Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking Perfectionists


photo courtesy of iam-se7en, Unsplash

Have I told you that I love people who are all of these things? Introverted, highly sensitive, introspective, super smart, and empathetic?

I also love “overthinking” perfectionists who obsess about creating a better world through raising the consciousness of humans, healing the dysfunction in their families and communities, parenting compassionate children, or finding loving-kindness in the chaos.

And let’s face it. If you’re reading this, you are an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. Am I right? (For those of you new to this blog, this means that you have a rainforest mind. (RFM)*)

And, even though you could be one of my best friends, well, you may still be anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair.

For many reasons.

Are you an Introvert? Chances are that you’re not the life of the party. In fact, you avoid parties. Why do people go to those things anyway? What could they possibly enjoy? Small talk? Puleeze. But you may be pressuring yourself to socialize more because that’s what normal people do. But the pile of 15 half-read books by your bed? Now, that makes you giddy. It’s not that you don’t like people. It’s just that more than one at a time is such a bad idea. On so many levels.

Are you Highly Sensitive? You may be easily overwhelmed by things that other people do not even notice. This can be embarrassing, as in, you have to leave the room because the sound of George chewing drives you bonkers, or the smell of Chanel makes you sick, or you’ve painted your living room 12 times and it’s still not right. You also have deep and wide-ranging emotions so you’re often seen as a drama queen or a sissy. Not only that. You’re deeply moved by a starry sky or by a well-crafted TV commercial for auto insurance.

Are you Introspective? You may be seen as self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or even narcissistic. This is frustrating because, in reality, you’re determined to understand the nature of humanity and, in particular, your own inner demons. All of this courageous inner exploration is the generous gift you give your ancestors and future generations. Your willingness to face the dark night of your soul is the opposite of narcissism. Perhaps you’ve been told to be less serious. Have more fun. Don’t they know that introspection is fun? And, hey, you’re saving them from your demons, for heaven’s sake. Where is their gratitude?

Are you Super Smart? I would have used the word gifted here but then you may have stopped reading. Right? But you are gifted. Your capacity for learning and understanding is vast. There are many thoughts going on in your brain and often several at one time. Even if your schooling experiences didn’t result in high grades or spelling bee championships, even if you aren’t a rocket scientist, your thirst for knowledge is unmistakable. You make connections, see relationships, and adore libraries and bookstores. You’re the intellectual fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

Are you Empathetic? This might also be spelled empathic. I’m never quite sure. Either way, you may have intuition and compassion that is extraordinary. You experience others’ emotions and burdens and you want to be of service. You might even have psychic talents. Clairvoyance, for example. Dreams that provide answers to your questions. Connections with the metaphysical or shamanic realms. This particular trait may be the one that you hide from the most. Especially, if there are misdiagnoses, religious zealots, or judgmental relatives in your past lives past.

Are you an Overthinker? I’m sure that you’ve been told that you think too much. What’s really happening is that you’re doing what comes naturally. I might even suggest that everyone else is underthinking. Of course, we need to distinguish this from rumination, which you might also do. You may worry excessively because you have a creative mind that can generate many thoughts. Worries, anxieties, and fears among them. But rumination is not the same as your natural capacity for deep, analytical, creative, fabulous overthinking.

Are you a Perfectionist? You can be persnickety to a fault. You may be terrified of mediocrity and failure. You might be a carefully honed procrastinator. Not ideal. You might need therapy to grapple with all of it. (Lucky for you, you’re introspective.) But, that’s not the whole story. You were born with a healthy perfectionism. You’re passionate about beauty, balance, harmony, precision, and justice. And that is ideal. And needed. Now. In these times. Most definitely.

So, my darlings, if you’re anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or in despair, and if you’re an introverted, sensitive, introspective, smart, empathetic, overthinking, perfectionist. You have a powerful, effervescent, multidimensional rainforest mind. And you, yes you, are among my best friends.

I mean it.


(*Note: If you are an extroverted RFM, you have all of these traits, except the obvious. You could also be a combination of both. I shall write about you soon-ish.)

To my bloggEEs: Tell us how you fit or don’t fit with these traits.  What are some of your examples of your introversion, sensitivity, or perfectionism? If you’re an extrovert, how are you different? What are your questions and concerns? Thank you, as always, for being here. I so appreciate hearing from you.


Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rainforest to describe this population. Like the rainforest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists, was released in June 2019.

