“Don’t take things so personally. You are too sensitive.”
Is this something you hear from others frequently? If so, chances are you a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and just so you know, you are completely normal. Some believe HSP is just a personality type, but actually it is also believed to be the result of having a highly sensitive nervous system. It is sometimes referred to as the Princess and the Pea Syndrome. As a psychology major, I was excited to finally discover that there is an actual name for the awkwardly, overly sensitive person I am. Of course there are the critics who don’t support the HSP theory, but that is not uncommon with any new discovery. It is also misunderstood and undervalued.
Psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron is the expert on the HSP phenomenon (see www.hsperson.com). She believes that HSP’s make up 15-20 percent of the population. Research has shown that the brains of highly sensitive persons (HSP’s) actually work differently than most peoples. Some of the characteristics that you may have if you are an HSP are:
• You feel everything and are in touch with your emotions
• You pick up on the feelings of others
• You cry easy
• You are not a team sport person
• You prefer to work alone
• You are polite and don’t let down your hair until you really know someone
• You are a people pleaser and have a hard time saying no
• It takes a long time for you to make decisions
• You are very observant
• You are a perfectionist
• People say you are emotional
• You get scared easily and avoid violent/horror movies
• Noise bothers you
• You hate bright lights
• You are creative
• Your sensitivity is heredity
• You need a lot of quiet and down time
• You were considered shy as a child
It all makes sense to me now after this discovery, and I feel so relieved. The self-test explained everything, such as why I can hardly walk outside without my sunglasses, even on cloudy days. I am really not a vampire after all. Loud noises make me want to crawl out of my skin. Being too hot or too cold makes me highly uncomfortable. I love the thought of being a team player, but I tried basketball at school once as a kid (as in one day) and I was horrified. That explains why I love to fish so much and consider it my sport. Scary, horror flicks are banned from my house, but any chick flick or Disney movie is welcomed. I cry at the drop of the hat, and most of the time when I start I can’t stop. When I am tired it is worse. I feel everything so dang deeply. When I feel joy it is overwhelming, and when I feel sad it is a challenge to get out of bed. Recently I cried at parent-teacher conferences when one of the teachers said something touching. My daughter was mortified. Yes, I am a cry-baby. The worrying constantly about others and their feelings is the one thing that I could do without. Constantly worrying if you offended someone, or that you hurt their feelings is a challenge. I am getting better at that. Some of these things once felt like a curse, but now I realize they are part of a gift.
If you suspect that you are an HSP, be encouraged to know that it is not an illness or condition. It is a trait. You don’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed of it. An HSP is not deficient and unable to be resilient. Sensitive does not equal weak. HSP’s have great qualities. They are often highly creative and have a rich, deep inner life that can result in great things. They are passionate people with depth. They love rawness and authenticity. Being in touch with their feelings is important to them, and they are often healthier people because of it. Being people that are naturally empathetic, they are known for wanting to help others. They rarely take things for granted because of their unique awareness about life. HSP’s have little respect for shallow people. It is not a negative thing to be an HSP. Once you understand your genetic gene of sensitivity you will be able to embrace it.
Chances are you will hear more about HSP’s in the future. Already businesses are catering to the needs of the HSP with things such as sensory deprivation through float sessions. Float sessions involve floating in a tank of warm water in complete quiet and darkness. Floating sessions provide you with an opportunity to get away from it all and to give your senses a break. If you are a highly sensitive person you need to learn to protect your energy through self-care practices such as getting good sleep, eating a well balanced diet, and finding time for yourself. For me it is important to connect with nature. I draw my energy mostly from the outdoors.
We live in a world that is increasingly becoming less sensitive. People are ruder today than in the past, and it is being defined as straight talk. People feel entitled to think and act as they choose under the guise of being honest and authentic. Instead of trying to ditch your gift and your superpower, own it. It will only make you a better human and add a little more positive energy to the world.
“No, I‘m not insulted at all when people call me sensitive. Feeling things deeply is my superpower. I’m an empathetic badass.” ~ Author Unknown
Jody Rae Anderson
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