Is the subtle sound of a dripping faucet enough to drive you insane? Have you been labeled “over dramatic” most of your life? Can you get a sense of what others are feeling without them telling you?
If you relate to most of the things I just mentioned: you might be a highly sensitive person.
It’s important to note, the term highly sensitive person, does not refer to someone who has thin skin and can’t keep control of their emotions. A highly sensitive person is someone who has a sensitive nervous system and overactive mirror neurons in their brain that make them very sensitive to, and/or aware of, physical and emotional stimuli in their surroundings.
They are the people who may love live music but have a hard time at concerts because excessive noise and stage lighting quickly overwhelms them.
They are the people who can read others like a book. They aren’t intentionally trying to “figure them out”, but their sensitivity makes them hyper-aware of body language, tone of voice and facial gestures. And trust me: it’s just as weird for us to “read people” who don’t want to be read, as it is for you to have someone so aware of what you feel.
Because you can upset people by “assuming” what they feel or respond more intensely to things that don’t seem to register on anyone else’s radar or feel like you are “different”, it can be incredibly hard to be a highly sensitive person in an overstimulating world.
The thing you have to understand about being an HSP is it can be a blessing and a curse. But, having the right perspective on this gifting will help you shape a positive viewpoint from which you see yourself. About 25% of people are highly sensitive, so it is true, HSP’s are different, but they are pretty special too.
I realized I was an HSP only about a year ago. Had I know this in my young adult years, it would have saved me a lot of self-hatred over not experiencing the world like everyone else. So, I want to share a few helpful tips I have learned that may help you on your path to self-discovery.
Tip 1): Your sensitivity is not a weakness – Some days, it will seem as if everything and everyone is overwhelming. You will feel frail and maybe even incompetent because the smallest things seem to consume you in a way they don’t for others. However, you aren’t worn down because you are weak, you are actually taking in information at much higher levels than most people. HSP’s typically test with a very high degree of Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), when studied in a controlled setting.
So, that means all those times you heard noises no one else could hear or felt emotional shifts in the room no one else noticed, you weren’t making it up, you were made to notice those tiny changes in the world and, in certain situations, do something to change them. You aren’t weak. You are actually much stronger than you realize. You just internalize much more information that may wear you out quicker than other people. Which leads us to point number 2….
Tip 2): Be OK with setting boundaries – After you figure out that you are an HSP, you have to do the hard work of setting boundaries to safeguard your sanity. Figure out if sights, sounds, smells, or violent movies overwhelm your nervous system the most. Then, make a point to “de-stimulate” your home (if that is even a word) and create a relaxing space you can retreat to when you’re overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, you can’t run away from all the obnoxious noises and smells in the outside world, so you have to learn to give yourself grace. There are places, and people, that will overwhelm you more than others. It will take time, but you can learn to gently express to loved ones how you are feeling and how to know when it’s time to take a step away and catch your breath.
Tip 3): Don’t expect equal awareness from non-HSPs – It is good to express to friends and family when you are feeling overwhelmed. However, you have to understand that you were made differently than 75% of people on the planet.
They will NEVER feel & think like you.
Do yourself a favor and don’t try to make them.
You can’t hold them to standards they weren’t made to keep. Just like an NBA player can’t fault me for not being as athletically inclined as him, I can’t fault non-HSPs for not naturally being as empathetic and aware as me. If we want acceptance as a highly sensitive person, we have to give it to our non-sensitive friends.
It’s a balancing act that takes time and practice. But the most important thing to understand is, they are not like you and that is OK! This world would not function well if every person on the planet was highly sensitive. We need people who are not rattled by physical stimuli to pull us out of our heads when we are.
Tip 4): Forgive quickly — This goes along with tip #3. People will not get you. People will hurt you without trying to. Do yourself a favor and FORGIVE THEM! Let the accidental hurts go and do not hang onto every perceived slight. One of the hardest things for me to learn as an HSP was sometimes, I am wrong. Yes, it is true. 🎻 🎻
Even though my spidey senses correctly assess emotional cues 90% of the time, there are times when I misinterpret someone’s body language as rude or insensitive when they didn’t mean it to be. You will too. You will get it wrong. So, get ready to forgive people and try to assume the best instead of the worst.
If you are an HSP or have a loved one who is an HSP, I hope you found this article informative. The best thing we can do for ourselves as sensitive people is gain understanding for the way we were made and learn to appreciate it for the gift that it is.
There will be days… trust me… there will be days it does not feel like a gift. The world is often not nearly as kind or empathetic as I’d like it to be. Though, part of the blessing of being an HSP is you get to be the kindness the world is missing. You get to be the listening ear someone has been longing for. You get to be the friend everyone needs and wishes they had.
So, let that be an encouragement to you. As an HSP, you are more than a sensitive person, you are a reflection of God’s good nature and His tender heart.