“You’re too sensitive.”
“It’s not that serious.”
“You cry over everything.”
“Stop being so dramatic.”
“You need to toughen up.”
If you’ve ever been told any of these things, you’re not alone and you might identify as a highly sensitive person. I’m here to tell you that being highly sensitive doesn’t have to be all bad. Sure, we have our tough days, but I like to think of it as a superpower. Who would I be without it? I have learned to see my empathy and ability to be highly attuned as qualities that benefit my life rather than something to be ashamed of. I’ve been told my whole life that I have such a big heart and that I care so deeply. It always felt odd and confusing when it was meant as a compliment, but it felt like a curse. I wondered why I couldn’t speak up or stand my ground without fighting through tears. I questioned why I felt bad for the people in my life who hurt me. I debated whether I was equipped to handle my own emotions.
Becoming a therapist as a self-identified HSP, I realized quickly the blessing and curse this would be. It can certainly be a significant asset because it allows me to develop a deeper understanding of clients' emotions, feelings, and experiences. In turn, this can enhance empathy and attunement within the therapeutic relationship. Although I am grateful for this level of empathy and sensitivity when it comes to working with clients, I also need to be wary of how it is affecting me in terms of emotional exhaustion. Simply, I make sure to employ self-care strategies in my daily life to prevent myself from burnout or compassion fatigue. I often felt shamed for being sensitive as a child, and it is my goal for clients to feel like their sensitivity is a gift to avoid those feelings of shame for being who they are.
Experiencing life as a highly sensitive person can be difficult, especially in a society that often values toughness over vulnerability. The following are some signs that you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP):
You become easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.
You tend to avoid upsetting and overwhelming situations.
You notice subtleties in your environment that others may overlook.
You feel things deeply and are highly empathetic.
You feel a need to withdraw and have downtime, especially after a chaotic or overwhelming experience.
I’ve experienced my fair share of struggles being a highly sensitive person. However, when I shift my perspective and think about it in the sense that I can understand people in a way that a lot of other people cannot, I feel grateful for this power and I believe that you should too. Though it still remains a struggle at times, I now understand that being highly sensitive also comes with many advantages including:
Empathy and Compassion: HSPs are often highly attuned to the emotions of others. This allows them to form deeper, more meaningful connections and relationships with others.
Observational Skills: HSPs often tune into details that others might overlook. This ability can be a valuable asset in various fields and situations.
Deep Processing of Information: HSPs often process information deeply, and they are able to consider various perspectives. This can be seen as an advantage because it can allow the individual to make well-informed decisions and avoid impulsivity.
Attuned to Aesthetics: HSPs often have a heightened appreciation for aesthetics. Whether it's enjoying art, nature, or design, they are more likely to derive profound joy from beauty in various forms.
Social Harmony: Because of their sensitivity to others' feelings, HSPs often excel in creating amicable social environments. They are attentive to group dynamics and can contribute to cooperative and inclusive atmospheres.
Innovative Problem-Solving: Because they have the unique ability to perceive subtle details and think deeply, it allows HSPs to find solutions to problems creatively, possibly thinking of a resolution that others have yet to consider.
Personal Growth: Highly sensitive individuals often possess a strong commitment to personal growth and self-awareness. They are introspective and actively seek to understand themselves better, leading to ongoing personal development.
While being a highly sensitive person can present numerous challenges, being able to recognize and embrace the advantages can allow individuals to thrive as highly sensitive people. It provides a unique way to navigate the world and its challenges utilizing empathy, sensitivity, heightened awareness, and creativity. When you are made to feel weak for your sensitivity, remember to embrace it as a strength that sets you apart, contributing positively to the world around you.