Throughout life we are told not to be “too sensitive”, “over dramatic” or “too intense”. Some of us are ridiculed or judged for showing any of these traits. Maybe some of us have a sensitivity that you don’t feel and that’s ok as we are all different, nearly everything in life is a spectrum and our unique traits make us human.
This post is about being highly sensitive and how its ok to be, you can learn how to embrace who you are. The first paragraph is a bit of a intro to my personal thoughts, I will again pop some headers down so you can skip through and choose to read certain parts. Thank you for reading.
I personally felt that those around me made me feel abnormal for feeling so passionate, dramatic and sensitive, I always took things seriously and if someone acted like they didn’t care, especially when opening up, I would feel really alone. In reality I was probably overthinking a lot and each of us have different things that we love.
I felt as though no one could keep up with my mind, I wouldn’t ever say I’m smart at all but I do spend a large amount of time thinking. Sometimes when I try to let some of these thoughts out people turn their back or get offended because all the words come out wrong. At some points in my life I learnt to not say anything at all. I think a lot of people feel this way!
I feel and think on an extremely deep level and I know I am not alone but I cant understand why those of us who are sensitive are taught to be ashamed.
I began to only share my thoughts with my parents because everyone else would take it the wrong way and I began to feel guilty talking about myself or things I loved/believed in. I am very thankful to have such lovely parents and now a lovely partner who I feel I can open up to.
My parents are the most inspirational people I have ever met. I look up to them and they’re the type of people I hope to become one day when I am wise and strong enough. Just a list of a few traits I believe they have; open minded, peaceful, supportive, sensitive, kind, funny, wise, positive, strong and smart. They work so so hard, much harder than anyone else I know, (in my opinion) they each have their own problems and they pushed through and became successful humans. They are constantly underestimated and those around us cant always see how much they do for everyone, how much they have done for me. I hope one day they will know how incredible they are.
What is HSP?
HSP stands for highly sensitive person, this is a genetic trait that is found in about 15 to 20% of the population, it enables you to feel and think incredibly deeply however can cause you to feel overstimulated and or misunderstood. Elaine Aron is a researcher in high sensitivity and sensory processing sensitivity. It was used in order to keep us safe but due to modern times it has become a burden to some of us due to the vast amount of stimuli that is to be processed so regularly if not all the time.
Someone with HSP can be either introverted, extroverted or somewhere in-between. While we each feel we may experience some of the signs I will be discussing in my next paragraph, it doesn’t mean you are a HSP, maybe you might even find you have it mildly, however, a HSP will be very likely to feel “too” much and deeply compared to those around them.
Preston has some fantastic articles and books which I have used to gather some of my information and bullet points in order to help people understand the basics – https://nipreston.com/new/biography/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201711/24-signs-highly-sensitive-person
Preston has shown some excellent categories which are as followed;
Sensitivity about oneself
Sensitivity about others
Sensitivity about ones environment
The signs of being HSP
I will be including Preston’s way of categorising these signs as I think it is very easy to understand and follow without missing much!
Sensitivity about oneself –
This is a category that reflects what you may feel in regards to yourself;
- Trouble letting go of negative thoughts and or emotions
- Get minor to aggressive physical symptoms in reaction to things that happen during the day eg headaches
- Affects eating and sleeping habits in a negative way due to something that has happened during the day
- Anxiety is very common
- You are your worst critic and beat yourself up
- Rejection is a harsh and scary reality even in minor situations
- Almost always compares oneself to others and feels very unhappy from these negative social comparisons
- Anger or resentment about situations in life or in society which seem unjust, aggravating or simply annoying.
