As a society, we have come to think of being “too sensitive” as a flaw. It tampers with our ability to tap into our inner power or ability to optimize our other traits. We care too much, think too deeply, perceive too many unfounded things, imagine a world that does not exist, and can sometimes believe in things that others find ludicrous.
Those statements already make us sound like crazy weirdos but in reality, when we interact with people, this is sometimes our mental state. Ever since I was young, I was told “not to be too sensitive”, was considered a “problem child” or the “black sheep”. None of them is positive.
To others, highly sensitive people cannot move on as others should. They sit in a corner crying over the littlest of things, and may stop everything in their tracks to delve “a little deeper”. They feel too much and take things personally.
So people walk on eggshells around them or recognize it as their Achilles heels.
Adapting Sensitivity To The World Around Us
Because I am highly perceptive and sensitive, when I was growing up, I learned how to hide my emotions and feelings, turn away from people before they turn away from me, or shut down before something or someone hurts me. Because I am already one step ahead.
But it is because of my highly sensitive nature that I can harvest thoughts and emotions and put them into relatable materials that reach out to others.
When I perform on stage, I can let it all out because that is required of me. Being sensitive. When I write, even at work, I am required to step into other people’s shoes and speak and write like them. When I see something gruesome, unfair, or cruel, it leaves such a deep mark in me that I may never forget them.
We simply experience the world around us more vividly. We’re not weird snowflakes who need a ‘DANGER’ sign slapped on our chest to warn others so that they should start walking on eggshells around us. It’s not a choice. We are born with it although most of us outgrow some of the things that previously overwhelm our younger selves.
If we looked at history, previously, philanthropists, poets, writers, creators, philosophers, artists, painters, actors, or musicians were venerated for their abilities to step into other people’s shoes and express it in a way that taps into the thoughts of others, sometimes evoking strong emotions and reactions.
I am not saying we’re all geniuses. It’s just that we may possess some of the same traits. What people see as colors, we can feel color. What people see as facial expressions, we feel emotions.
I guess I can pin this down to a couple of people I’ve met in my life, professionally and personally, from within and without the family, but it would be unfair to call them the villains. They’re just doing things the way they know how.
It may not be justified but there are certain types of people that I should consider villains to my personality. Not because they’re cruel but they were people who would, without a smidgen of doubt, point out sensitivity and vulnerability as a flaw and trample all over it.
They’re not villains per se but they are to our personality trait.
Maturity and Experience Sharpens Our Emotional Skills
The advice “Stop being so damn sensitive” is both a blessing and a curse.
This, in my young mind, was my fault. Back then, people who took things in their stride didn’t make a mountain out of a molehill, threw back as hard as they were thrown at…these were the traits of successful people.
People like me would be considered “too emotional to handle anything”.
Reality struck when I went into the entertainment industry. I walked into a world of glitz, glamor, fun, excitement, exhilaration, total immersion, and satisfaction in every way possible. A world I love. Or so I thought.
Even in a Paradise-like workplace, there were “villains”. I was all but twenty-something and to say that I was naive or ignorant is an understatement. I went in like a blank slate, ready for anything, especially the fun parts of work and life.
I quickly learned from someone senior that there are villains everywhere and we will never, ever, be able to escape them. And we don’t know who they are, what their superpowers are, how we should approach them or beat them, or even if we could at all.
But we can learn.
Don’t Take Everything Personally
I received this little piece of wisdom from a platform I dislike the most – Whatsapp.
It was from a volunteer group. Sometimes I read the non-stop flurry of messages, but most of the time I ignore them. This one stood out because I was reading it during an extremely tough period of my life. I was dealing with THE boss villain of my life and I was trapped, backed up against the wall.
In essence, this was what the message said:
“In our daily lives, we will inevitably encounter and interact with all kinds of people, exposing us to harsh and unpleasant words or ill-mannered actions which if taken to heart liberally will hurt us, make us angry or provoke an unpleasant response from us. Sometimes it is intended, sometimes it is meant to diminish our confidence and self-esteem.
