What it’s Like to Be a Highly Sensitive Person

Growing up, I was always labeled as a sensitive person who took things “too seriously.” I felt things more deeply than most people and often absorbed the emotions of the people around me. Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) can be quite exhausting, but it also has its advantages.

What is a highly sensitive person?

An HSP is someone who experiences physical, mental or emotional responses to stimuli. This can include responses to your surroundings, the people you’re with or even your own thoughts and emotions. An important thing to remember is that HSP is not a disorder, it is simply a part of who you are. Being an HSP makes you experience life on a higher level than others do. High sensitivity is not the same as introversion, depression or anxiety. It is simply due to a biological difference where our nervous systems digest information more intensively.

How to know if you’re a highly sensitive person

Many individuals often don’t realize they are an HSP. They feel as if they have to hide their emotions because they’re an inconvenience. But there are many ways to know if you are a highly sensitive person to make it easier to handle in the long run. If you often feel yourself withdrawing and need plenty of downtime alone to get away after a long day, you might be an HSP. HSPs also think very deeply by constantly reflecting on their experiences. They are prone to negative thinking and obsess over little events that lead to anxious thoughts. HSPs frequently feel emotionally exhausted from absorbing other people’s feelings and energy. They tend to absorb other people’s emotions just like an empath. Highly sensitive people are very aware of subtleties, they can notice a change in expression, body language and tone of voice. This along with high levels of empathy often make HSPs feel as if their emotions are not their own, making them suffer from emotional exhaustion. For HSPs, change is extremely difficult. Highly sensitive people take comfort in routines because it is inside their comfort zone. They often need more time than others to adjust to new situations that heighten their stimuli.

The stigma of being sensitive

There is often a lot of stigma around being a sensitive person. Because high sensitivity is misunderstood by many, the behaviour of HSPs can cause others to be frustrated. In Western societies, it is common to view high sensitivity as a flaw. In the workplace and romantic relationships, crying and needing to retreat and recharge are often seen as signs of weakness in individuals. This is exceptionally difficult for men who are HSPs and face bias and shame for their emotions in their everyday lives.

Things to remember as an HSP

For HSPs to thrive, it is important to view your high sensitivity as a gift rather than a curse. HSP qualities such as deep self-awareness, emotional intelligence, empathy, stress management and thoughtful communication are all signs of a healthy functioning brain, not a damaged one. While it can be quite draining to be hyper-attuned to every minor concern in your life, these traits make it easier for you to understand and communicate with the people around you. When you feel things deeply, learn to set better boundaries, do self-care and invite more positive affirmations into your life. Your sensitivity is not something you can stop or control, but it is something you can use to your advantage by learning to harness its incredible strengths.

Being highly sensitive doesn’t make you weak but it does mean you have to manage yourself, your relationships, work and life differently than other people. The world needs more highly sensitive people to make it a more compassionate and understanding place.