I no longer wished to “fix” my sensitivity. Instead, I created a life that aligned with my sensitive soul.
Okay, so first of all, I didn’t always love being highly sensitive. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate our immense capacity to care profoundly for the well-being of others, to reflect deeply on our experiences, and to be intensely moved by beauty and love.
I loved that I was “deep.” And if I could use only one word to describe being a highly sensitive person (HSP), it would be that. But I also had a nasty habit of blaming my sensitivity for the ongoing pain, unhappiness, and disconnection that defined so much of my inner state.
Like so many other sensitive people, I internalized the message that being sensitive meant that there was something fundamentally wrong with who I was. So I started having thoughts like:
“If only I wasn’t so sensitive, my life would be so much easier.”
“If only I didn’t feel so intensely, I wouldn’t hurt all the time.”
“If only I didn’t think so much, I’d fit in.”
My fellow sensitive souls, have you ever caught yourself thinking like that?
The ‘Deep’ vs. ‘Happy’ Dilemma
At the time, it didn’t help that when I asked my now former therapist why I couldn’t just be happy, she responded by telling me that I was far too deep to be happy. She too believed the lie that I could only be one or the other.
But this was a totally false dilemma. Because, as it turns out, my highly sensitive nature was never the cause of my unhappiness. It was actually my saving grace. Without it, I might have missed or ignored all the cues signaling that something was seriously out of alignment in my life.
The problem wasn’t that I was too deep. It’s that I wasn’t going deep enough. Once I realized that, I stopped wishing I could “fix” my sensitivity and refocused my efforts on creating a life that was inspired by, and aligned with, my soul. I became fully committed to unearthing my authentic self.
As a result of that work, my inner landscape transformed completely and I finally became free to show up as my joyful, radiant, powerful self. And that’s the reason why I now experience my highly sensitive nature as my godsent gift.
Before I show you how you too can love being highly sensitive, I think it’s first important to understand what sensitivity actually is (and isn’t).
What Is Sensitivity?
While some people may (incorrectly) think sensitive people are “weak” or have a disorder, that’s far from the truth. In fact, it’s a healthy personality trait — everyone is sensitive to some degree or another, even those who are not considered to be highly sensitive. And being an HSP is common, with up to 30 percent of the population being highly sensitive. This means that 1 in 3 people are more affected by stimuli than others, both physically (to things such as lights, textures, sounds, and temperature) and emotionally (to things such as the words, feelings, body language, and social cues of those around them).
This sensitivity trait comes with a huge number of strengths — we all know creative, sensitive artists and empaths (most of whom are likely highly sensitive people). Sensitive people are deep thinkers, have a lot of emotional depth, have strong attention to detail, and their intuition often guides them. So when you look at these positives — among others — you can see that highly sensitive types are anything but weak.
Still, it can feel challenging to let go of the misconception that your sensitivity is a weakness. Changing that perspective usually requires taking intentional targeted action steps to radically transform your own experience of your highly sensitive nature. Here are six ways to start experiencing your sensitivity as your godsent gift, instead of your achilles heel.
6 Ways to Love Being Highly Sensitive
1. Connect to your soul
HSPs are inherently wired for deep connection. When short attention spans, one-word texts, and “shiny object syndrome” have become the norm, it’s no wonder that we sometimes struggle to experience that sense of real connection and closeness we so badly crave. Fortunately, when it comes to both availability and depth of connection, nothing is as deep and accessible as your own soul. If you want to love being highly sensitive, connecting to your soul is essential.
One obstacle to taking this step is the belief that we need to be more spiritual or meditate regularly before we can connect to our soul. The other is an understandable reluctance to face our inner depths. This is especially true if you’ve never learned to sit with your darkest, most uncomfortable feelings.
Thankfully, connecting to your soul doesn’t have to be an esoteric or terrifying experience. Doing a short, guided inner love practice that draws upon your natural empathy and creativity is a simple, fun-loving way to make this connection.
2. Break free from “the worthiness lie”
It’s impossible to love being an HSP when you’re under the influence of what I call “the worthiness lie.” This lie wants you to believe that to feel loved, you must first become worthy of love. If you’ve internalized this lie, you may feel compelled to earn someone else’s approval, attention, or affection. I refer to this unconscious pattern as “trying to earn love.”
