Sensitivity is Your Greatest Asset & How to Heal After Pretending it’s Not
If you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), sometimes the world can feel too much. Although you are aware of the beautiful gifts of sensitivity – the capacity to empathize, a great love for nature and beauty and the ability to access greater nuances of meaning – you also have the sense that your sensitivity is tricky, shape-shifting.
I would run no matter how much snow and ice there was, no matter how tired I was and no matter how much my joints hurt, even if I was hung over. It didn’t matter. Sometimes I would be in incredible pain, but I wouldn’t stop.
I worked as a tree planter in the summers and got paid per tree. I would push as hard as possible, sometimes planting as many as 3000 trees in one day. And, not surprisingly, I had my first back spasm at age 21.
That’s how I lived my whole life in my early twenties. Pushing. I barely had enough time to get everything done with college, volunteering and a part-time job and would end up exhausted.
On top of this, bright lights and loud noises easily overwhelm me, but I pushed through that too. I didn’t want to go to my friends’ loud parties and so would drink to the point that the loud noise didn’t bother me anymore.
The truth is, I didn’t feel like my life was worth much unless I was highly productive, getting good grades and pleasing my friends, family, professors and pretty much anyone I met.
I was determined to be perfect, and it was killing me…
It finally came to a head during my first job after college. I was working hard to please my supervisors, co-workers and the youth that were our clients. It was my dream job, but I ignored my own needs to the point that I couldn’t do it anymore. I was exhausted and didn’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. I quit, but I didn’t know what to do.
Years later I learned I was a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and it all made sense. HSPs are sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, and other people’s emotions.
And because HSPs only make up 15 – 20 % of the population, it sometimes seems like the basic needs of quiet space away from family members with big emotions and soft lighting are self-indulgent or greedy.
What Happens When You Ignore Your Sensitivity?
When an HSP tries to fit in, it takes A LOT of energy. Ignoring your sensitivity will leave you drained. You’ll end up exhausted without much to give.
Your exhaustion might start out small, but if you continue to push, you may end up with a complete break down like mine. And because I’ve been through it, I don’t want this to happen to you!
The good news is it’s all reversible. It takes time and practice but step by step you can start to take better care of yourself and not worry about other people’s expectations.
How HSPs Can Heal After Years of Pushing:
1. Rest when you’re tired
The first, and sometimes most difficult step, is to get some rest. If you’re determined to fit in, you’re probably exhausted. You’ve been going and going and going and never stop to take a breath. So start small and see if you can schedule even 5 minutes today to be quiet and rest.
2. Learn about your sensitivity
The fact that you’re reading this article means you’re already on track to completing this step!! The more you learn about your sensitivity, the easier it will be to take time to rest, to say no to that overwhelming party invitation or to walk around downtown wearing giant headphones playing white noise to block out the sound.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s through reading or podcasts or watching videos. Whatever format you like best will get you on track. Some of my favorites include the Highly Sensitive Refuge website and the Introvert, Dear podcast which is hosted by an HSP.
3. Connect with other HSPs
When you connect to other HSPs; it becomes easier to accept and acknowledge your own needs. It’s the most powerful thing you can do.
As you listen to the stories of how overwhelmed your HSP friend gets when they go to the grocery store or how impacted they get by other people’s vibes at work, it’ll be much easier to see your own HSP needs and take care of them. And something magical starts to happen when you realize you’re not alone. Without even trying, you begin to heal yourself.
Don’t worry, if you don’t know any HSPs in your area, there are some great groups on Facebook or Reddit where you can ask for and give support. My fav is the HSP group on Facebook. When I joined, I felt like I finally found people who understand me! I felt less alone with these particular needs, and I started to be more gentle and protective of myself.
4. Honor your sensitivity
I know it’s difficult to do this especially when there are other people involved, but as you begin to honor your needs, you’ll start to get your energy back. You’ll feel more calm, more relaxed and more excited about life. And so, even though it will involve some awkward conversations with your friends, your partner, your family, and co-workers, I promise you it’ll be 100% worth it.
I’m in a new relationship now, and my partner is NOT an HSP. So we’re having a lot of conversations that go something like this,
Sweetie, you have to remember you’re dating someone sensitive…
…if my blood sugar crashes, I won’t be able to recover.
…I’m getting overstimulated by that music.
…it would help me if you just sat quietly with me for a minute, please.
You can send your loved one’s articles to teach them about highly sensitive people and what’s happening to you. And sometimes, you just have to explain it to them step by step.
It’s taken me a decade, but I’m learning to take better care of myself and now can share my writing and my supportive nature more fully with others. And you can too.
The less you worry about fitting in and the more you can take care of your HSP needs, the more you’ll be able to bring your sensitive strengths forward to make the impact you were meant to make.
Your Sensitivity is Your Greatest Asset
As a highly sensitive person, you have the real gifts of empathy, creativity, attention to detail and bringing quality into everything you create. Because of this HSPs like you make the world’s best writers, therapists, coaches, interior designers, actors, care-takers and artists.
According to an article by Jim Hallows, famous HSPs include Nicole Kidman, Edgar Allen Poe, Leonardo Di Vinci, Bob Dylan, Princess Diana, and Mother Teresa.
You’re meant to protect and bring forward your sensitive strengths.
By taking care of yourself, you’re not a diva. You’re not being selfish. You’re not greedy, and you’re not crazy. You’re gentle with yourself, so you can go and share your beautiful, powerful, sensitive strengths with the world.
photo source | pexels + giphy
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