76 thoughts on “Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking Perfectionists

  1. Her: “Tell me all about yourself.”
    Me: “Come back with a warrant.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I was so relieved to find out about introversion. It’s not that I don’t enjoy people’s company, I’m just highly selective!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Hugs to all of you.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I resonate with all of this! I do have to say that I have made perfectionism work for me, rather than hold me back now. I used to dream up stuff and then never try to create it as I knew it would never look like it did in my head. Now I go for it and how it comes out is always fine with me as I have changed my outlook. I look upon the mind image as a template, not the end product and am always surprised at what the projects ends up like rather than upset that it isn’t how my mind saw it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’m the extroverted RFM but otherwise… yeah, nail on the head. Reassuring to read during my moments of rumination and self-doubt. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Paula, thank you so much for your post, just what I needed this morning! You are so right. And what a laugh, yes, I’ve got at least 15 books on the floor by my bed, waiting to be read…. Don’t you think we’d need to find a new way to express the way we are, what our personalities are all about? ‘Introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ reduce people to only two things, which is really rather black-or-white. Thanks to Elaine Aron, we now know that there are highly sensitive people who are extroverts, so perhaps this means that the two categories we currently use are not quite a mirror of what and who we truly are? For example me, I really love partying with people that I appreciate and can talk to, people who understand that I need a 10-minute break to do the dishes behind locked kitchen doors while everybody else is dancing away! But I’m not partying with stiff and boring business or bank people, I much prefer reading a good book. So what does this mean – that I’m HS but extrovert in some situations and not in others? Or maybe we’d need to expand the notions of ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’?

    Liked by 3 people

    • I suspect that many RFMs might not fit easily into a certain category. I think it’s part of the complexity. That said, I am clearly an introvert. So, sometimes it’s pretty obvious. But other times, not so much.


  7. This is beautiful, thankyou. Wierdly I’m naturally an extrovert but I’ve been ‘burned’ so many times that introversion seems the safer bet most days. I love being around people but I flit between being brave enough to get out there and be myself with people and hiding away in little cave, lol. Many thanks for this.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I would love to sit on the couch in the far corner of the party, talking with you. This is perfect. Thank you! mwah!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It makes me feel better to read your posts on these subjects. All my life I have felt so weird.I have tried to understand myself and why I don’t fit anywhere. I always feel like the oddball in a group and have been known as the quiet, sweet, sensitive one my whole life, especially in my large family. Reading this makes realize there are so many people who are the same.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. That’s pretty much me!!… Not so introvert, but still not the center of attention or a party girl…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am all of the above. I have been practicing energy work, which has basically saved my life! I was in a constant state of overwhelm, depression, and crippling anxiety, but I am able to live in the muggle world without so much overwhelm now. I just have to keep up the energy work, continue to grow, and take very good care of myself. I have to give myself permission to take care of myself, and look out for myself : )

    Liked by 2 people

  12. All of these things. I am all of these things right down to the detail of 15 half-read books. I’ve already edited this short statement several times. I am currently processing feelings of being too needy, too over-thinking, and too perfectionist at work. Also, my mind is restless since my winter term course is starting later than usual and I don’t have the usual “new things” stewing up there. Today, I put two post-its at my work station and they say: I AM ENOUGH and I AM IMPORTANT. Thank you for this post Paula. You have reminded me of who I am, including the beautiful, brilliant parts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for writing, Vicky, even though you had to edit several times. I think that may be why some people don’t comment. It’s takes too much time to make all of the edits. Or to make it short when you have so much to say once you get started! I’m sure many readers will relate to those affirmations.


  13. So many books, so little time…

    I confess to having moments where I dream about running away to a cave somewhere, one that’s big enough to fit lots of books. Either that or a cave with a good wi-fi connection, then I just need my iPad with a range of reading apps 📚😌

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Prior to a very unfortunate string of experiences at school my 6 year old son was not introverted. But this describes him to perfection and makes being his parent a beautiful challenge. His layers are amazing, intriguing, breathtaking, frustrating at times. He has always been all of these things.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. As an ambivert, I enjoy parties bc it maximizes my ability to connect or revisit people in the shortest amount of time. I can spend ten minutes with six different people rather than go out for coffee six times. Then I can spend those other five hours reading. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s actually one of my resolutions this year to finish any half read books that I started 5+ years ago!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ok I didn’t want to leave three comments but I can’t let this one go.
    As a clairvoyant, empathic, religious zealot, I don’t think this issue is black and white either, even if I am a unicorn!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Every time you write a post in your blog, Paula, I feel you know me as if you were myself. Or even better than that! But this post is awesome, deep and resonating: I perfectly fit in every single word you wrote above! Indisputably! (So: Congratulations!! I am amazed.)