Sensitivity about others-
This category reflects what you may feel and react when it comes to others;
- Over worries or thinks about what others are thinking
- Takes things rather personally
- Even if something may seem like “nothing” they feel it is difficult to just “let it go”
- Gets and feels hurt easily
- Usually hides any negative feelings or due to the amount of “drama” in their life they tend to discuss negative emotions with others
- Even if feedback is meant to be constructive they often don’t take it very well
- Feels as though people are being judgemental even without lots of evidence
- Overreacts to real or perceived slights and provocations
- Cant be themselves in group situations
- Self-conscious in intimate situations (worries about partner’s approval and unreasonably scared of being judged or rejected)
Sensitivity about one’s environment-
- Large public crowds or rooms full of people talking, or when too many things are occurring simultaneously are a nightmare
- Uncomfortable when in and around bright lights, loud sounds, or certain scents
- Startles easily at sudden noises
- Easily triggered by violence, violent movies, hates seeing fights or acts of cruelty
- Feels unhappy following people’s posts (social media)
- Functioning with little or no sleep is very hard, more sleep may be needed than the average person due to how intensely they feel
- Emotional exhaustion is very real, some days can be an emotional roller-coaster, you are able to feel more than a few emotions in one day
- Hard to move on from previous trauma for example a breakup, an insult or being backstabbed by someone 6 years ago can still linger
- Navigating new environments can be hard
- Conflicts hurt deeply and finds it hard to forgive oneself
- Doesn’t like to be rushed
- Sometimes boundaries are easily crossed due to struggling to say no and instead says yes to things they don’t particular like to do or feel comfortable doing
- Requires alone time to recharge
- Feels misunderstood and lonely, sometimes believes “no one seems to relate to me” this is a trait not a choice
- Can be introverted
- More likely to be emotionally reactive
- Prone to anxiety and depression – due to past experiences
- Picks up on emotions even if they’re not accurate – moods rub off on you a lot more
- Fixates on body, tone of voice or facial expressions and then obsessing about it even when told “it didn’t mean anything” taking things too seriously
- Can see when someone is lying and it sucks because people don’t always want to feel exposed
- Neglects self care, making other peoples problems their own
- Even if something doesn’t seem serious to you it may be very serious to some one who is highly sensitive
People are quick to assume something like being a HSP is negative but there are so many reasons that make being highly sensitive worth it!
The strengths of being a HSP
- A much deeper level of understanding, a more powerful connection to ones emotions
- Bonds that are made with other people are loyal and honest – some people take advantage but it’s the risk you take
- Can read situations and see details others may miss, attention to environment – more likely to notice things such as a stain on the rug or nail colour changes
- Self aware – deeper thinker, often misjudged as an overthinker and can sometimes lead to worrying about things that cannot be changed
- Tearing up around other when speaking or listening to something emotional – even if they hide their vulnerable emotions they will relate and once close be a great support
- Can be great listeners and also great talkers
- Avoids negative friendships etc due to being taken advantage of so are more likely to know if you’re a good or bad person
- Creative – negative and positive emotions are felt on a very deep level which can make it easier to appreciate or make art/write/talk
- Very passionate – looks like overreacting – daydreamer – can put their heart and soul into everything they do so it’s the best and genuine
- Uncomfortable with injustice – want to make sure values integrity
- Sensitive people will often have a deeper connection with animals and nature
- Would rather do it the right way
- Vivid dreams which can enrich the inner world for the HSP’s
- They’re not all shy and anxious – when the correct environment and needs are met they can thrive
Things that can help you if you believe you may be a HSP-
Some of the things I will be mentioning may help just about anyone really as they’re essential to even those who don’t identify with being a HSP or having a form of Autism.
I learnt a few things that I found suited me and my personal life, some of these things I have only just implemented within the last few months but I feel have helped me already!
My anxiety is much more controlled and I can now see what may trigger any negative behaviours and find ways to reduce it before it even happens. Of course there are moments in life where mental health takes a toll and everyone has to learn how to ensure they are meeting the right requirements in order to achieve their full potential. I still get anxiety, depressive thoughts and many other side affects of being sensitive but I now know that this is not something to be ashamed of but something I must realise and learn how to embrace. There are some days where I am more sleep deprived or I know I have had too much caffeine and I am aware that this may cause negative reactions but I am more aware which enables me to change things about my day to accommodate and to reduce a spiral.