Don’t be too sensitive and simply take to heart what others do or say. Shield our hearts from poisonous arrows, filter out the dust and dirt and distill the remainder for useful lessons to learn and grow our wisdom of life.”
If before I always blamed myself for feeling too much and much too deeply, I now know that it’s not always about me. It’s also about them. The world needs a balance and I am capable of finding it.
13 Traits of Highly Sensitive People
As I was watching this video, it was hard for me to deny that I fell into this category of people who either took things too seriously, overreact at things, become depressed easily, or prefer to be alone sometimes.
Out of the 13 criteria listed in the video, I said yes to probably approximately 8-9 of them. If you’re not going to watch the video, this is the list.
You are geared to process and perceive information on a much deeper level than most other people. You’re more sympathetic, empathetic, intuitive, perceptive, and self-aware than others, and that can be difficult in this world. While there are good things that come out of sensitivity and vulnerability, there’s a downside to having the ability to perceive and dissect information from all around us.
The downside of being Highly Sensitive:
1. You can’t function without sleep
2. You can’t stand loud noises
3. You often feel emotionally exhausted
4. You scrutinize social interactions
5. You’re easily triggered by violence
6. You have a hard time moving on
7. You’re uncomfortable with change
8. You don’t react well to criticism and conflict
9. You don’t do well under pressure
10. Your boundaries are easily crossed
11. You’re your own worst critic
12. You require alone time
13. You’re often misunderstood
The video DOES end on a good note after listing down all the negative traits of highly sensitive people.
“You also have a huge capacity for compassion, understanding, and kindness. Your very presence makes this world a better place.”
We Don’t Need to Come with a Warning or Disclaimer
About 30% of the HSPs are NOT introverted, shy, or overwhelmingly quiet.
Some HSPs love parties, potluck dinners, and going to concerts. Like me. I love the stage, parties, concerts, catch-ups, as well as loud and unapologetic dinner gatherings.
I love to write, as I am now even when I don’t have to, and sing, perform, dance, and loudly share jokes with my friends too. So, there are many different types of highly sensitive people. Just like others, we come in many different shades of weirdness.
As a mother of two, raising two little boys on my own was no mean feat. Being highly sensitive was tough. Although I still don’t know the right, proper way to shave a man’s face or how men feel when women ask them “What’s wrong? What is it that you’re not telling me?”I often had to step into the shoes of men around me, to think, feel, and emote like them.
I once had to call my guy cousin to ask him about normal men’s responses and behaviors. This is embarrassing but please bear with me because he only told me “It’s natural. Give them space and guidance. You don’t have to understand everything and just try to work WITH them”.
Today, I am more of a man than I was before. Sadly, I have toughened up as required by the law of nature.
The good news is, however, that the people around me who understood me have decided to work with my flow. I’ve managed to bridge the gap between being ultra-sensitive and being overly competitive in everything.
Most HSPs have a genuine urge to create meaning and connection because they feel strongly about every pain and joy they see. If HSPs hide their ability to connect with people, we all lose.
We need to rewrite the narrative about sensitive people. Erase the notion that sensitivity is a weakness or flaw. We can then live in a world where everyone is allowed to express their softer side without being labeled a cry baby or snowflake.
If given the chance, I think HSPs may be great leaders and visionaries.
Looking at the gift of being sensitive, it makes sense that we’re capable of reading signals people may miss. We’re self-aware, which also means we under-promise and over-deliver. We listen well and are keenly observant. We can help resolve or diffuse situations when there’s conflict. We’re passionate about the things we do, and if we choose your side, you can be sure we’d be the most loyal of aides. With age and experience, we may learn how to use our kindness and compassion without being walk-overs. We are introspective, which means we trust our instincts based on what we see in the world. We only need gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language to tell us what we’re feeling. And in the workplace, we may become good team players or decision-makers. If asked to choose, we will often choose the side that values integrity which often sides with justice, morality, value, and fairness.
The world may have taken away the softness in me to a certain extent, but it will never take away my ability to perceive better than others.
If before I thought I was alone and weird, I now know that I am not alone. It’s such a comforting thought.