Our capes may be invisible, but highly sensitive people have several superpowers, from having spidey senses to being able to teleport into someone else’s shoes.
I was my parent’s first baby, and I’m afraid I wasn’t a very easy one. I hardly ever slept and cried a lot. As they tell it, at one point, they were so desperate to get me to stop crying that they were playing music, waving toys in front of my face, and bouncing me up and down all at the same time. Needless to say, it wasn’t helping.
As the story goes, my mom starts flipping through all of her baby books for answers and runs into this phrase: “Be sure you’re not overstimulating your baby.”
My parents looked at each other in horror, suddenly realizing that the only reason I was crying was because of their good-hearted attempts to cheer me up. The toys were put away and the music was turned off. After some quiet time being swaddled and held, my crying stopped and I transformed back into a happy baby.
A Moment of Realization: Learning I’m Highly Sensitive
So, even from the early days, my parents knew that I was sensitive, and it only became more obvious once I got older and started school. However, it took me until I was 25 to fully realize the benefits of my personality trait.
At work, my manager had us take a personality test and — always the researcher — I looked up more things about my personality type once I got home. Down the rabbit hole of Google searches I went and eventually stumbled upon an article about signs of highly sensitive people (HSPs). I had never heard the term before, but once I read it, everything made sense. My quirks, preferences, and those personality traits that got me bullied in school for being “too sensitive” suddenly snapped into high definition.
The best part of learning about sensitive people was that I didn’t feel ashamed of my personality anymore. In fact, I felt empowered to embrace it. For the first time in my life, I began to see the things that I used to try to hide or wish away as the positives that they really were. I only wish that I had embraced my superpowers sooner, because being an HSP is actually pretty cool.
But before we get into the superpowers, it’s important to understand what sensitivity really is — as well as what it definitely isn’t.
What Is Sensitivity?
Being sensitive does not mean what society has influenced people to think: that you’re fragile, weak, or don’t have a backbone. Rather, it’s a healthy personality trait — a core and essential part of our temperament and being. This means that everyone is sensitive to some degree; it’s just that some of us are more sensitive than others. In fact, up to 30 percent of the population count as highly sensitive beings — meaning nearly 1 in 3 people are more sensitive both physically (to stimuli such as lights, textures, sounds, and temperature) and emotionally (to the words, feelings, facial expressions, and social cues of everyone around them). “Sensitivity” reveals itself in all forms — an HSP may need to leave a crowded shopping mall or they may find themselves tearing up at a beautiful piece of music.
This sensitivity trait comes with a huge number of strengths, from creativity (who hasn’t heard of sensitive artists?) to empathy (most empaths are likely highly sensitive people) to deep thinking, emotional depth, attention to detail, and an intuitive knack for making connections that other people miss. When you look at all these characteristics together, it paints a very different picture of sensitive types than most people think of — not fragile or weak, but thoughtful and gifted. Yes, HSPs have a gift — and this gift is what makes up our sensitivity superpowers.
So what, exactly, are these superpowers? Read on to find out.
8 Superpowers of Highly Sensitive People
1. They’re there in a flash
I absolutely hate being late. It doesn’t matter if it’s an important event or if I’m just picking up my grocery order. In the same vein, nothing will make me more stressed than a work deadline that’s only hours away.
However, I’ve started to see this sensitive personality trait in a new light. With practice, I’ve been able to manage my stress with time pressure in a healthy way and use it for my benefit. It’s made me extremely dependable and I almost always make my work deadlines, even the “impossible” ones. It’s made me into a very conscientious worker and my sensitivity has become a strength in the workplace. I’ve excelled in my field because of it, accomplishing a lot of things I couldn’t have done without being so sensitive to time pressure. So thank you, sensitivity trait!
2. They have super hearing
Nothing gets my emotions going quicker than music. Whether it’s a song that comes on the radio or a soundtrack in a movie, music is something that touches my soul… unless it’s blasting through my car stereo.
I used to drive my little sister to school and, like any teenager, she loved to listen to the radio loud and with the windows down. It was overwhelming!
That contested volume knob was a constant battleground during our high school years. On the one hand, I would turn down the music to what my sister would claim was a whisper. Then on the other hand, she’d be jacking up the volume so loud it felt like someone was screaming in my face.
To this day, both my sister and my husband are astounded by my ability to watch TV and listen to music at such low volumes. Though research has sadly shown that HSPs don’t actually have real superpowered hearing, it has found that our brains process sound input more thoroughly than other people, causing us to be more affected by sounds.
