Everyone tells you to hide the fact that you’re sensitive. I decided to try something different.
I have always known that I feel things deeply and need time alone to process things — both signs of a highly sensitive person (HSP).
But the first time I really admitted to myself that I was an HSP was when I stumbled across the work of Sheryl Paul. Learning about the HSP trait has helped me become more accepting of myself and to set up my life in a way that works for me and honors my sensitivity.
Instead of viewing the fact that I’m “too sensitive” in a negative light, I started to see my high sensitivity as the gift that it is — and this has transformed my life. My relationship with my partner has improved, I have less job stress, and I feel better about myself day to day. Frankly, embracing my sensitivity was a turning point — and I believe it can be for other sensitive people, too. Here’s how.
7 Amazing Things That Happen When You Finally Admit You’re Highly Sensitive
1. You know that little voice that says there’s something wrong with you? It finally goes away.
One of the biggest things that happened for me when I realized that I’m more sensitive than others is that I stopped thinking there was something “wrong” with me. The most common reaction people have when they learn what being an HSP means is a sigh of relief and recognition, “Ohhh, that’s what has been happening all this time!”
I look back now, to me as a child, and I can clearly see the signs. I’d always been irritated by tags on my shirts and needed my shoes to be tied really tight, signs of sensory processing sensitivity.
As an adult, I also noticed signs, like how I’d often feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed during transitions. HSPs tend to love our routines, so celebrations, milestones, and times of change are big for us. In fact, I used to feel silly for getting so emotional, but now l anticipate my feelings, and this makes them more manageable and me more calm.
When you finally admit that you are highly sensitive, you learn that you aren’t flawed, you are just different, and that difference comes with gifts and challenges. I feel the highs and lows more intensely and need a bit more time to process things. But this also means I really feel and appreciate the beauty of life, for which I am grateful.
2. You learn how to validate the way you’re feeling — without anyone’s approval.
Since learning about being an HSP, my reactions make more sense to me. This makes me more able to articulate my experiences and stand up for myself.
For example, this year I moved from Australia to Colombia, where my partner is from. On our very first day there, his family suggested we go for a swim in the river near their house. I was already feeling a little disoriented and anxious about being in such a new and different place, but I agreed.
When we got there, however, I felt overwhelmed: the water was cold, there were lots of people speaking Spanish, and kids jumping into the river from the rocks. I’m a chicken about cold water and it usually takes me a while to get in. I hesitated, looking nervous. My partner was confused. “What’s wrong? Come in, it’s lovely!”
To my dismay, I suddenly started to cry. Luckily, I could explain my HSP reaction to him, “I’m OK, don’t worry, I’m just feeling overstimulated.” My partner is very understanding, but you can imagine how difficult it would have been if he’d invalidated my reaction.
Whether or not someone will understand how you’re feeling, knowing yourself makes it much easier to validate your emotions. It can be hard to explain to someone who is not highly sensitive, but it’s important to learn to advocate for yourself. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about the way you are.
3. You begin to discover you have talents you never even knew about.
Learning more about HSP traits has made me more aware of the positive aspects of being a highly sensitive person and I now consider them to be my secret gifts, like superpowers. For example, I’ve discovered that we HSPs are often highly creative, thoughtful, caring, and observant.
As a social worker, being observant and empathetic are part of what makes me good at my job — responding to subtle changes in a person’s body language and tone of voice means I’m able to make a person feel safe and supported.
HSPs may excel in caring jobs like mine, as we’re often skilled at reading people due to our empathetic natures and the way we naturally put ourselves in other people’s shoes. However, we may need breaks to recharge from the stimulation of working with people all day, and knowing this is half the battle.
Every HSP has different strengths, though — you may have great attention-to-detail, be creative, or disciplined. When you finally admit that you are more sensitive than others, you can spend less time trying not to be sensitive and more time making the most of the gifts of being sensitive.
4. You start to notice fellow HSPs everywhere you go — even among your heroes.
You how when you hear or learn about something, you start to see it everywhere? That definitely happened when I started to learn more about being a highly sensitive person.
Once you identify the common traits and feelings of an HSP, you begin to see them everywhere, from people you’ve always known to characters in movies. I now wonder how many people who are labeled with other disorders don’t have a disorder at all — they’re just highly sensitive souls who are not getting their needs met.
As you meet more sensitive people, it can be validating and you can even encourage and support one another. I’m now also able to use this knowledge in my work to offer validation and information to others who may have this high sensitivity trait.
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5. You honor your needs more.
One Saturday after a busy week at work, I had just been to the gym and gone grocery shopping. I wanted to do some admin work, but I couldn’t log into my email.
Once again, I burst into tears — I felt absolutely crazy. My reaction was clearly out of proportion to the situation. But what I was really reacting to was the combination of a stressful week and pushing myself too hard.
If I’d been paying attention, I probably would have noticed the tension and irritation building. Perhaps I could have practiced self-care and had a nap or read a book in between my errands. It was the weekend, after all.
Learning to tune in and listen to yourself can be so helpful in avoiding overstimulation. Often our body is giving us warning signs, but we push through because we think we “should” be able to handle it. But when you accept that you’re sensitive, you can learn to check in with yourself throughout the day to prevent getting overstimulated.
6. Instead of being at the mercy of overstimulation, you start to live your life in a way that prevents it.
I have always known intuitively that I needed time alone — I would just crave it after a busy day or week. Many of us HSPs need time to recover from high levels of stimulation; from noise, information, and other people, since the world can be a lot sometimes.
I now understand that quiet time or time alone is a need, not just a preference, for me. Having healthy rituals which I incorporate into my day helps to ground and support me. For example, I get up half an hour earlier on weekdays to meditate and journal. And I often go for a walk outside on my lunch break instead of chatting in the lunchroom.
Maybe what you need is a monthly therapy session, time for something creative, or a solo walk in nature. Once you know what you need, you can schedule these things into your life before you get to the point of overwhelm. Using coping strategies to act preventatively is better for us, our colleagues, and our loved ones.
7. You start to speak up for yourself — and see results.
When you finally embrace your high sensitivity, you’ll be in a better position to ask for what you need and set boundaries. This way, you’ll be the healthiest version of yourself.
For example, you can say something like, “I can be a better mother if I can have an hour a day to myself. Do you think you could help me make that happen?” or “That music is a bit too loud for me. Could you please turn it down?”
Although it may be difficult at first — we HSPs don’t want to upset anyone — once you start doing it, you’ll keep doing it. Remember, your needs are just as valid and important as everyone else’s, and others may not know what you need until you ask.