One of the fascinating things I learned from my husband when we began dating many years ago is this – that, as a more quiet and sensitive kind of guy who excelled at his studies, he was popular in school growing up in China.
This was the complete opposite of my own experience growing up in America. Being quiet and sensitive didn’t exactly help me rise in popularity among my peers, particularly in junior high and high school. Add to that the fact that I was a straight-A student near the top of the class, which led a number of kids to just write me off as another geek.
Over the years, I’ve found myself more at ease in China, and I would often attribute it to a number of things, including this sense that I felt my personality was more accepted in the culture. Imagine my surprise to read Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person and discover a study that actually revealed that Chinese culture appears more welcoming to sensitive individuals:
If you remember only one thing from this book, it should be the following research study. Xinyin Chen and Kenneth Rubin of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and Yuerong Sun of Shanghai Teachers University compared 480 schoolchildren in Shanghai to 296 in Canada to see what traits made children most popular. In China “shy” and “sensitive” children were among those most chosen by others to be friends or playmates. (In Mandarin, the word for shy or quiet means good or well-behaved; sensitive can be translated as “having understanding,” a term of praise.) In Canada, shy and sensitive children were among the least chosen. Chances are, this is the kind of attitude you faced growing up.
Think about the impact on you of not being the ideal for your culture. It has to affect you — not only how others have treated you but how you have come to treat yourself.
Reading this was like a revelation, an ah-ha moment that confirmed something I had understood for years – that my personality felt like a better fit in China compared to the US.
How about you? Are you a highly sensitive person who has lived in the East and the West? Have you also felt more at ease in a culture in the East, such as Chinese?