What I’ve Learned as an ‘Old(er)’ Highly Sensitive Person

An older highly sensitive person with gray hair smiling

Here’s how your sensitivity can guide you more — let it be in the driver’s seat instead of shoving it in the back seat. 

I hate to admit it. I actually do not even believe it. But I am 70 years old. I suspect 70 sounds old to you. It does to me. Medicare. Social security. Bone scans. Lucky for me, in 2022, 70 is the new 50. But still.

I can no longer say I am middle-aged, even though I feel about 35. It is strange to be this old and to imagine the end is in sight. To be this age and think, what do I have left to do? What do I want to be sure to do — and say — before it is too late? How have I lived? How have I loved? In what ways might I love more openly and deeply, and how might I continue to contribute to creating a more peaceful, sustainable world — especially as a highly sensitive person (HSP)?

What, then, might I tell you about my life as an (older) HSP that will provide some guidance, reflection, and relief? Maybe even a little peace, harmony, and delight? What follows are 10 things I’ve learned as a highly sensitive person over the years.

10 Things I’ve Learned as an ‘Old(er)’ Highly Sensitive Person 

1. Sensitivity is the real key to the kingdom.

Being popular, loud, and boisterous is overrated. I wish I had known I was not “too sensitive,” “too dramatic,” “too moody,” “too annoying,” or “too” anything when I was younger — after all, nearly 30 percent of the population is highly sensitive, so I am hardly a rarity.

I wish I had known I was an HSP and just had a richer, lusher, and more complex rainforest mind, which meant I had just the right amounts of sensitivity, drama, moods, and annoyingness for my particular miraculous personhood. 

It may be that popular, loud, and boisterous begets prom queens/kings. But if you are no longer in high school, turn the pressure off. I remember thinking I was a wallflower and a wet blanket in those days. Now, I hug that lonely teen and tell her: Sensitivity is the real key to the kingdom. 

2. Behind the scenes is where the power lies. 

It looks like the celebrities, actors, and famous athletes are having the most fun and wielding the most influence. But, in reality, I beg to differ.

The writers, artists, stage managers — as well as the quirky, quiet creators and tender-hearted — are the ones to truly admire. They are the ones who will change, and are changing, the world. You see, they use their sensitivity — and all the traits that come with it, like being creative and thinking deeply — to help create their masterpieces.  Whatever we HSPs set our minds to, by following our passion and purpose in life, we can achieve it. 

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3. Be less obsessed with your “imperfect” body and “unruly” hair. 

When I think back to all the hours I spent straightening my hair, I could have been learning Portuguese or signing up for a travel abroad program. All the time I spent thinking I was not attractive enough, I could have realized that having smooth, non-sagging skin is beautiful, all you need, and should not be taken for granted. 

And, speaking of taking things for granted, breathing, walking, hearing, seeing, tasting, touching… you get the idea. 

I am now not taking even the seemingly simple things for granted. You shouldn’t either. After all, we HSPs are very good at taking in all the little details. So when it comes to noticing the tiny things about ourselves, let’s cherish them, not shun them.

4. Don’t wait to explore intuitive and spiritual realms.

Many HSPs are highly intuitive — it is part of the sensitivity package. If I were to go back in time, I would give myself more permission to explore the intuitive, the psychic, the metaphysical, and the spiritual realms much earlier. That way, I might have found a sense of connection and belonging sooner. 

I did finally find it in a spiritual practice that combines singing, dance, channeling, meditation, and writing. The connection has been so nourishing and magical. I think we all need it for guidance, support, and love, especially during these times. Do not wait any longer.

Of course, the way you explore these realms will be unique to you — your spirituality could be taking walks in nature, feeling a connection with a tree or a river, prayer, mindfulness, shamanism, or religion, for example. There are many possibilities. 

5. Believe it: Psychotherapy is cool (and often more helpful than you may realize).

I am glad I had the good sense to start seeing a psychotherapist in my 30s. I recommend it, especially if you had any sort of dysfunctional family. (And I’m not just saying this because I am  a licensed psychotherapist!) Many types of therapies have made all the difference for me. I am here writing to you today because of the healing I was able to do, and continue to do, actually. Even now. 

Inner work is often lifelong if you are deep, complex, and seeking to make a difference on planet earth, which many HSPs are determined to do (quietly, of course). If you are on Instagram, you have seen how many thousands of followers some therapists have. Psychotherapy is now cool.

But explore it beyond social media, too. There are so many ways to find a therapist, and many give sliding scale rates, as well. Even if you don’t love the idea, therapy is often more helpful than you may initially realize.

6. Nourish your loving friendships and let go of toxic ones.

Look for other HSPs when you are doing activities you enjoy. I have been very good at this. I trust my intuition and find the people who are smart, big-hearted, and sensitive. I take the initiative to build a connection with them until they are able to reciprocate and realize how fortunate they are! 

