Chances are, if you are a highly sensitive person, you are no stranger to being told that you are "too sensitive." For many people, this comment feels like an insult, but in fact, there are some considerable advantages that come along with being a highly sensitive person.
When I was a kid, I used to think that everyone was equally as sensitive as I was. I figured everyone took everything to heart like I did-- they just didn't admit it. I was sure that my siblings cowered inside like I did when our parents scolded us. I was certain that all my friends were as crushed as I was when a budding romance did not bloom into a full-blown relationship. I thought everyone wanted to die if they made a mistake or disappointed someone. It took many years for me to realize that we are not all the same breed. Some people are not crushed at the thought of disappointing another person. Some people are neutral about conflicts. Some want to lash out instead of in. (I refer to them as "Outies" as opposed to the highly sensitive "Innie.")
Countless times as a kid, I was told, "You are soooo sensitive." And naturally, being a sensitive breed, I cowered inside and took the comment as an insult. I decided that being so sensitive must have been a fatal flaw. It took many years before I could respond to the, "Your so sensitive" comment with a shame- free, "Yes I am." Or "I am, so please be kind to me." Or "Thank you."
It is not a curse to be highly sensitive; it's a trait and it can even be an asset. After treating many sensitive people in my therapy practice (and making peace with the quality myself), I have found some pretty nice benefits that come with being highly sensitive. Here are a few:
1) Sensitive people get to feel the good stuff more deeply- If you are highly sensitive, you probably have to deal with feeling difficult emotions more intensely than some people, but the flip side of this means that you get to feel the sweet things in life very deeply too. While you may have to use more tools to weather the storms of life, when the storms subside and there are calm moments, you get to feel those more fully.
2) Sensitive people can be very empathetic- Another benefit of being sensitive is that you can have very deep compassion and understanding for the struggles that other people face. As long as you don't take them on or think you are responsible for fixing them, sensitive people can make excellent partners, parents, friends and healers.
3) Sensitive people can be very perceptive- People who are sensitive tend to pick up on things that others might miss. Being aware and observant can be a very positive quality. There are a lot of jobs that require great perception and insight so being sensitive can be a great asset to many different career paths.
4) Sensitive people can embrace new concepts very deeply- While sensitive people tend to absorb a lot and often have to work on letting go of hurt feelings and harmful thoughts, they can also use this quality toward positive input as well. Given a handful of healthy tools, a person who is "sensitive" to new information can be very teachable. They can use their ability to embrace new concepts and reap extreme benefits from them.
5) Sensitive people can be very creative- While sensitive people tend to be greatly affected on the inside by outside stimulus, they can also use their sensitive nature to tap into the creativity within. Some of the most creative people I know are extremely sensitive. Yes, they might have to deal with the outside world a bit more carefully than some but when they use their awareness and clarity to tap into their inner world, amazing things can happen. Being sensitive can give someone a front row seat into the inner show of creativity, intuition and clarity that lives inside of us.
6) Being sensitive encourages people to practice excellent self care- While some people can get away with postponing their needs at times, sensitive people often feel the effects of neglect sooner than most. A person who feels everything fully is more encouraged to fully take care of themselves. One client of mine said, "Other people can get away with skipping a meal now and then or neglecting their sleep for a few days. I am a wreck if I do that. Oh, maybe that's not such a bad thing? It forces me to be on top of my self-care!"
7) Sensitive people are very aware of their surroundings- Being a sensitive person can give you a highly attuned sense of the environment around you. Sensitive people are often accused of missing nothing, but this is not necessarily a negative quality. They are often the first to spot a dolphin at the ocean, the first to spot a deer in the forest and the first to spot danger coming. Sensitive people can be quite helpful and handy on a hike or in a natural disaster.
So if you are a highly sensitive person, take heart. Once you make peace with the way you were born, you can learn to weather the storms of life and fully enjoy the many advantages of being sensitive.
Andrea Wachter is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 20 years of experience working with children, teens, adults, families and groups. Andrea is passionate about helping people who are struggling with eating disorders, body image, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, grief and relationships. Andrea is an inspirational counselor, author and speaker who uses professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others. For more information on her book or other services, please visit: www.andreawachter.com
Follow Andrea Wachter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/innersolutions1
People say you’re emotional, but maybe you just feel things. There’s nothing wrong with being a sensitive creature, in fact there’s a lot to be said for it. But it comes with its own highs and lows. Some highly sensitive people—a term coined by Dr. Elaine Aron— tend to feel lonely because many people can’t relate to the way they operate. However, many more people are HSPs than you’d think. Psychology Today reports that 1 out of 5 people can be considered “highly sensitive.” “This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting,” writes Dr. Aron. “The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others”
Think you may be an HSP? Check out these signs. And if most of them apply to you, then welcome to the club—we don’t have jackets, but we’ve got tissues and a lot of feelings.
1. You feel ALL the feelings
Your emotions are vivid—practically palpable. You can be moved easily, whether that’s through a play, a movie, a book, or simply an interaction on the street.
2. You can often tell what someone’s feeling, or when something’s wrong with those you love.
HSPs tend to be highly intuitive. (Actually, in Dr. Aron’s research she found at 20 percent of the population reacts strongly to other people’s emotional circumstances.) Since you’re so in tune with your feelings, you can also pick up on the feelings of those you love. When your friend says they’re okay, you can see through that, and often end up saying, “Please, really, tell me what’s wrong. You know you can trust me.”
3. You tend to prefer exercising on your own.
“Highly sensitive people may tend to avoid team sports, where there’s a sense that everyone is watching their every move,” according to the Huffington Post. Even if you’re very into fitness, you didn’t join team sports as a kid because you felt like everyone was watching or judging you. Even going to a gym when it’s somewhat full can intimidate you. The most ideal workout for you is in the comfort of your own living room.
4. . . .or really, just working on your own in general.
The thought of working from home is wonderful to you. You get to control the environment, and you find that you work best that way. But if you have to work in an office, you much prefer having your own cubicle. According to researcher Ted Zeff, who spoke with the Huffington Post, cubicles—as opposed to bullpen-type environments—provide that extra little bit of privacy an HSP needs to feel productive.
5. You’re very polite.
According to Salon, HSPs “often have particularly good manners, and notice when others don’t.” You always notice when people say “please” and “thank you,” and you always make sure to say them yourself. Deep down, you’re afraid of offending people, so you make sure to always mind your manners until you feel 100% comfortable with someone—and even then, you’re still polite.
6. In fact, you’d describe yourself as a “people pleaser.”
The thought of criticism is terrible to you. You often go to great lengths to avoid it. This leads to people-pleasing, and trying your hardest to always make sure everyone likes you and is happy with you. “You know why I do that? Why I try so hard not to inconvenience people? It’s to prevent them from feeling like Idid inconvenience them,” writes Kelly, an HSP blogger. “I’m so afraid that people will think I am annoying, I go out of my way to make sure they don’t feel that way.”
7. For that reason, it’s very difficult for you to say “no” to anything.
You sometimes are so afraid of hurting or offending someone that you find yourself saying “yes” to everything, even when you would strongly prefer not to. For example, you may find yourself helping out at an event when you’re feeling exhausted, or agreeing to pick someone up at the airport when you already had plans.
8. You take ages to make decisions. . .no matter how small.
You know that mildly uncomfortable feeling everyone gets after realizing they made the wrong decision on something minor? Yeah, you get that, too—but times 10. Even if it’s something as small as an ice cream flavor, you get it bad. For that reason, you tend to take ages to make decisions, because you want to be positive that it’s the right one. You mull it all over and even envision how you would feel if you chose each route.
9. You’re incredibly observant.