3. They cry easily (which is not a bad thing)
According to my classmates when I was growing up, crying (very, very easily) was my defining characteristic. I would cry when I saw another kid sad, cry reading a book or watching a movie, cry when I was in pain, cry when others were in pain… you get the picture.
I used to hate that I got emotional so easily, but as an adult, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my super-sensitive heart. I’m glad that I care so much about other people and their feelings. It’s made me into a thoughtful friend, a loving wife and daughter, and a good listener. It’s something the people close to me really appreciate.
I’m also thankful that I’m moved so deeply by art and nature. Many of my favorite memories are times when I was appreciating something beautiful. It makes my life joyful and fulfilling to take in the world around me in such detail, and those memories have stayed with me and cheered me on in good times and bad.
4. They can teleport into someone else’s shoes
HSPs are usually good at putting themselves in other people’s shoes. In high school, I was teased quite a bit about my inability to watch a horror film. I would sit with my eyes closed and ears plugged, or take off for home. It was too easy for me to feel the character’s fear.
Realistic medical shows aren’t a good fit for me either. In college, I remember watching a particularly gruesome episode of House with my friends, and waking up on the floor after passing out. Apparently, I had identified a little too literally with the patient on the table.
Though my heightened sense of compassion makes it hard to watch some types of movies, it’s a great trait to have in the real world. I’ve always been a people person and consider it a gift to be able to understand what someone is going through even if I have never experienced the same situation myself. My capacity for empathy has led to many long-lasting friendships and good conversations that I will be forever grateful for.
5. They experience mind control (from spending a lot of time in their own heads)
I’ve always had a rich inner life. Most of my childhood memories were lived out through whatever story or narrative I had going on in my brain at the time. While my classmates stopped playing pretend relatively early, I continued for as long as it was socially acceptable.
Lots of sensitive people spend a good amount of time in their own heads. Because we can be misunderstood, or because our environments can easily cause us stress, it’s a way to step back into something familiar. But it’s more than a safe space; it’s a place where my creativity is free to blossom.
Because of my sensitive personality, I’ve found writing to come easily to me and be very fulfilling. I absolutely love being a writer, and I don’t think I would be where I am today without my active imagination and inner life.
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6. They have spidey senses
My hearing isn’t the only thing that is highly sensitive, but my sense of touch is, too. It’s not unusual for me to wake up out of a deep sleep the moment my husband turns in bed and starts to breathe on me in the middle of the night. I can’t ignore the puff of air on my skin; in order to go back to sleep, I have to put a pillow up between us like a wall.
Though a heightened sense of touch can be annoying at times, it’s also what makes physical affection so meaningful for some HSPs. I love family hugs and when my husband holds my hand while we walk. This awareness of touch is also why my wardrobe consists of the softest and coziest clothes around. I can’t stand scratchy materials or stiff fabrics — I’m sure my fellow sensitive types can relate! — so even my professional work clothes are pleasant to wear. (However, easily finding those comfortable, business casual outfits is a superpower I don’t yet possess.)
7. They can remember thing very easily
I’ve always loved learning. When I started my English major in college, I struck my stride like I hadn’t before or since. My sensitive personality has its advantages: it made me an excellent and voracious student.
Classmates were always astounded at how quickly I could read and retain information. My lightning fast reading skills and outstanding memory are largely due to how I naturally take in and internalize my world. Being an HSP, daily life gives me a lot of practice with quickly noticing and remembering details.
8. They have “zoolingualism” and can relate to animals
Because sensitive people connect so deeply with the world around them, animals and nature usually have a special place in our hearts. As a kid, I used to believe I could talk to animals — and so I can (in a way). Animals use a lot of body language to communicate, and because HSPs are the ultimate body language experts, I can usually pick up on their cues. This superpower comes out the most when I’m riding horses.
Horses tend to “speak” to each other mostly through touch, one of the ways I like to communicate. Riding my horse, Red, is when I’m most aware and grateful for my sensitivity. Horses are subtle communicators, and sometimes all Red gives me is a simple ear flick or head nod to tell me whether she’s happy or upset. Like me, she’s acutely aware of her environment and easily overwhelmed by sounds and movements around her. It’s almost as if horses are the HSPs of the animal world, and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life to spend time with them.
Though being a highly sensitive person can mean it’s easier to become overwhelmed and stressed out, I love my personality. I squeeze the most out of every sensitive moment and appreciate life and people to the fullest. Of course, it has its challenges, but I’ve discovered that the things I once thought were negatives are actually my greatest strengths and have played a large part in my successes.
So to all the other highly sensitive people out there, don’t be afraid to be who you are and embrace your superpowers. The world could use a little more of you.
HSPs, which superpowers would you add to the list? Feel free to add them in the comments below!
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