    And not only yours are soothing words; I also enjoy reading what other RFMs say, as I frequently share their thoughts and feelings… or I enjoy knowing how smart they are and feeling that other like-minds are out there, or reading how successful they are, or how they fortunately managed to solve their issues. 🙂

    Love to all you!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Pingback: Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking Perfectionists | Your Rainforest Mind | Late.Shift

  20. Reblogged this on Fox&Co. Mental Health and commented:
    10000% me. #INFJ #Introvert #Perfectionist #Overthinker

    Liked by 1 person

  21. ha me to a tee! love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I think I am all that, except that I am an extrovert. Or maybe not. I’m not sure really. I am very sociable and love company, being with people and parties. But I am also very selective, I like “quiet parties” with people who can talk about a variety of things and will enjoy the music and dance not go to get drunk, behave foolishly and be annoyingly loud. I like company and I am very open about myself and my thoughts and my feelings, only to feel later that nobody cared or understood me and they probably think I’m just an idiot. I have very few friends, most of them introverted actually, although I am quite good at having lots of acquaintances and meeting new people. I don’t really need more friends, I am happy with my reduced number. Sometimes I love and need being surrounded by people and at those times I socialise with all the acquaintances I can if my friends aren’t available. Others I prefer to stay alone, with my thoughts and my cat and my little family. Generally I always feel like I don’t fit in too much even though I adapt to different situations quite well. Can one be both, extroverted and introverted at the same time?

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Paula, Great post – so attuned and empathetic to what it feels like… just perfect :).

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thank you, once again, dear Paula. This is me 100%…a few examples for those who care to read…
    Introversion: yes, always books at bed—usually 2 on the go, constantly refreshing the pile, mostly from my city’s decent library. My computer allows me to type and drain my words/thoughts faster than I can do on paper and READ almost ANYTHING, especially when lacking someone sensitive to talk to 🙂

    >Sensitivity: I have had LOTS of ideas and projects on the go since as long as I can remember. People have always assumed that I simply love being busy, but this is false; I love ‘down time’ to myself (introversion) to work on my ideas, projects and skills, and to have peace to think and physical space to spread out simultaneous projects (dining room table, plus small desk). I adore learning across disciplines and helping others (I am a teacher) hence why I am naturally busy. I treat myself to working in a cafe or library often because I love being in quiet public spaces to work, BRAINSTORM ideas and pick up tidbits of conversations in the languages I know, and figure out what language is being spoken even if I don’t know that language…because to me, that is fun to do.
    When people write off ideas of mine that I have put some thought into as ‘crazy’, ‘impossible’, ‘too difficult’, ‘a waste of time’, etc. it does sometimes hurt (on multiple levels, if I don’t remind myself of this blog and all the people who share on it, and of the things I am literally writing about, that I tend to forget about myself as relative to other people). That brings me to…

    >Perfectionism/Over-thinker/somewhat Intelligent/Empathetic:
    >>First, a semi-side note: Is having ‘a hard head’/ being stubborn a trait of being gifted? Or is that just called intensity?
    I strive to be the most forgiving, caring, compassionate person I can be (and I am working on ‘perfecting’ those “imperfectible” traits–let’s thank the French for that word…), BUT, if someone DARE mess with an idea that has the potential to help people…watch out…because I will focus like they never thought possible, and work hard to connect all the dots to make that idea work and help people to (if at all possible) ultimately help themselves, and no…this never works out perfectly (why would anyone think a person with ideas would assume such a naive outcome)…HOWEVER, I will work damn hard to make sure that no details are overlooked and that things are logical, ORGANIZED, clearly communicated and presented so project goals are exceeded and no one’s feelings are hurt in any part of the process.

    In my mind, this is not evidently ‘over-thinking’–more like doing something well because if you are not going to do it well, then either a) don’t bother, or b) really just don’t do it at all, before you potentially do more harm than good to others and the planet. Nonetheless, turning a wild idea into reality could be assumed ‘crazy’, ‘impossible’, etc. by people who don’t easily see the connections that pop out so quickly and obviously to a RFM.

