A highly sensitive person has high sensitivity to the world around them. High sensitivity, also called sensory processing sensitivity, is a completely normal trait that affects between 15 to 20% of the population, or 1.4 billion people, according to experts on the subject.
People can have a lot of success despite being highly stimulated by the world around them. For example, Alanis Morissette has openly talked about how she is a highly sensitive person and often felt misunderstood and misperceived, but that hasn’t stopped her from doing some great things in this world.
It’s interesting that being highly sensitive is not limited to humans. Biologists have discovered this trait in over 100 species, including dogs, horses, and even birds.
We tend to use the term ‘highly sensitive person’ as a bad label for someone. For instance, we might call someone who takes things too seriously a highly sensitive person – meaning they should just chill out or relax. Or we might label someone who cries at the little things as a highly sensitive person – meaning they are too touchy or too emotional. When we say it, we are saying that there is something wrong with them, but in reality, that’s not the case.
Being highly sensitive is not a disorder. It is a personality trait that involves processing sensory data. In fact, brain images in highly sensitive people have shown that the areas in the brain linked to processing perceptual data and attention are much more active in response to all kinds of stimuli that the less sensitive people.
So does this mean that their life sucks? No! Far from it! Just like people who are not highly sensitive, there are bad and good aspects of having a specific personality trait. And, I think there are also some great aspects of being highly sensitive.
The Downside Of Being Highly Sensitive
These are the aspects that people tend to focus on, which is why being highly sensitive has gotten such a bad rap with people, including the people who are living with the trait. The thing that we need to focus on is that highly sensitive people can overcome all these issues and just retain all the positive benefits of being highly sensitive.
1. They Can Go Down The Rabbit Hole Easily
A person who is highly sensitive can take a situation and go in a downward spiral from it. This is especially true if they have had a traumatic event in their past that can cause them to turn an event someone else is going through into an event they feel like they are going through.
For instance, if someone loses a pet, a highly sensitive person can become overwhelmed and start crying. They can also move past the initial sadness of someone else losing a pet and start to feel like they are losing their pet. Then they can start to focus on other negative things and end up in a place where they simply don’t want to face the world anymore because there are too many things that could cause them pain. It can be easy to get lost in the pain of what ‘could’ happen and start feeling the pain as intense as if it is happening.
In addition, negative interactions or just being around a negative person can cause someone who is highly sensitive to experience a sudden low that leads them further and further into a negative place.
2. They Can Misunderstand Other People
Someone who is highly sensitive, and has a lot of insecurities, can misinterpret other people’s intentions, feelings, and thoughts. They can start to create a story in their head about why the person is doing what they are doing or saying what they are saying. These assumptions are usually based on their own insecurities or fears, so can be very upsetting to them when their fictional story feels real.
For instance, a friend of a person with high sensitivity may tell them that a room in their house smells bad. It may be a legitimate complaint about mold or mildew, but the highly sensitive person who fears being judged on how well they clean may take it as a complaint about their cleanliness. This can cause them to feel really bad about themselves and the situation in general.
3. They Can Take Criticism Poorly
Even if the criticism is constructive criticism and meant to be helpful, a highly sensitive person can take it very poorly. They can dwell about the criticism for days, weeks, or longer, instead of taking the appropriate action on the criticism.
Highly sensitive people are often told they need to be tougher when they don’t take criticism well. This only adds to their pain! Now they are focused on the criticism plus the fact that they are being perceived as weak because they are feeling the pain. This can make things very stressful and confusing, to say the least.
4. They Can Get Involved With Narcissists
People who are highly sensitive are vulnerable to get into the worst types of relationships. It’s common for highly sensitive people to have at least one relationship in their past where their partner was so focused on themselves that it was ridiculous.
Narcissists like to use people, thanks to their lack of empathy for others, and that makes highly sensitive people an easy target. At first, narcissists use their talents, such as manipulation, charm, and deception, to draw in the highly sensitive person, and then when they’ve got them in their clutches, they show their true self, and they feed off the kindness that a highly sensitive person naturally gives them.
Unfortunately, sensitive people can believe that through understanding and compassion, they can help the narcissist change. And when that doesn’t happen, it can be a real struggle to leave the relationship where the narcissist is so convincing and manipulative with someone who is so compassionate and sensitive to other people’s needs.
5. Depression And Anxiety Can Show Up In Their Lives Easier
When you feel things deeply, it can be easy to become depressed or anxious in life. This is especially true if you are aware of how your actions are affecting other people, and you worry about the things you say or do in each interaction you are in.
While genetics seem plays a role in things like depression, a highly sensitive person is much more susceptible to becoming highly stimulated in any situation, which increases their risk of being depressed or anxious.
The Upside Of Being Highly Sensitive
These are the big benefits of being highly sensitive. These are the things that we should be focused on, whether we are the one who is sensitive or we are living with someone who is sensitive.
1. Their Awareness Is High
Because they are so in tune with the world, they are aware of more than others. They may see things more vividly, hear things more vividly, or feel things more vividly.
Being aware of the world around you is a good thing if you can stay in that awareness. It allows you to live in the moment, which is beneficial for your health, relationships, and overall happiness. Being present also allows you to do more beneficial things for yourself and your life because you don’t let worry or anxiety get in the way.
And, an aware person is more capable of doing things that make positive changes in their world and the lives of people around them. They can see what needs to be done and feel a need to take action on it because it’s obvious it will be beneficial.
