HSPs cannot just “turn it off” — our sensitivity is akin to being caught in a tidal wave that is too strong for us to swim away from.
In our culture, when we hear the word “sensitive,” it typically induces eye rolls and snide comments. “Oh, you’re sensitive? That means I have to tip-toe around you so I don’t hurt your precious feelings.” I’ve also had people admonish me with arguments like, “The world can be a cruel place — you have to develop a thicker skin.”
In our society, for some reason, the word sensitive has become synonymous with words like soft, weak, or even difficult. And I know that nothing could be further from the truth. We highly sensitive people (HSPs) have tons of unique gifts that are valuable to ourselves, to society, and to the world at large. Here are just a small fraction of the things that HSPs bring to the table.
The 5 Gifts of Highly Sensitive People
1. You can pick up on things that other people cannot.
Overstimulation happens because our brain is trying to take in too much information and is unable to process it all. This is so often seen as a negative thing, both by society and by other highly sensitive people. For society, I think it comes about from a simple lack of understanding of what that actually feels like. HSPs cannot just “turn it off.” It’s like being caught in a tidal wave that is too strong for us to swim away from.
And for HSPs, I believe these negative associations come about because of our own self-loathing and our desire to be seen as “normal.” I am completely guilty of this, as well. We probably all have thoughts like: Why am I the only one struggling like this? Why can’t I just be like everyone else? And when we describe ourselves as “highly sensitive,” it’s almost as though we have an apology perched in the back of our throat, locked and ready to go: I’m sorry I’m this way, I hate that I’m an inconvenience.
But the time has come to stop apologizing and start talking about how overstimulation helps us. Yes, taking in so much information is extremely overwhelming. But it also means that I can see just about everything, and that I can see things that other people miss. I am tuned in to things like facial expressions, body language, and small little “tells.” I can see when someone is upset, nervous, or scared — or content, happy, or joyful — even if they don’t vocalize it, and I am able to tailor my response to what they need. Because of this, I find that people trust me and are more open to coming to me for help or feedback.
2. You are an expert at diffusing conflict.
Most conflict stems from two (or more) people that are unable to see beyond their own perspective and are hell-bent on forcing someone else to see things their way. As an HSP, I am tuned in to everyone’s emotions, and because of this, I am able to see both sides of an argument. I definitely have my own opinions on who is “right” or “wrong,” but my high sensitivity does not play favorites. So while I may choose to side with a particular viewpoint, I can’t help but understand where the other person is coming from.
Add this to the fact that, as an introvert, as well, I hate conflict and confrontation, and my first instinct is always to try and diffuse it. I can speak plainly to both sides without getting heated — I know what it feels like to be frustrated when someone else isn’t understanding you. I can also even treat challenging viewpoints with empathy because I know that most people are open to changing their thinking if they are offered another perspective in a kind and respectful way. My high sensitivity acts as a buoy for understanding and kindness.
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3. You are passionate — and proactive — about making the world a better place.
Most people often make claims about how they want to “save the children” or “end world hunger” or “spread peace”… and then go on with their daily lives without thinking about it again. And there is no malice or cruelty in this act. People just get overwhelmed by their own lives, and that is completely understandable. We have so much that we’re trying to focus on and get done every day that it’s a task just to keep ourselves and our own families afloat, let alone anyone else.
The exact same thing happens to me. I’m nowhere near perfect and have spent large amounts of time comfortably situated in a privileged existence — while unintentionally forgetting that everyone else is not so lucky. And I believe that we all should be grateful for the things we do have, and we should take time to enjoy them.
That being said, though, I’m never going to be okay with the fact that there are people hurting in the world, for whatever reason. And my high sensitivity will not allow me to pretend that there is no suffering, and it will not allow me to say a few empty platitudes just to appease my own ego without doing anything else. This is especially true if I see someone that needs help right in front of me: I must do something to help.
So I think we HSPs tend to think of others before ourselves a lot — and do what we can. Whether we volunteer each week for a cause we’re passionate about (like at an animal rescue) or donate regularly to certain charities, I believe HSPs make it a point to help others as much as we humanly can.
4. You find beauty in everything, even the small things.
“Stop and smell the roses” is a phrase that’s been around since the ‘60s, but I find that people so rarely do it. I believe that people wonder — especially in recent times — how a simple little flower could help when so much seems to be wrong. But I would implore you to look at it from a different perspective. A “simple little flower” can be the one little bright spot you need in times of distress.
Because my high sensitivity makes me feel things so deeply, I know all too well how overwhelming and disheartening hard times can be. But, luckily, that also means it’s easy for me to remember how beautiful things can be. A “rose” in your life can show up in a multitude of ways — a few laughs with a good friend, a snuggle with your pet (after all, we HSPs have a special bond with animals!), or a comedian on TV that makes you crack into a smile for the first time in however long.
These are all very small things, but we cannot forget that it’s the small things that keep us going in life and amount to big things. It’s so easy to despair and think: Well, the world isn’t going to get any better just because I had a relaxing lunch with my best friends. But it is, you see. Because just a moment of joy changes you for the better, and when that shift happens inside of you, you pass it on to other people in ways you can’t even see. And it spreads and it spreads and, eventually, big things change in positive ways. I can see the ripple effects, and I promise you with my whole heart that it matters.
5. You are naturally creative and open to interpretation.
When I was a child, I developed a reputation as a question-asker: “Why?” “Why do we do it that way?” “What if we tried another way?” “Who decided that?” And so on and so on.
I did well in school and most of my teachers liked me, but I am also quite sure that I annoyed some of them at times with my endless questions. And by doing this, I was not in any way trying to be a brat or prove that I knew something the teacher didn’t. To me, it was natural to ask questions. That was how I fully understood things.
I never do things just because “that’s how they’re done.” I want to try other ways, explore new possibilities, and figure out which way works best for me. And if there is a tried and true method, I still want to know all about it. “Who came up with it?” “Why does it work so well?” I never take things just as they are because I can see so many other possibilities.
Most HSPs, like myself, tend to thrive in creative fields for this very reason — we’re writers, artists, musicians, actors, and a plethora of other creative pursuits. We need a place where we can try something completely new and unique and see how it turns out. We don’t do so well with rigidity. And this is not to say that there are no HSPs who do well in more logical environments or careers — there are plenty who do. We all have nuance to us.
The best way I can explain my brain is like a forest with many different paths. All of the paths are different ideas, possibilities, and questions. And sometimes my brain tries to travel down them all at once, which is when the overwhelm happens. But if I can control it better, I can do them one at a time. (HSPs excel at single-tasking!)This is when I start asking questions and trying other things — I’m on an expedition to see if there is any gold to be found. But if I’m unable to do this, then it’s like slamming a big, rusty gate shut on one of the paths. And my brain isn’t happy about this; it tries to push it open regardless, and I am left feeling anxious and unfulfilled. It’s like trying to hold in a sneeze when you just need to let it out.
Embracing My Sensitivity Instead of Shunning It
I’m at a point now where I am over being ashamed of my high sensitivity. I didn’t always see it as a gift. In fact, I saw it as a disability for a long time, like I expect so many others do before they really learn about it and embrace their high sensitivity trait in all its glory.
It wasn’t until quite recently, actually, that I began to really appreciate all of the benefits that high sensitivity gives me. I’m never going to be a straightforward person, and I’m never going to stop having questions. But that’s okay — it’s great, in fact. We need more people to question things. We need more people to notice the “little” things. And we especially need to stop operating in the world a certain way because someone long ago decided that’s how we “should” do it. This is why highly sensitive people are the changemakers of the world — and that I’m more than proud to be one.
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