    >Introspection: All the ‘ideas’ and ‘brainstorming’ thanks to introspection are intense–Bloom had a point; creativity takes some knowledge and a bunch of ‘steps’ (though I don’t think there is an essential ‘order’, or maybe RFMs just take pleasure in practically skipping steps…) but true creatively is a ton of fun and makes life worth it. We all know that most actual job descriptions are beyond lame, yet we live in a system that mostly forces us to have them (…and most workplaces need a SERIOUS overhaul on multiple levels, in physical and non-physical spaces…). So maybe with intensity, we are just more aware of how to dial it up and down… or at least, try to learn to do, because sometimes intensity hits and you have to let the ideas out before your brain/heart/fingers metaphorically explode. Thanks to ‘dialing’ intensity (a skill I think I am learning here), we could conclude that our idea flows are not ‘crazy’, but (semi-) ‘controlled’ crazy.

    Your input, please: What do you do when your co-workers and family members think you are ‘crazy’, ‘too ambitious’, ‘trying to hard’? For the younger followers, do you find that ‘experienced adults’ have a way of saying in a patronizing way that you are clearly ‘trying to burn yourself out’ when really you feel like you are ‘on a roll with something’ and are energized by making progress?
    Much love to you all. One last thought: 2019 is the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much cmd1122. These examples are so helpful. I hope some readers will respond to your questions here. Sadly, I suspect that many will have your experience of being misunderstood and patronized. I’m delighted that you are seeing how those people are wrong and your glorious rainforest mind is pulsing and expressing and benefitting them, if they could only see. I’m not sure stubbornness is a trait but it doesn’t really sound like you’re stubborn. You’re determined, passionate, and powerful. That’s what it sounds like to me. And we’re so lucky to have you that way! ❤


    • Re co-workers thinking you’re crazy:
      I was also a teacher (before having kids). About 2/3 into my career of 14 years, I was in a specialist training program where we did some personality surveys to learn more about our thinking/learning styles. I always came out with completely different outcomes than the other teachers. It was then that I understood why I had difficulty getting along well with teaching colleagues. Most teachers are not analytical and don’t persevere to see things holistically, nor from various perspectives, as I do naturally. Oh so many times as a trainee and as a new teacher did I get strange responses to my questions on how my mentors think and plan. I came at challenges from a different angle, and it was rarely recognized nor appreciated. Only in private alternative schools did I find fellow teachers who shared my excitement for pulling ideas apart until they made sense.

      My advice: When you find a teaching placement where you feel you’re working alongside your ‘tribe’, enjoy the ride and cherish the moment. Unless you’re at university level, methinks it would be a rare find.

      When people think you’re working too hard or going to burn out, it usually looks to them like too much work or more trouble than it’s worth. But that is them, placing their values on you and your work. Find a mentor with whom you can have these conversations, and they should be able to help you navigate your particular situation without stepping on too many toes.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks for sharing your experience, Jackie.


      • “When people think you’re working too hard or going to burn out, it usually looks to them like too much work or more trouble than it’s worth.” Bingo, you’ve hit the nail on the head here.

        If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told a version of “it’s not perfect, but it’s the way we’ve always done it and change is too hard” or “that’s a good question, no one’s ever asked that before” to what seems obvious.

        I’ve never understood why so many people are comfortable showing up to the same place to do the same thing the same way every day. Why are innovation and hard work so undervalued? Because most think it’s too much work, I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi there Jackie,
        Thank you so much for all this helpful advice; I must have lost it in my inbox (over two years ago now), but it is wonderful advice! I am still looking for a job that is a good fit with like-minded colleagues; my last job was quite good, but that has ended, with me literally being called “too creative” and “thinking and acting too fast” (yet having been praised a bunch of times for my quick adaptive planning during 10 prior months of the pandemic).
        There are some neat alternative school and NGO program jobs that look interesting, so I am comparing options and learning about the staff I would be working with to know what the team dynamic is like beforehand. I am very tired of older teachers placing their outdated values on me and my work. Still looking for that mentor…one who thinks holistically and actually encourages that from their students and fellow colleagues.
        Hope you are well during this ongoing nightmare of COVID. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hey CMD – we share a few things in common! I suspect us “rainforest” folks also share similar Myers-Briggs and Clifton Strengths personality types. For the latter, “input, intellection & learner” are in my top 5, all about gathering new info and making sense of it… I have multiple books on the go, physical *and* Kindle!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cool to read this, Jasraj!! Sorry, I lost this comment in my inbox. Gathering new info and making sense of it are just such fun activities 😀 I always have many books on the go, and more and more articles these days 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  25. Hm… I’m pretty much all those things except for introversion, ambivert here. I feel like in each category I haven’t quite learnt yet how to take care of myself in my extra sensitivity and thus often lean into a maladaptive use of the trait (rumination, rationalization, analysis paralysis). It feels so unfamiliar to read about it here as something to celebrate, and not as a burden that negatively sets me apart from other people who seem less sensitive, less worried about existentiel questions, less interested in ethics.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It can certainly be a burden when you can’t find others who understand you and who have similar traits. Keep reading, RainySunshine. You’ll find ideas on how to deal with rumination, paralysis, etc. My book might also help. There are many ideas and resources. You are not alone!