Taking time out and relaxing/doing something I love is the perfect way to recharge from a draining situation, you may fall into the “but I don’t have time” well that’s an excuse to me. We all fall into that sometimes but if you make excuses like this about things then you were never really going to try to change. Sometimes we just need the push but I know I tend to make that excuse when I need to study or learn something to achieve something and I realised that if I am serious then I will make sure I have time even if it is just for 10 minutes. Imagine how much time you spend on social media, spend 10 minutes of that reading, learning or trying something you’ve always wanted to do instead and you’ll be surprised about how much you can do 🙂
- Ensure you have enough sleep
Of course as you age you’ll find the right amount of sleep that suits you, try and create a sleep schedule to help reduce exhaustion.
- Try and eat a healthier and varied diet
We all fall for fast food sometimes and as a treat that’s ok but try and eat healthier on a regular basis, ensure you are getting the required amount of vitamins and minerals to aid brain development and mood to be much more positive and productive.
- Schedule time out and recharge time
Sometimes life can be very hectic for anyone, make sure you take time out to recharge especially after intense or known trigger environments for example if you know you have an event you have to attend ensure you have given yourself the time afterwards whether that’s a few hours or days to ensure you are feeling yourself again.
- Taking extra time or space to get things done
This can help reduce the feeling of urgency and stress, I know sometimes this is hard and some things cannot wait so maybe attempt to plan things in advance and try and keep a schedule so you can keep on top of those tasks before they become urgent. Remember to relax and recharge afterwards you deserve it!
- Limit or reduce caffeine
I know I am a sucker for caffeine, I try and limit myself to a maximum of two caffeinated drinks a day, I got into decaf a lot too as I found hot drinks were very comforting to me but the caffeine made me very shaky and anxious. As individuals we can each handle different levels of caffeine so try and find your happy amount 🙂
- Reduce bright lighting
I for one hate bright lights, I opt for warm lighting and if possible I wear tinted glasses with yellow lenses to just reduce the brightness a bit to make it more comfortable.
- Pick off-peak times to do things
I am not a fan of doing shopping, too many colours and people, however I know that certain times of the day mean its less crowded and I’m less likely to feel the pressure. So try and find out what times are less congested or maybe your shops or events you like to attend have special times to help you.
- Surround yourself with a positive and natural environment
Sensitive people are more likely to be drawn to nature and animals, a nice peaceful walk or quiet place can be perfect for you if you feel a bit overwhelmed or need to recharge. Don’t be ashamed if you don’t want to go to that party and you’d rather go for a walk and read a book or listen to some music, its ok to be yourself and embrace your hobbies and lifestyle as long as it doesn’t hurt others or yourself.
- Surround yourself around positivity
I struggled with this myself, I was around negative people and situations almost daily. I was obsessed with social media and gained very negative relationships with the negative people around me which isn’t healthy! I now avoid people who I know have a certain negative outlook which of course we all go through and if you want to talk I will always be happy to listen. But sometimes we need to avoid the worlds negativity because I myself found I was becoming very negative and I hated bringing others down! I find peoples emotions rub off on me massively so if I am around lots of negative people I then become negative so instead I reduced the time I spend with the negative people and I left many platforms of social media. Even just simply reducing the amount of time you spend on social media can help you massively.
- Lastly remember your worth
You are enough and you are worth it, overthinking is so easy and its ok. Remember you’re a deep and passionate thinker and you are very emotional and sensitive. If someone says you are “too sensitive/overreacting” or “you need to toughen up” or “stop taking it personally” or even the dreaded “why are you worrying, just forget about it” then I advice you tell this person to leave you alone haha…or maybe the more adult approach, attempt to teach them or advise them why those statements aren’t fair for people who are highly sensitive. Your emotions are worth the time, you are highly sensitive and kind and I know it may cause upset but you have to remember it’s a great thing being sensitive. People without this trait wont know quite how it feels to feel so deeply and that’s ok because one person at a time we can help everyone understand that we’re all different but we are all worthy.
I would love to hear what your thoughts and experiences are with being, knowing or learning about what a HSP is. Of course there are way more aspects to this trait so I am sorry if I missed things or you believe other things 🙂 I would like to hear your opinions! Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to try and understand those who are highly sensitive, you may even find out something new about yourself and learning is the best gift of all. ❤