You can find good friends at any age. It might be harder once you are out of school and living a busy life. But good friendships are essential. Make the time to find them and feed those relationships.

At the same time, some of your friendships may no longer be right for you. Allow them to fall away. There is only so much time in life; don’t waste it with toxic friends or unsafe friendships

And that reminds me, you will need to learn how to say “no” more often. Chances are, you have lots of compassion and want to help others. But “yes” is not always the right answer. It will be good to tune into your deeper knowing and build some healthy boundaries. I am really good at saying “no,” and it has served me well. (I know it can be a challenge, though, as an HSP!) But your friends will thank you, and even appreciate you more, as a result.

7. Heal painful old patterns to find, and build, a healthy partnership.

This one has taken me the longest time to learn. I see the tendency in myself (and my clients) to choose partners who replicate patterns set up in childhood. It takes quite a lot of inner healing work to bring these patterns to consciousness and start to shift them. But if I can do it, so can you. 

There are a combination of factors that bring people together. It is a bit of a mystery. But, certainly, patterns from childhood are a big part of the mix. I knew this for years, but still fell into the typical traps. In my case, I chose partners who were not willing to examine their own past childhood traumas and wounds — and so they remained stuck in their depressive, anxious, limited states. They did not manage to grow along with me, and so eventually, the partnerships had to dissolve. 

I have come a long way healing from my past and letting go of ancestral legacies of suffering. I am comfortable in my (sagging) skin and ready to receive and give some full-hearted, unambiguous love. This is key to unlocking a healthy, thriving partnership. 

So, take time to get conscious of your unresolved issues if you are looking for love. And, if you are in a partnership now, there are many resources for resolving conflicts and continuing to grow together. 

Need to Calm Your Sensitive Nervous System? 

HSPs often live with high levels of anxiety, sensory overload and stress — and negative emotions can overwhelm us. But what if you could finally feel calm instead?

That’s what you’ll find in this powerful online course by Julie Bjelland, one of the top HSP therapists in the world. You’ll learn to turn off the racing thoughts, end emotional flooding, eliminate sensory overload, and finally make space for your sensitive gifts to shine.

Stop feeling held back and start to feel confident you can handle anything. Check out this “HSP Toolbox” and start making a change today. Click here to learn more.

8. Take time to explore the childfree vs. parenting conundrum.

I am happily childfree. I always enjoyed being with kids and had an early career as a teacher, which I loved. But I was also happy not to take them home with me. My introversion, sensitivity, and desire to create a fulfilling career steered me away from a parenting lifestyle. I am still quite content with that choice. 

My only very small twinge of doubt comes as I see my friends with children and grandchildren, counting on their kids to be around if any unwanted age-related disabilities rear their ugly heads. I would not want to burden my offspring with my ailments. There are better reasons to have children. And yet…

It may be a difficult choice for you. Or you may have known all along that parenting was a deep desire. With their empathy, deep thinking, and all-around creativity and goodness, HSPs make some of the best parents around. 

Yet my choice to be childfree has added extra motivation to take care of my physical and mental health. So far, so good. 

9. Jump on the self-care train.

I will be your role model for self-care. You might say I am the self-care queen, although I am really more the self-healing and preventative-maintenance queen. 

Over the years, I have been a client in therapy and explored many therapy modalities. I have seen other practitioners for acupuncture, energy work, massage, and more. Of course, this healing track would also include nutrition and other details that your sensitive body and mind needs for comprehensive care. 

Yes, I know self-care is almost cliché these days. But as a highly sensitive soul, find the particular methods and modalities that fit for you. Perhaps you, too, go beyond self-care to self-healing and preventative-maintenance.

10. Trust yourself and find your particular path (or paths) to your purpose. (You are never too old to make Instagram videos.)

It is never too early — or too late — to imagine you are on planet earth for a reason and to build the courage, strength, sense of humor, and self-confidence to access it. Be authentic, be you. 

You do not need to follow anyone else’s path, even if it looks conventionally successful and everyone else seems to be doing it. Some of my most productive years were in the last decade. I started my blog at the age of 62 and got my first book published at 64. And at 70, I am working on book three. As soon as there is a little less COVID-19 pandemic, I will get back to dancing the Argentine tango, which I discovered at 47. I have just started making Instagram videos this year, too. So, you see, it is never too early — or too late. 

Aging Is Wonderful — Especially as an HSP

If you are reading this, you are already on your way to aging gracefully — and mindfully — since you have identified as an HSP and are seeking more self-understanding

So what are your next steps? 

How are you living? How are you loving? In what ways might you love more openly and deeply? And how might you continue to contribute to creating a more peaceful, sustainable world? So that when you are 70 and speaking Portuguese, letting your hair go wild, and changing the world, you will know exactly where your power lies. 

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

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