Growing up and well into my twenties, I didn’t know about high sensitivity. I only knew how I felt in the world. And how I felt was often overwhelmed, lonely, and that I didn’t quite belong on planet Earth.
Looking back, with the knowledge and information I have now, it’s easy to see that so much of what I struggled with in life was related to my highly sensitive nature.
For example, I had a hard time at college because so much of the experience was in direct conflict with my needs as a highly sensitive person — although I didn’t know it at the time.
In an effort to fit in, I went along to nightclubs, enduring hours of loud music and feeling utterly awkward amongst so many people, all of whom seemed to be having a great time. I remember getting back to my dorm room at the end of nights like these, closing the door behind me and slumping down to the floor in tears, wondering what was wrong with me.
The same thing happened in my career. When I started work in corporate London, the bright overhead lighting, the open plan office structure and the constant interruptions from colleagues left me feeling frazzled at the end of the day.
Even relationships were baffling. I craved them and yet once they were there, I never felt I had enough space. The people I dated always seemed to want more time with me than I could give them, and I felt endlessly stifled.
That’s why it’s an unbelievably beautiful thing when something shows up in your life that gives voice to your experience of being alive, validating what you’ve felt for years but could never put into words.
That was how it felt when I learned about high sensitivity — and realized, for the first time, that my personality may come not just with downsides, but with gifts.
“I started to understand that high sensitivity, far from being a defect, was actually a divine gift.”
There Is Nothing ‘Wrong’ with You
For me, it happened when I came across Dr. Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person. It told me that roughly 1 in 5 people are born with a slightly different nervous system, one that processes everything more deeply. That these highly sensitive people get overstimulated and overwhelmed for a reason — because of all that work their brain and nerves are doing. And that, yes, based on the signs, I am one of them.
Reading that book was like a deep exhale. To simply know that the way I experienced the world was legitimate, that there wasn’t anything “wrong” with me, and that other people had similar experiences, was such a relief.
But it was more than that. Discovering more about being highly sensitive allowed me to start seeing it in a positive light and to slowly start realizing that what had seemed like my life’s curse was perhaps my greatest gift.
Over time, my appreciation for my highly sensitive nature grew. And, slowly, I was able to own it more fully. In my head, instead of hearing people say, “You’re too sensitive,” I started to notice the way people told me things like, “You’re so moved by the beauty of the world; it’s exquisite.”
I started to understand that high sensitivity, far from being a defect, was actually a divine gift. Something certain people come into the world with, and, when properly understood, can be used for incredible good.
“The combination of depth of feeling, spiritual insight, and creativity gives rise to art that comes from a place far beyond the human intellect.”
4 Gifts Highly Sensitive People Bring to the World
I believe that there are endless ways in which the gifts of highly sensitive people show up in the world. Here are four of the most transformative:
1. You have the ability to create art that heals.
Highly sensitive people have a great depth of feeling. They notice the extraordinary beauty in the ordinary things of everyday life that others often miss. They see, hear, feel, and smell things that others don’t. A highly sensitive person might lose themselves for hours in a bird singing, a raindrop, or a smile.
They also often have a deep connection to the spiritual and are often incredibly creative. This combination of depth of feeling, spiritual insight, and creativity gives rise to art that comes from a place far beyond the human intellect. Whether it’s through words, painting, dance, music, or anything else, this is art that stirs the souls of others, and touches them in a way that can truly heal.
This is exactly why so many famous creatives, from artists like Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gogh to musicians like Drake and Bruce Springsteen are believed to be highly sensitive people.
2. People feel safe to share things with you that they haven’t shared (and may never share) with anyone else.
Highly sensitive people don’t shy away from their shadow side. They are explorers of their inner world and are often deeply familiar with their pain. Because they have explored so deeply and so honestly, they are often people who can hold space for others to explore themselves in a similar way, while never feeling judged. In other words: people feel safe around us.
To offer this space to another human being, whether as a friend or in a professional capacity, is a gift beyond compare.
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3. People feel heard, seen, and understood in your presence.
As human beings, we long to be truly seen and understood by another. We want to be known, deeply. Highly sensitive people can’t help but truly “see” people. Like empaths, they’re extraordinarily attuned to the needs of others in the moment. They pick up on cues that others don’t and read between the lines.
People value spending time with highly sensitive people because they feel seen, heard, and understood in a way they often don’t around others.
4. You’re a guide for others.
When you’re a highly sensitive person, it’s easy to assume that everyone sees the world the way you do, but of course, they don’t.
Because highly sensitive people spend more time than others reflecting on the big questions of life, noticing things that others don’t, and making connections between seemingly unrelated areas of life, they’re often seen as wise and insightful people. And, often, they end up helping guide others who are in search of answers. This can be as complex as the work a therapist does, or as simple as a few thoughtful words when someone has poured out their feelings to you.
In a world where so many feel lost and out of touch with their true selves, guides like this are rare — and people naturally seek them out.
Owning Your Sensitivity Is the Most Powerful Thing You Can Do
When you feel that your highly sensitive traits are negative aspects of who you are, you diminish them, try to cover them up, and work to become more like “other people.”
But when you view your highly sensitive traits as beautiful gifts to the world, you start to put them front and center, and you can use them as a way to guide you. This creates a life that not only celebrates your sensitivity, but also serves others in a powerful way.
And as highly sensitive people, helping others and walking with them in their healing journey is exactly what we were made to do.