  26. Of all the RFM traits I guess I find empathy to be the most difficult one to deal with. The inner critical voice keep on asking if I think I’m better and nicer than others, superhuman maybe, an angel maybe. Maybe I’m not treating myself with empathy. Or, what to do?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having lots of empathy for others can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if it’s important to you to help others. Applying some of that empathy for yourself sounds like a great idea, K.


  27. Pingback: The Gifted Extrovert | Your Rainforest Mind

  28. I found your blog after reading your 2/1 article on Introvert, Dear (“How I Found a Career That Had Introversion Written All Over It”). Both your article and this post are fantastic and fit me to a T. Despite years of researching introversion and the various facets of the gifted/intellectual categories, I’ve never heard the term “Rainforest Mind”, but I’ve often felt like an outsider and found that the world is definitely set up to favor extroverts, no matter what their intelligence level or capacity for big picture/greater good-level thinking might be. He who yells loudest always finds a seat at the table.

    Finding a home in the traditional work world (AKA offices that resemble the social hierarchy of a typical high school) has been a tremendous struggle. My coworkers and bosses always think I’m too quiet and serious and think my attempts to bridge obvious gaps in the workflow and overcome obstacles that others prefer to work around instead of fix are equal to being a control freak. It’s exhausting. But I always find solace in the chance to explore the layers of fellow introverts (gently and slowly of course!) also trapped in an extroverted environment.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. There is no such thing as “overthinking” IMO, as long as it has not resulted in complete paralysis and an inability to take any further action. The accusation of “overthinking” is typically made by those who rely on rote memorization, and is directed toward people who develop internal models to help understand their observations. Rote memorizers seem to be incapable of understanding the concept and process of mental modeling. I do not offhand know at what level of intelligence the reliance on mental modeling starts to kick in. Maybe you have access to enough information that you could provide some insight on this phenomenon?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “mental modeling,” Dennis. Sorry! I do write that what we call overthinking is just thinking to the RFM. Then I differentiate that from ruminating. RFMs often do lots of worrying, partly due to their ability to create multiple scenarios in their creative minds. The rumination is something to work to change. Learning relaxation and self-soothing techniques, for example.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. I always refer to myself as a social introvert 😂💛 probably more introverted loved this post lovely – so beautifully written 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Wow, I think I am *all* of these. And they all manifest in some way in my life, work & writing… regularly! I’ve gotten a better hold of them though. I’m realising more and more just how delicate my mind/body are. Energy management is an ongoing work in progress! Thanks for a great article.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. I knew I had a Rainforest Mind as soon as I started reading the description of this blog. This definition confirms it, although I am an ambivert. My husband is an extreme introvert with a Rainforest Mind. I love him more than anyone except Jesus. He dropped out of high school because all they did in class was check homework, and he had no time for homework, because his mom made him work to buy his own groceries (single mom, 5 kids). He is brilliant, and he is still stuck at the grocery store, practically running his Winn-Dixie, but paid part-time hourly and on Medicaid. Ridiculous what a bachelor’s is required for nowadays. Soon he will publish a book with 60 poems in it. I make a blog for him from a fraction of his writings – mostly our love story.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. This is so strange, how could you (a person who lives in another side of Earth) know about me very well? *tears. Thank you so much for this. just want to add, sometimes I can get depressed out of boredom or lack of mental stimulation- almost like losing my purpose (I’m not exaggerating here).. I wonder if it’s normal for other rfm(s) ?

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I am so grateful to find your words. I can’t contain my tears because I feel so understood (and welcomed). Things that I already recognized in me, but that always carried a weight of doubts, questions and incomprehension. And your words describe me so well and touches me so deeply and subtly.

    Thank you very, very much. It is the best friend I could find!
    I already love you!

    (I don’t speak English very well, so, review the mistakes. Hahah)

    Liked by 1 person

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