How I embraced my sensitivity
Before I knew about the highly sensitive person (HSP) I had always felt like I was missing some important guidebook on living, a manual that others had received at birth.
I’ve always known on some level that I was sensitive – it was a word that was often used in the same sentence when talking to or about me. But I didn’t really know what it meant.
My interpretation of a sensitive person was someone who was highly emotional, irrational, dramatic, and weak. And that didn’t resonate with who I felt I was. I was silly, giggly, carefree, fun.
But it was certainly true that I did feel things more intensely. I held on to my emotions for longer. I couldn’t just 'get over it' like my older sister, or many of my friends. I worried about how comfortable my teddies were when I left for school each morning.
I remember during one art lesson we were colouring in a zebra and mine was multicoloured – when asked why, I replied that I didn’t want any of the crayons to feel left out.
Many, many years later, when I finally learned the true meaning of high sensitivity, it was like a million little light bulbs going off in my head 'Yes, yes, that’s me!' It was so validating and reassuring to be truly seen and understood.
But at the same time, it felt like a label that I didn’t want to wear. A burden I didn’t want to carry. Having struggled with bouts of depression in my teens and early twenties it felt like one more thing I had to overcome. I had this overwhelming sense that life would be less challenging, less complicated. If I weren’t so damn sensitive and could just be like everyone else.
I felt so conflicted. On one hand, there was this trait that I could so fully resonate with. But on the other hand, it was something that schools and society typically regarded as undesirable so why would I want to identify as an HSP?
Embracing my sensitivity didn’t just happen overnight. Experiences, little signs, and insights over time revealed the beauty and power of being highly sensitive.
And how glad I am that I tuned in and listened to those messages (hello sensitivity superpowers!).
How I embraced my sensitivity
I made a commitment to myself
Viewing my sensitivity as something holding me back hadn't served me particularly well. I was ready to see things differently and that started with first making a promise to myself that I would be open to doing the work and making an effort to fully understand what it meant to be a highly sensitive person.
I changed the narrative
For as long as I could remember, I had viewed my sensitivity as a hindrance, the thing that was getting in the way of me being more confident and more successful. When I made the conscious decision to see all the ways in which it had actually supported me or benefited me over the years, my relationship with sensitivity dramatically shifted.
I looked for the benefits
Instead of focusing on the limitations of sensitivity such as feeling easily overwhelmed or my battery depleting more rapidly, I started to reflect on the gifts it offered me; empathy, attention to detail, an appreciation of nature, intuition, care, elevated sensory pleasure, and awareness.
I shared my experience
Starting with close family and friends that I could trust, I shared glimpses into my own experience as an HSP. Like why alone time was so important to me, or why I needed a bit more time to process my emotions. But also the things about my high sensitivity that I value and appreciate too.
I connected with others like me
I’d always felt a bit different, especially in my early twenties, but couldn’t understand why. Learning that 25% of the population is highly sensitive was like being invited to a party that I actually wanted to go to. People who wouldn’t question why I was leaving early, or why the smell of cigarette smoke bothered me so much.
I learned my triggers
Brightly lit rooms, forks squeaking against a plate, and large groups of people can send my sensitive nervous system into a state of arousal. Of course, these aren’t things I can always have control over, but I can recognise what is happening and use the skills I’ve learned to soothe myself and come back to balance.
I doubled down on self-care
Knowing that my nervous system was working harder to process its environment on such a deep level helped me to view myself with more compassion. I wasn’t weak, lazy or broken, I just needed to prioritise more rest and take better care of my energy. Practices like yoga, meditation, EFT, journaling, and sleep became a priority.
I practised gratitude
I created a section of my gratitude journal that was specific to my sensitivity trait. In what ways was I grateful for my empathy, or my creativity? How had I been inspired by nature that day in a way that non-HSPs may have missed? How had my sensitivity served me, others and the world?
Being a highly sensitive person in denial stops you from learning how to effectively harness the many brilliant qualities of the trait to your advantage. I’m so grateful for all that my sensitivity has to offer me and the world. So the question is, are you ready to fully embrace all of who you are?