What It Really Means To Be A Highly Sensitive Person

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Are you a highly sensitive person who internalizes the belief that your sensitivity is a weakness? If you are, you’re most likely shaming yourself for your own sensitivity. 

This post acknowledges the gifts and purpose of a  highly sensitive person. 

The moment I started to see my own sensitivity as a gift, not a flaw, my world changed. 

You may have anxiety and not be an HSP, but many people with anxiety are. 

You’ve probably been told you’re too sensitive.

I have been. 

I’ve been shamed for crying in class as a kid about all those dumb books where dogs die 

I’ve been shamed for taking things personally, for reading too much into situations, or even just thinking too much about a problem, I was told that my flaw was caring or being too considerate. 

Sensitive has been a bad word, an insult, a sign of weakness. 

The “idealized personality” for our western society was to be tough, unfeeling, unaffected by the world around them.

And it’s easy for us sensitive people to hear this message and internalize it, to believe that we are weak or too fragile or that something’s wrong with us. 

How is your relationship with yourself? With your sensitivity? Do you hate that part of you? Are you ashamed of your deeply feeling heart? Do you wish that you weren’t the way that you are and despise your own feelings and compare yourself to others and wish that you were different? That you could somehow turn on that loud- “I don’t care what anyone else thinks”- type of attitude? What does that war with yourself cost you?

But let me ask you something else- how many people wish that their parents didn’t care too much, didn’t listen to their feelings or say “I love you” ? Would the world be better if it was led by people who are insensitive and unworried about the lives of the people around them? Who wants to be married to someone who simply is unworried about your concerns and isn’t anxious at all when you’re upset or hurt? 

The world needs empathy for kids to grow up feeling loved. 

The world needs sensitive, alert people who sound the alarm before we’ve gone too far

The world needs healers and dreamers

Observers and thinkers

Lovers and feelers

The world needs people who are so attuned with their feelings that they can express them through art and words and help others feel something too.

It’s not that we don’t need adventurers and politicians, extroverts and celebrities, people who thrive in loud environments and are unbothered by novelty, they aren’t weighed down by thinking too much, the competitors and the fighters.

But, in a healthy society, they’re balanced out by the pastors and the advisors, the analysts and the peace activists. People who think deeply, who take quiet and careful considerations of the nuanced factors of situations. 

Our society thrives on a wide spectrum of sensitivity. Perhaps that is why it seems to be a trait that 15-30% of people are born with. You see, sensitivity is something that you came into their world with, and whether you believe in God, or evolution, or both, if you’re highly sensitive, there’s a reason you are this way. Our ancestors needed fearless adventurers, explorers, hunters and fighters to maintain territory and bring home the bacon, but they also needed sensitive strivers to not die and keep the gene pool alive, to protect the children, to plan for the winter, to create beauty in the caves. They needed light sleepers to hear danger coming, worriers to prepare enough food for the winter, vigilant caregivers to keep the children from getting eaten by crocodiles or falling into the fire. Of course we need easy-going, impervious, heavy sleeping warriors, but they are no more vital to our society than the cautious and careful. They just might be more popular in Western society. 

I used to be ashamed of my deep feelings, my sensitivity, but now I see them as one of my greatest assets. 

My ability to feel directly relates to my ability to do my work in therapy and on YouTube, to love my children, to influence the environment of my home, and to write a 31-part series on how to process emotions that has been seen by millions of people

What Does It Mean To Be A Highly Sensitive Person?

Being highly sensitive doesn’t mean that you take things personally or that you’re fragile. It means your nervous system processes information more deeply and intensely than the average person. You are more impacted by lights, smells, sounds, body language, facial expressions, and emotions than the average person. While this sensitivity sometimes requires extra time to rest, recharge or process, being an HSP is a difference, not a disability. It’s something you’re born with, and when you let go of the cultural shame around it, it can be one of your greatest strengths. One of my great grandfathers’ used his gift to detect subtle gas leaks with his sense of smell, that’s what he did for work.  My father used his deep and thoughtful approach to coach CEO’s to excel by being more in tune with their teams. 

Here are 4 of the gifts of HSP’s

  1. Emotional sensitivity: Highly sensitive people often experience intense emotions and may be deeply affected by the emotions of others. They may also be more empathetic and compassionate towards others. They can read other’s emotions more clearly, and be able to sense when others need help or support. They can use these skills to carefully manage conflict or in creative artistic expression. Think of the best musicians, artists, writers, or movies you’ve seen. HSP’s help you connect with your emotions- Whether that’s in the Avengers or Pride and Prejudice.
  2. Sensory sensitivity: HSPs may be more sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, and other sensory stimuli. They may be more alert to danger or notice problems early on.  But they may feel overwhelmed in crowded or chaotic environments. They may need time alone to recharge and recover. This gift can help them pay attention to detail. They may thrive in quiet environments where they can solve complex and nuanced problems. Think of the engineers in the Apollo program. 
  3. Depth of processing: HSPs tend to process information deeply and thoroughly. They may reflect on experiences and situations for longer periods of time and have a rich inner world of thoughts and feelings. This can help them discover unique solutions to problems. They also tend to benefit a lot from self-work or therapy.
  4. Intuitive: HSPs may have a strong sense of intuition and may be able to pick up on subtle cues from their environment or other people. This can help them make good decisions and navigate complex situations. HSPs often have a strong sense of ethics and may be guided by a deep commitment to justice and fairness. They can also read a room quickly. 

Here’s what’s important- Have you been told by your parents or teachers or bosses that “You’re too sensitive” or “Not tough enough”. Do you beat yourself up for having big feelings or getting overwhelmed and needing breaks? Have you internalized the cultural shame around having feelings? What has this war with your innate gifts cost you?

What does it feel like to be constantly fighting yourself or your feelings, stuffing them down or trying to hide them?

What would it feel like to drop that struggle? To make peace with your sensitivity? This section is all about your relationship with yourself. Sometimes it helps to think of each of these parts of ourselves as being people, like they are members of our internal family. Some of our parts are easy to get along with, others might be loud, uncomfortable, or hard to get along with. 

Being highly sensitive isn’t always comfortable or popular, but it does serve a function for you and it’s an important role in our society. You have a gift that the world needs. Don’t hide it under a bushel. 

If you find that you’ve internalized a sense of shame for your sensitive nature, I want to encourage you to make peace with your sensitivity.  YT This video is one section from my 30-day course.  In the course workbook you’ll find a test from Elaine Aron’s book, and then I want you to spend some time exploring how your sensitive nature has been a gift to you or others. Then I want you to write a letter to your sensitivity or your anxiety. 

In the full course, I’m going to give you an example of how to write that letter to yourself. 

Now, I just want to say if you’re a highly sensitive person you are beautifully and wonderfully made. This is the awesome part of who you are and as you get better at feeling, hopefully, you can embrace that part of you and use it as one of your super powers. 

If you want to know more about the course, click the link below. 

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