Being Highly Sensitive in a Non-Sensitive World
As a Highly Sensitive Person, I understand what it’s like to live in a world where sensitivity is misunderstood and undervalued; it created a lot of shame in me for a long time. But now many of my favorite things about myself I attribute directly to my sensitivity, and part of my job as a therapist who specializes in working with Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) is helping others unlearn all the negative messages they’ve received about themselves and what it means to be sensitive. Almost everyone I work with sees their sensitivity as a weakness or a liability; something they have to “overcome,” or hide, in order to be “normal.”
Personally, I would argue that this isn’t inherently a problem. It’s really only viewed as a problem through a capitalistic lens where outward, clearly quantitative, linear productivity is considered the most important thing.
But guess what? Highly Sensitive people are highly “productive” as well, it’s just that our productivity is happening in the realm of thoughts, ideas, feelings, and creativity! We are introspective. We are deep thinkers, and that requires a lot of invisible, unseen, and typically unacknowledged time and energy. We have a lot to offer the people in our lives, our employers, and society as a whole, as a result of the work we do within our complex inner worlds.
Four Awesome Qualities of Highly Sensitive People
- Highly Sensitive People are good at making connections, synthesizing complex information, and noticing subtle patterns.
As HSPs we often catch mistakes and discrepancies that others miss. We are good at tasks that require attention to detail, accuracy, and detection of nuance and minor differences. Because our brains naturally process complex and subtle information more thoroughly, we often exhibit an ability to foresee potential problems long before they are upon us.
2. HSPs are introspective.
HSPs have strong insular activity in the brain. The insula is responsible for our ability to turn our attention inward. As a result, HSPs are aware of their internal experience—including thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations.
HSPs tend to think about their thinking more, which is called meta-awareness. Meta-awareness is what we strengthen when we practice mindfulness meditation. Highly Sensitive People are often conscientious and self-aware, due to this natural tendency to process, analyze, and reflect on our own motivations and actions.
3. Highly Sensitive People tend to be conscientious and empathic.
Research has shown that HSPs also have a heightened mirror neuron system, making us more likely to be aware of and attuned to the experiences of others. Being able to put ourselves in others' shoes leads to deeper empathy, and HSPs are often deeply impacted by and passionate about addressing issues of systemic injustice and oppression. And, as mentioned above, we are conscientious, because our natural tendency toward introspection leads us to consider how our actions could affect others. HSPs are known for being good with young children and animals for the same reasons.
4. As a group, Highly Sensitive People are spiritually inclined.
We are deep thinkers, and deep thinking usually leads to deep questioning. Highly Sensitive People are often concerned with existential concerns like, Why am I here? What is my purpose? What happens after we die?
Its common for HSPs to be asking these questions and grappling with paradox and the complexity of human nature even as young children. We are natural philosophers! HSPs are also likely to notice and question discrepancies and/or hypocrisy when they encounter it within organized religion.
The Impact of Overwhelm
All of these great characteristics that come along with being a Highly Sensitive Person are available to us as long as we are taking good care of ourselves. When we allow ourselves to get into a chronic state of overwhelm, we not only feel completely miserable, but we cease to have access to the best parts of ourselves. Which is of course true for everyone, the sensitive and non-sensitive alike.
Symptoms of overwhelm: short temper/rage, anxiety, depression, guilt/shame, difficulty focusing, making mistakes and overlooking details, feeling scattered, dissociation...
The number one thing that leads to overwhelm in HSPs? Trying to live our lives in a way that does not respect our nervous system’s needs. To learn more read, Imitating Non-Sensitivity: The Number One Pitfall of Highly Sensitive People and Self-Care for Highly Sensitive People.
Meet the Author
Would you like to turn your attention inward and deepen your self-compassion?
Maggie is a therapist based out of Lawrence, Kansas who specializes in therapy for highly sensitive adults, therapy for self-esteem, therapy for anxiety, therapy for childhood trauma, and grief and bereavement counseling.
Maggie is passionate about helping people overcome shame and the fear of being their true selves. Breaking the cycles of people-pleasing and self-abandonment is possible; you don't have to suffer alone. Maggie offers online therapy throughout the state of Kansas.
Reach out today to schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation!
Other Services Offered by Maggie
In addition to providing online therapy anywhere in Kansas, Maggie is also a professional astrologer, and offers Birth Chart Readings anywhere in the United States, as well as abroad.
Astrology is a powerful tool for gaining self-awareness, finding meaning in and understanding of our difficult experiences, and for receiving validation regarding our own unique life path. All of which supports our mental health in a positive way!
Interested in getting a Natal Chart Reading? Book a free phone consultation and let’s get started!