Now Is the Time for Highly Sensitive People to Step Up

A highly sensitive woman speaks into a megaphone

The world needs more of what sensitive people have to offer. Here’s how to provide it—without burning yourself out.

There is no better time to figure out who you are and what you are here to do. And to do it. No better time. 

Let’s face it. We highly sensitive people (HSPs) are not just on planet earth for the fun of it. (Are we having fun yet?) Not just here for the pizza. Not even just here to smell the roses. Highly sensitive folks are on a mission. You have a role to play. A destiny. Why else would you be so darned intricately perceptive? So indiscriminately compassionate? So crushed by the human tendency to ignore long-term consequences for short-term gain? So aware of the emotional instability of your Aunt Lucille and her neighbors?

But where do you begin, you ask? You have known this for some time, you say. But so many disturbing events (news overload is real!) — and your vulnerable, tender heart — have sent you running the other way, into panic attacks, hopelessness, and your mother’s old stash of weed. 

Well… I have some thoughts. I will start with obvious, simple ideas. You can warm up through them. (And you may already be doing many of them.) Then, I will share some less obvious suggestions and resources that are particularly designed for your highly sensitive, sweet soul. The ones that can lead to finding your mission. Your destiny. The ones where you begin to do what you are here to do. Your purpose.

4 Simple Ways HSPs Can ‘Step Up’ (for Starters)

1. Educate yourself about the climate crisis. 

You might be tempted to avoid the climate crisis topic because it is so pressing and so terrifying. Don’t. Two of the people I follow are Britt Wray, and her book Generation Dread, and Dr. Kimberly Nicholas, and her book, Under the Sky We Make. You may know of Joanna Macy, too. Her latest updated book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience & Creative Power, is excellent. 

If you are a parent, a good book is The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution by Mary DeMocker. It includes many actions you and your family can take. Join one of the climate organizations. Make contributions to groups that are taking action. Join with others to process your emotions (which is especially important for HSPs). Reduce your carbon footprint. Live more sustainably. If you need an idea (or several), this is the book for you.

2. Vote — and take a stand for what you believe in.

You may think that voting does not matter. That all politicians are corrupt. That they are all the same. This is not true. I repeat. This is not true. Without naming names, I am sure you can identify folks who have very destructive views and who make very toxic decisions. 

So instead of complaining about it, do something. Express your opinions to the people in office. Politicians still respond if enough constituents complain to them or praise them. Even if you are put off by the rhetoric or the rancor, do not let that stop you from voting. It makes a difference. Consider running for office yourself. Imagine if we had HSPs in politics! In any case, highly sensitive people are the activists we need!

3. Support BIPOC businesses, writers, and artists. 

This is one way to start to address some of the injustice and inequity in our world — support BIPOC businesses, writers, artists, you name it. Examine your own biases. Talk to people in your community who disagree with you, and listen deeply. Read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Follow Van Jones on Instagram. Listen to Van Jones’ and Jon Stewart’s podcasts. Follow Glennon Doyle everywhere. Contribute to her activist organization, Together Rising. Find housing for a refugee family. Start your own nonprofit. Write that blog you have always wanted to start and get your voice out there. Other HSPs need to hear from you (we make great writers, after all!).

4. Start or join a silent book club (or some other type of organization).

If you are lonely and needing to find friends, but do not know where to start, starting (or joining) a silent book club is a non-threatening way to do so. You do not even have to talk to the other members. You just read together. It is kind of perfect, especially if you are an introvert (and around 70 percent of introverts are highly sensitive). 

No matter what type of club or organization you join (or start!), you will not be on your own. You will have community — which is vital for HSPs — and feel less alone in the world. It will then be easier to feel your strength and capacity to be your authentic self.

Now, if you’re struggling to find ways to discover what you are here to do, look no further than the tips below.

5 Ways to Discover What You Are Here to Do

1. Fight the urge to feel hopeless — find inspiration all around you (like through books, art, music, nature).

It is easy to feel hopeless and powerless these days. Instead, allow yourself to rely on your natural idealism, even if everyone around you is cynical. Trust your capacity for empathetic idealism. Find inspiration in books, art, music, and nature.

