Although the majority of highly sensitive people are introverted, all have a gift for perceiving nuances which can cause them to be more cautious than non-HSPs. As a result, sensitive people often shun aggressive behaviors including the more benign forms of aggression. Aggression can be a good thing and sometimes not. It can mean being recklessness, and brutishness – qualities that HSPs are not likely to seek out or promote in themselves. It can also be linked to rebelliousness and abuse – also unattractive.

Aggression is necessary to introduce new ideas to the world and therefore necessary for any change. You have to set out on the path of change if you want a different outcome. Unfortunately “aggression” in marginalized groups can be labeled uppity, a negative world for people who do not know their place.

What Is Being Uppity?

According to the word “uppity” means:

1. Haughty or presumptuous, especially for one’s rank or social standing: “At Vassar the girls she knew were better dressed than she was and had uppity finishing school manners” (John Dos Passos).
2. Not complacent or deferential; strongly self-assertive: “Even those who’d mastered the broom, Andrew Carnegie said … needed to get a little uppity at some point” (Megan Hustad).

It generally has very negative connotations whether an individual is snobby or rebelling. Both of these definitions of being uppity suggest problematic ideas about relating to authority and are centered around ideas of status and deference. Whether you are the person with the upper hand acting superior or the person refusing to surrender to that kind of authority, you can be labeled uppity. It depends on your perspective.

The word “uppity” has also been used to describe and suppress the assertive behavior of disadvantaged groups – as a way to insist on obedience to an oppressive structure.

Authentic Responsibility

The idea of “uppity” supports a structure that makes obedience to authority or the social status quo the primary responsibility. Unfortunately, responsibility is larger than the ideas of one or more authorities. So it can be hard for individuals who are locked in such a structure to find their way to authentic responsibility.

It would be easy to leave the word “uppity” on the table except for the problem that responsibility requires that we assert ourselves. Given that we are each knowledgeable and skilled at somethings and not others, true responsibility is something that often we work out through our social interactions. Responsibility is also something that changes as life changes and is context sensitive. All this means is that there is not one version of responsibility. It is more complex than that and we need to be open to all aspects of what is going around us in order to respond responsibly.

So how can we get beyond these problematic ideas about self-assertion?

The Uppity Archetype

The word “uppity” complicates our search for authentic and responsible living. There is an archetype, however, that can be used to get to a new place with the idea of being uppity.

It is the Trickster archetype which can be symbolized by the clown or fool.

The Trickster is a rule breaker. It enters a situation and stirs things up with it clear-headedness. Although the Trickster can be irreverent and even cause harm, it generally lacks pretentiousness. The Trickster is a combination of honesty and creativity which can be very useful qualities to honor appropriately in seeking authentic responsibility and healthy assertiveness.

The Benefit Of The Trickster For Highly Sensitive People

The natural compassion of highly sensitive people steers us toward kind behaviors and the desire to be constructive. The Trickster archetype is a part of everyone and one that may show up frequently in sensitive people for whom since pretension can be a turn off.

Sensitive people often avoid conflict because they feel so different and often unwelcome and as a result may find it hard to assert themselves so the trickster archetype may not be one that comes to mind to help us develop self-assertion. The Trickster archetype can help us

  • access our natural openness that our sensitivity by virtue of our nervous systems offers us
  • allow all that we take in and our big hearts can help us to decide what to do with it
  • engage in a creative and honest way in the world so that we can turn our empathy into a constructive force by helping us to access the full range of possibilities in front of us.

By combining our sensitivity with the positive potential offered by the Trickster archetype we can avoid limited ideas about self-assertion and bring a richer idea of it out into the world. It is a great way to turn our sensitivity into the gift it is.

The Right Kind Of Uppity

When you combine the open-mindedness and honesty of the trickster, with the empathetic nature of highly sensitive people and the need to make our self-assertion as constructive as possible, you can move beyond limited ideas and start to see challenging the status quo as a service.

So the right kind of uppity includes:

  • taking care of the health and ecology of a severely compromised world
  • staying away from conflicts that you are invited into which do not serve even if that upsets some people
  • staying away from all put down activities including toward yourself
  • cherishing yourself and learning to really love yourself
  • practicing radical love to all creatures.

I think most of these are natural to highly sensitive people except self-love but by practicing the right kind of uppity – or compassionate uppityness, we can learn so see how wonderful we are and how we deserve to love ourselves.

I think it is a great deal, do you?


About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program of "sensory processing yoga" using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers the Emerging Sensitive Movie Club focused on movies and discussions about living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.