If you’re too sensitive, then join the club—the HSP club. In fact, I’m a card-carrying member myself, along with many of my clients and 20-30 percent of the general population.
Short for Highly Sensitive Person, being HSP is truly a double-edged sword. When I was growing up, my mother would say, “Oh, you’re just so sensitive” or “Why do you care so much about that?” I felt shame, as if something was wrong with me for being that way. However, I knew her comments were correct because I did feel more emotional and more intensely about people, places, and things than nearly anyone else I knew. As an adult, however, I’ve learned to embrace many of the qualities that define me as a proud HSP, even though adopting that stance hasn’t always been effortless.
A Highly Sensitive Person experiences the world differently. If you’re an HSP, you might find noisy, overly bright, crowded places to be over-stimulating, and sudden loud noises to be too startling. Smells become more obvious, as well as subtle differences and details that not everyone notices. In a large city with an excess of stimuli, like New York City, that can be challenging!
On the other hand, the rewards of being an HSP are many and wonderful.
For instance, HSPs tend to be perceptive, intuitive, and compassionate.
Perhaps feeling more deeply and powerfully than others opens the door to a keen observation of the details regarding people and the environment that others barely notice, as well as being thoughtful about why things happen the way they do and how people are affected. The rewards of such sensitivity are too numerous to fully describe, but learning to listen to your inner voice and valuing your insightful self are among them.
If you’re an HSP—or know one— being familiar with certain situations that may throw you off course is helpful, although some may sound a little unusual. For instance:
- You may react to just a little caffeine, alcohol, and/or prescription drugs and be more prone to blood-sugar swings, so know your limits. You also may be more sensitive to painful conditions and discomfort.
- Change can be disorienting, whether from a new job or even a vacation due to feeling bombarded by new stimuli. Many positive situations can actually elicit a sense of overwhelm. Make sure you have something you use to help with stability and feeling grounded, such as a mantra or a favorite piece of jewelry.
- Small details may disturb you but not everyone else. If you fear being regarded as too picky or complaining, you might choose not to express your reactions. But you know how you’re feeling and perhaps you’ll make a different choice next time.
- You might want to withdraw from large groups or too many invitations, because even extrovert HSPs need downtime to recharge depleted energy. Having some alone time and rest is perfectly OK.
- Many HSPs go out of their way to avoid conflict, criticism, and negativity. As a result, they may stay away from situations that challenge their balance and safety and hold feelings and emotions inside. Finding other HSPs to talk to is important here especially when the time has come to go out of your comfort zone. Sensitive and finely tuned, many HSPs feel strongly about how clothes feel on their bodies, and such items as tags and other annoying garment details may be a challenge. Wear only what you know will work for you.
These examples are just a few of the special characteristics that make a Highly Sensitive Person different, unique, and genuinely special. Honoring the way you’re wired and then taking the appropriate actions to respect those tendencies—rather than self-criticizing because you react differently—would be a kinder, gentler, more satisfying way to live.
For more information, please read Elaine N. Aron Ph.D.’s work on the Highly Sensitive Person. She is the pioneer and expert in the narrative and research around this topic.
If you are an HSP, and would like to find clarity and help in successfully navigating life with habits that support and enrich your life, please contact me for a discovery call.