For example, I am reading Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain. This book is very much a guide for HSPs. In it, Cain asks the question “What are you longing for?” She goes on to ask, “…what is the thing you long for most, your unique imprint, singular mission, wordless calling? Have you asked where on earth is your closest approximation of home?… What is the ache you can’t get rid of — and could you make it your creative offering?…” 

Her book can help you start to explore and answer these key questions. Questions that will lead you to your mission. If there is only one thing you have time to explore, find the answer to “What are you longing for?”

On the other hand, if spending time in nature soothes you, do it. If you are a book nerd, an art lover, and if music makes your heart sing, be sure to spend as much time as you can filling up with these inspirational outlets.

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2. Strengthen your sense of self and heal any unresolved issues from childhood. 

It is not unusual to have early painful childhood experiences and trauma that create distorted beliefs about who you are and what you are capable of. And if you’re an HSP, these may be even more deeply rooted.

You may be told that what happened in the past will not influence your present, but that is just not the case, particularly if you grew up in a dysfunctional family where there was neglect or abuse. As a sensitive child, you may have been particularly vulnerable. 

The good news is, psychotherapy works. Healing is possible. Over time, you can embrace and reparent all of the wounded parts of yourself. And, as the healing happens, you can find your authentic voice and your path to your purpose. 

One good therapy structure is the Internal Family Systems model. (Look for the book No Bad Parts by Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D.) And a creative way to work on yourself is via Seena B. Frost’s process, Soul Collage. Glennon Doyle’s book, Untamed, also provides a good overview for inner work. 

If you are drawn to the arts, it can be quite therapeutic to express your grief, anger, sorrow, and loneliness through stories, music, poetry, dance, and any other forms of self-expression. I have kept journals for years, and they have been a powerful place to process feelings, let go of burdens, and find my authentic voice. 

3. Develop your intuition and create a deeply nourishing spiritual practice. 

Keys to finding your direction and purpose lie in the careful listening to your intuition and the deepening of your spiritual practice. HSPs are made for this. Your sensitivity informs your intuition. When you tune into your inner voice, answers come. 

One tool I have found particularly useful is writing a question in my journal and then writing the response, expecting the answer to come out of my pen. I visualize an inner advisor who has all of my answers. Or I ask my future self what I need to know. It can take practice to allow the answers to flow, so be patient if this is new for you. But the more you do it, the more insightful you’ll find it — trust me.

And as far as a spiritual practice goes, it will support your intuition and provide the foundation you will need to find your mission and step up to make it happen. Whether you find your spiritual strength in nature, meditation/mindfulness, yoga, religion, martial arts, prayer, or elsewhere, make time every day to tune in and feel the love waiting for you. 

If you’d like a boost, there is a spiritual network based on the book Evolutionary Relationships, by Patricia Albere, that is a community of people practicing an extraordinary new way to evolve humanity into a unity consciousness. It is worth exploring — or at least looking into. 

4. Learn about your “rainforest mind.”

Many HSPs have what I call “rainforest minds.” If you have a rainforest mind, you are not only highly sensitive and empathetic, but you are also extremely intellectually curious, you love learning, and are both quite analytical and creative. You have high standards and expectations for yourself, and others, along with many interests and abilities. 

If misunderstood, you can feel confusion, intense self-doubt, and great frustration. You can even be misdiagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or bipolar disorder. As a result, you may minimize, or hide, your intellectual capabilities.

Reading about this in my book, Your Rainforest Mind, can provide the explanation you need to understand the reasons for your loneliness, your need for intellectual stimulation,  and your drive to make an impact and create a better world. Knowing this information will help you find others with rainforest minds — that way, you’ll have suitable companions as you find, and live, your mission. Other important related books are The Gifted Adult, by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PsyD, and Living with Intensity, by Susan Daniels. 

5. Share your highly sensitive self with the world. 

For this point, this quite says it all:

“We stand on the threshold of a great unknown. Individually and collectively, we launch into an uncertain future — at once, both perilous and saturated with possibility. Our accustomed, culturally-determined roles and identities are inadequate to navigate the sea change of our time. Our collective journey requires a radical shift in the human relationship with the community of all life — a cultural transformation so profound that future humans might regard it as an evolution of consciousness. Safe passage requires each of us to offer our full magnificence to the world.” ~Animas Valley Institute

So, my fellow highly sensitive souls, do it — now. Find your mission. And be your magnificent self. There is no better time. Really.

For more suggestions and resources, read Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth.

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