2. They Are Deeply Caring
I know a highly sensitive person who is the kindest person I’ve ever met. She feels the pain of other people more intensely and has taught us all to be more giving, compassionate, and loving. She doesn’t hesitate when it comes to helping someone out because she can feel what they are going through and it resonates with her on a level that other people just don’t feel.
In intimate relationships, this heightened level of compassion is also beneficial. The highly sensitive person doesn’t move on from issues easily, so they tend to come back to an unresolved issue with ideas that can help fix the problem and make everyone happy.
In fact, this ability to care deeply can create stronger relationships with everyone they meet. Even strangers can sense their compassion and resonate with them better than someone who is focused on themselves and doesn’t show any sign of recognition for what others are going through.
The fact that so many people are highly sensitive is a good thing! It means that over 1.4 billion people are walking around with the kind of empathy that this world needs to become a better and happier place. It means that not everyone on this planet is working towards harming it or each other but, instead, are working towards making everyone happier. That’s a comforting thought that can help us keep working towards the progress of humanity and the longevity of the planet.
3. They See And Feel The Beauty In Life More Intensely
Many people who are highly sensitive have an appreciation for music, art, love, and joy that people who are not don’t feel. The thought of something beautiful, like true love, can bring tears to their eyes and resonate deeply into their soul.
People who are highly sensitive find that they are moved by the beauty of nature. The trees, the mountains, the rivers, the oceans, and the animals in nature all touch a chord in them that makes them feel love, peace, and gratitude more intensity.
Moreover, they notice the subtle things in life more, such as the little flower that goes unnoticed by other people. They cherish those little things, and they are the people who inspire others to stop and smell the roses!
4. They Have Deeper Conversations And Interactions With Others
People who are highly sensitive find it easier to talk about important things. They may not find small talk, such as the weather, that important. But, when they hear about something that has some deeper meaning about life, love, or emotions, they are more likely to participate in the conversation.
For a career choice, highly sensitive people may want to consider interviewing other people in some capacity. Their ability to understand what other people are feeling, and resonate with the person they are interviewing, can help them tailor some on-the-spot questions that help bring out the important information that really matters.
If you know someone who is great to talk to about the big things in life, they are probably a highly sensitive person. And if you are the one who everyone comes to when a crisis happens, then you are probably the person with high sensitivity.
5. They Are Highly Perceptive
Highly sensitive people who can learn to master their emotions make very perceptive people. They have an ability to recognize the little things in life, resonate with how other people are feeling, and find a deep compassion for everything. They are very observant in life and can use that information to help them progress in their relationships and in their career.
This is good news for all the highly sensitive people who don’t want to date narcissists anymore! With a little fine-tuning, it can be easy for a highly sensitive person to spot people who are saying and doing all the right things for the sake of winning someone over. Moreover, noticing the little signs of a narcissist, such as spending too much time on their appearance or being too focused on what people think about them, is easier for a highly perceptive person to do.
6. Their Senses Are Heightened
Highly perceptive people often have a heightened sense of smell, taste, and hearing, which can come in handy in many different ways.
– They can hear the little changes in someone’s voice that indicate when they are getting frustrated or annoyed, and quickly correct the conversation to keep it flowing in a positive state.
– Their palate may be better, which makes them a better cook.
– They can catch when something is going wrong with a mechanical device when they hear a buzzing or other noise that other people don’t catch.
– They can catch their kids sneaking out in the middle of the night as their senses tell them that something in the house just doesn’t feel right.
– They can smell a potential hazard before it actually becomes hazardous.
In short, they can interact with the world in a way that someone who isn’t sensitive can’t.
A Highly Sensitive Person Isn’t Overreacting
Whether you are a highly sensitive person or know one, it is important to understand that highly sensitive people are not overreacting. They are not too emotional or too sensitive. They were born with heightened senses, and that is a good thing.
With the right techniques to get control of their emotions and stop some of the unwanted aspects of being too sensitive, they can be a shining light in this world.
I think that sensitive people are very fortunate. They have more of an opportunity to learn and grow as a person even if they are not currently struggling with something that is life-changing.
For example, I have a friend who went to a showing of the play ‘Hair’ not long ago. Everyone else was dancing to the music or, in the case of some people, offended by the message, but she saw the beauty, the sadness, and the desperation of the people from the story. She cried throughout the whole play! At the end, other people labeled her as too emotional, but she walked away with a deeper understanding of the struggles of the people in a time of war and ugliness – something she had not been exposed to. She didn’t just watch a play, she grew as a person.
The bottom line is that we need to celebrate the highly sensitive person, not shame them.
– They are able to see things that the average person can’t see.
– They are able to solve problems better because they often reflect on conversations and issues.
– They are able to bring out the best in people with their compassion and kindness.
– They are able to bring out the answers we need to hear with their ability to connect to other people in an intimate way.
– Their heightened senses can protect their loved ones and everyone around them.
– They can use their special talents to spot or create beauty in an artistic way that helps lift other people’s moods.
– They can take care of people in a way that makes them feel validated in this world.
– They can be one of the most supportive and loving partners in an intimate relationship with the right person.
– They can help you understand other people and how to relate to them better.
And the list goes on and on!
Instead of shaming them for their high sensitivity, they should be appreciated. While there may be some negative things that can happen as a result of their high sensitivity, they can learn to work with their emotions in a way that benefits themselves, you, and everyone else in this world.