched by it.
But Meghann was also very emotional. She was often in tears, not because she was sad or depressed, but because she felt everything so deeply. It wasn’t unusual for her eyes to become damp when she listened to you talk about some sad thing that happened to you, or even tear up when she was happy. I remember when she had her 26th birthday, and the department had all gone out on gifts and a cake (and we really meant it), she was smiling radiantly and wiping away tears at the same time. Even I felt myself responding and wanted to run up and hug her (I didn’t). She just had that effect on people. I don’t know one person who disliked her. She could tame even the nastiest, most envious people because of her joyful and accepting presence.
Meghann had many artistic talents where she freely expressed who she was. She could sing, paint, and take beautiful pictures. She made a lot of her own clothing which was original and beautiful. She was a person who knew exactly who she was and wasn’t ashamed to show it. You could tell she had enormous self confidence, but it never came off as arrogance, entitlement or grandiosity. In fact, most of the time Meghann was very humble. Not self-flagellating or fake-humble–she just never acted like she was somehow better than you or more deserving. She even blushed adorably whenever she was the center of attention (which was a lot) because she couldn’t hide her true feelings and didn’t try to either.
Meghann wasn’t happy every day. As a sensitive person, she felt everything, and sometimes the things she felt made her cry. When she was sad, everyone knew because she was quieter than usual and stayed in her office. But she was still approachable and never took out her depressed moods on other employees. You knew she’d been crying because her eyes and nose were pink, but she was never over the top about it and never sank into self pity or whining. She just felt her emotions and moved on.
I was in awe of Meghann. I couldn’t stay envious of her, although I had every reason to be (especially because she had been raised in a happy, normal family by loving parents–and I tend to be envious of people who had that). When she finally quit to move to another state, I almost cried along with everyone else. I couldn’t hate Meghann because in her, I saw the kind of person I think I could have been had my high sensitivity not been used against me as a young child and forced me to turn against it and try to be someone I never was.
My memory of Meghann still inspires me, because I want to be like that. I think I’m already halfway there.