I don’t do loud noises. Even when I’m in the stands at a game, with everyone else cheering at the top of their lungs, you won’t see me jumping up and down yelling; it’s just too much for me.
Others don’t seem to get this. I can recall one time in particular when I was at a children’s basketball game and a fellow spectator got angry with me for not cheering enough. This person accused me of not caring about the children (!) and wondered why I was even at the game. I was just trying to enjoy myself and watch the game, but I was seen as an outsider because I wasn’t the loudest voice.
These kinds of experiences — feeling like an outsider — are common when you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP). Highly sensitive people simply have a nervous system that processes everything more deeply, making overstimulation (like loud noises) very real and very uncomfortable. We behave differently than the people around us: a little more observant, a little more thoughtful, and a lot less interested in explosive, over-the-top activities.
If you’re an HSP like me, you may feel misunderstood by your friends and loved ones — and there are things you probably wish they knew. Your list may be different than mine, but here are eight of the things I wish other people knew about me as an HSP. Do any of these describe you?
What I Wish People Knew About Me as an HSP
1. I need a lot of time to myself.
A lot of people attribute this characteristic to introverts, and while it’s true that introverts need alone time, HSPs do as well — for a very different reason. HSPs have a deep inner world; we have a lot of inner thoughts that we need time to process. Sometimes, when there’s a difficult situation, I need to excuse myself so I can sort through all the emotions I’m feeling. Other times, I just prefer to be by myself so that other people’s emotions aren’t overwhelming me, as I already have plenty of them going on myself. HSPs can sense other people’s emotions easily, and sometimes, it’s just too much to handle.
Join the HSP revolution. One email, every Friday. Posts that heal, transform, and make you feel understood. Subscribe here.
2. Large crowds are difficult for me.
Some people thrive off the energy of large crowds and all the noise they make, yet since HSPs have such strong senses, all that noise and emotion coming at us at once can be difficult to process. We get overstimulated, which can cause sudden fatigue, brain fog, and a sense of being overwhelmed. I sometimes find it difficult to concentrate and to make my own decisions when I’m in such a situation.
I’ve worked on improving at this, and I believe that I’m “building my tolerance” around large groups of people. Yet in many ways, this is just part of how I’m wired — and I need my friends to understand that it’s not going to change.
3. Just because I’m not showing emotion doesn’t mean I don’t care.
As an HSP, I’m an observer. I like to take in the world around me and process everything I see. When I’m at a concert, I don’t usually sing along, and when I was at that basketball game, I didn’t cheer much. It isn’t because I don’t care or that I’m not having a good time — I’m likely having a great time. It’s just hard for me to both process everything that’s going on around me and to use energy to show emotion at the same time.
Not every highly sensitive person keeps emotions to themselves; many HSPs express a lot of emotion, and that’s fine too. Either way, we’re not being “too emotional” or “not emotional enough.” We’re processing our feelings the way that’s healthy and normal for us.
4. I have an incredible memory.
This can be both a blessing and a curse. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in bed, trying to go to sleep at night, when suddenly I remember something stupid I said back when I was in high school years ago and it keeps me up. I’m sure everyone who heard it forgot about it a long time ago, yet for some reason it sticks with me… and I still feel guilty because of it.
But my great memory can serve me well, too. Not only can I remember birthdays and anniversaries, but I can remember even small details that mean a lot to people — like the name of their dog or their favorite flavor of ice cream.
5. Receiving negative feedback is difficult for me.
I’ll admit it: I am sensitive to what other people think of me. I know that’s not always healthy, and I try to work on it, but it’s a natural tendency for HSPs — especially when we’re criticized. I think we don’t like to receive negative feedback because we have such high expectations for ourselves and are always striving for perfection, and when we fall short of that, we beat ourselves up. And our empathy-wired brains means we care about other people and don’t like to let them down. We need to remember that people (more often than not) give us feedback because they care about us and want us to grow and improve. Being an HSP, it’s just difficult for me to not assume negative intent.
6. Giving feedback is difficult for me.
Just as HSPs have trouble receiving negative feedback, giving it is difficult, too. This is also largely because we care about other people and we don’t want to upset them with criticism. We also don’t like to judge other people because we would not want to be judged the same way.
What I try to remember is that feedback can be a positive thing, even when it’s negative feedback, and it helps the other person grow when you give it. But it’s still difficult for us — and if you can help us feel safe in sharing our feelings or speaking up, we’re much more likely to be direct with you.
7. I have a hard time verbalizing negative emotions.
Just like everyone else, I experience my share of hurt, sadness, or getting peeved. But for me, it’s difficult to verbalize it. Writing is often a release, yet even then it’s hard for me to express exactly how I feel — often, it takes me a lot of processing to even know how I feel.
I think there are a couple reasons for this. One is that we don’t want to create a problem for others. But the deeper reason is that we fear rejection. Many HSPs spend our entire lives being made to feel different, or “too” sensitive, and we know we’ll be judged if we share our pain or anger. But it’s important to find a way to release what you’re feeling, whether you’re an HSP or not. If you can hold space for our sometimes complicated feelings, it soothes us — and it makes us feel very close to you.
8. I need to stay off social media as much as possible.
Today, you almost have to be on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in order to keep up with everything going on in the world. Yet social media can be harmful to HSPs (and non-HSPs, too!) because we have a tendency to compare ourselves to other people, which usually leads to negative feelings. People tend to share only the happiest, most braggable parts of their lives, and it creates a distorted view of the world — and ourselves.
Of course, everyone experiences FOMO, but for HSPs, it’s even easier to get stuck in the spiral and feel like our lives are a failure. I try to remember that everyone has flaws and experiences difficulties just like I do — but it’s much healthier when I can have deep, meaningful time with the people I love. As a sensitive person, those true connections are worth a million times more than any Instagram post.
HSP, what do you wish people knew about you? Let me know in the comments.