9 Things You Should Know About Highly Sensitive People

A highly sensitive person

The first inklings that I was different became apparent to me as a small girl. Of course, a young child can’t put into words — nor even understand — their own inner workings. But those formative years hinted at what life would be like as a highly sensitive person: constantly misunderstood.

Extraordinarily sensitive, constantly assessing, quietly observing, and absorbing emotions that weren’t mine to carry. Those are pretty much the definition of what a highly sensitive person is.

Highly sensitive people are finally coming out into the open and sharing what makes them tick in a very public setting — the internet. Their courage inspires me, because frankly, it’s really scary to be transparent about the very things that others often use against you:

Stop being so sensitive.

Suck it up.

Why can’t you just let it go?

Ugh, you’re so emotional!

Who cares about that?

Quit whining.

You can see the conflict for a child who grows up feeling everything in a very deep way. A “more” child. A child who thinks there’s something “wrong” with her. Why isn’t she like everyone else? Why is she so emotional?

Turns out, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, and there was nothing wrong with me. I just didn’t know yet what it means to be highly sensitive.

Highly Sensitive People Are Misunderstood

Do you love a highly sensitive person? Let’s clarify a few things about HSPs so we can see them with fresh eyes.

Highly sensitive people are not the same as emotionally needy, whiny, complainers. They aren’t victims, and they’re not making up problems just to get attention. We all know people like that, but there are key differences:

  • Victims are focused on themselves, while HSPs are often focused on others.
  • Whiners want all the attention, but HSPs don’t.
  • Complainers want to vent, but HSPs want to fix (although it might not seem that way at first, because we may be externally processing, but we are looking to find — and be — a solution).

Chances are you fall into one of two camps: Either you are a highly sensitive person, and you’re astounded to know that you aren’t the only one, you aren’t abnormal, and your “curse” is actually a gift.

Or, you love someone who is an HSP, and you’d like to better understand these complex, amazing humans. Let’s dive in!

What You Should Know About Highly Sensitive People

1. Our feelings really are that intense.

HSPs don’t get to choose how strong their emotions are. Trust me, if they could, they would. They’re often fighting an internal battle to discern if their feelings are accurate or flawed. Highly sensitive people feel things with wild depth, both the good and the bad.

2. We need plenty of downtime to function at our best.

Similar to introverts (although HSPs can be either introverted or extroverted), highly sensitive people get tapped out quicker than others. A weekend away with the girls? Woohoo, we might think — until 8 p.m. Then, we are d.o.n.e. Don’t take it personally if we need time alone to recharge our energy. Our brains fight to ever stop thinking, and our emotions are often on high alert (even in great times). Time to decompress allows us to be all-in with full enthusiasm for the next event. In other words, we need quiet to be able to cope tomorrow.

3. Feel free to be more vulnerable, because we see through you anyway.

I almost hesitate to share this one, but I feel it’s very important. HSPs see through deception, even if it isn’t meant to harm anyone. Sometimes we struggle to learn to temper this sensitivity; not making you feel too exposed, but letting you know that we know when you’re not okay. And if something is meant to scam us? HSPs probably aren’t your best target audience!

4. We’re fighting not to absorb your bad mood.

When people around us are grumpy, abusive, or just plain jerks, we’re like, “Wonder twin powers, activate — form a protective barrier!” If you treat us poorly with your mood, we’ll forgive you, but give us some time. You might shake off the tension quickly, but remember that it has jumped onto us, like an uninvited virus, and we need extra time to regain calm.

5. Sometimes we feel like we’re drowning in other people’s problems.

HSPs battle to let go of things they can’t fix, especially when it comes to other people’s problems. Logically, we know that it’s not our burden, but because we love so deeply, we struggle. If you have a deep burden, an addiction, or loss, we’re trying to love you through it without drowning under it.

6. We absorb the emotional states of others.

Similar to the last point, what often isn’t talked about is how HSPs feel the people around us — even strangers. For example, to say that I’m highly attuned to others is an understatement. When I walk by people, sometimes I can just “feel” them. While I can’t explain this, I can tell you that it freaks me out. This is the life of an HSP. We feel not only our own stuff, but many, many other people’s stuff too. Even when it’s unwanted, we still receive it as input.

7. We don’t just feel and forget.

Feeling other people’s pain is a mixed blessing. While it can be devastating, it is that same perception that helps us to love others so well. And for that alone, most HSPs gladly accept the whole package.

8. Overwhelm is a big deal.

We might not enjoy large crowds, loud experiences (everything is “more” to us, even sound), or other events that feel stressful. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to enjoy them with you, but please, don’t mock us for needing to step back. We aren’t crazy/nuts/weird/too sensitive. We absorb the world around us in high-def, all the time, and it can make us very anxious if we don’t have a cushion of peace.

9. Highly sensitive people are amazing.

These unique characteristics are a gift if you’re willing to take a step back and observe. HSPs tend to be loyal to a fault, compassionate, generous, selfless, tenacious for the underdog, highly imaginative, and enthusiastic. We experience the world in full color, with vivid sound and glorious detail.

Sometimes highly sensitive people can be a little confusing, but if you’ll compromise and help us maintain our necessary boundaries, you’re in for a treat. You’re in for an adventure with a life enthusiast. And it will be a delightful ride.

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