Trying to earn love is extremely painful, because it prevents you from being able to attract and create the deeply loving relationships you desire. It also keeps you locked in a constant state of fear, insecurity, and overwhelm.
To break free from the worthiness lie, you have to first become aware of the lie and all the ways it’s impacting your life. You also have to learn how to consistently extend the empathy, caring, and support you so freely give to others to yourself.
Once you’re able to do that, you’ll need to have a strategic plan in place for cleaning up all the different areas of your life that have been shaped by the old pattern of trying to earn love. Changing a lifelong pattern and addressing its effects on your life is a trying process to go through on your own, so I strongly suggest getting help from an expert, like a therapist.
3. Feel more, not less
Yes, you read that correctly. Since we’re prone to feeling emotions so deeply and intensely, many sensitive types mistakenly assume they need help with feeling less, not more. If you have this belief, you may unconsciously use emotional buffering or avoidance techniques, like numbing, zoning out, being in your head, manipulating your memories, and obsessing over “projects” to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your emotions. Sadly, relying on those techniques gets in the way of you being able to learn, grow, and heal from challenging life experiences.
The good news is that it’s not too late to learn how to feel and express your emotions without getting overwhelmed or consumed by them. Like many people in our society, no one showed me how to work with my intense feelings as a child, so I had to purposely develop this skill as an adult. I now teach a simple 3-step method I created to help my HSP clients move through difficult feelings everyday and comfort themselves anytime they feel sad, angry, scared, or hurt.
Please note that if you’ve experienced significant trauma in your life, you may need to reset your nervous system before you’re able to effectively regulate your emotions on your own. In those cases, I recommend consulting with a somatic experiencing therapist.
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4. Let go of the need to be “good”
If you’re unhappy as an HSP, chances are you see your sensitivity as something you need to overcome. When we have that perspective, we tend to frequently compromise our highly sensitive needs, desires, and values. For example, we choose careers and relationships that don’t appreciate our unique HSP qualities and that require us to downplay our sensitivity in some way. And we repeatedly say yes to things we know are likely to overwhelm us.
Why do we do this? Because at some level, we’re not sure we can make it in the world if we fully own our sensitivity. And because many HSPs care tremendously about being good (we’re highly conscientious and thoughtful) and being seen as good (we’re strongly impacted by criticism and conflict). While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be good, having a “need to be good” gives our inner critic and others free reign to control and manipulate us through fear and guilt.
When this happens, we can end up feeling like a bad person just for having needs, preferences, and values that others find inconvenient. This makes it hard for us to own our truths, go after what we need and want, and unapologetically say no to energies, situations, and relationships that don’t align with our core values. Letting go of the need to be good helps us readily accept and embrace every part of who we are, including our highly sensitive nature.
5. Zealously nurture your inner light
Constantly wrestling with overstimulation can make being highly sensitive feel like a burden. If you want to stop feeling that way, you need to turn your focus of attention around. Spend less time tuning into how the people around you are feeling and more time tuning into the things that feed your soul and nurture your inner light.
While this is a simple shift, it’s not necessarily easy to do. For starters, you may be concerned about how this change will impact your relationships. (After all, HSPs tend to struggle with boundary-setting.) If so, it’s important to bring those fears to the surface and get help if you’re feeling stuck. Also, if you’re not sure what sparks joy in your life and makes you come alive, don’t shy away from this step. Instead, treat this as an opportunity to play, experiment, and hone your powerful highly sensitive insight and intuition (one of your HSP secret powers) even further.
6. Practice joy unconditionally
In a world that can be cruel, heartbreaking, or simply unkind, the possibility of staying connected to joy may seem inconceivable to most HSPs. How can we sustain joy in our lives when we’re so affected by the pain and misfortune of others?
First, we have to understand that joy is not just something that happens to us when all the stars align in our favor. It’s an open-hearted and empowered way of showing up in the world that most anyone can learn to embody through intentional daily practice. This way of being allows us to lean into the fullness of our human experience (which includes being in touch with the full range and depth of our human emotions) and what it means to be alive.
We also need to realize that practicing joy unconditionally is not incompatible with our highly empathetic nature. It’s actually a direct expression of our deep caring. By committing to do our best to practice joy no matter what the circumstances are, we’re choosing to do the hard work that’s required to show up as our most empowered self. And it’s from that empowered place where we can truly make a difference.
If you’re a sensitive, open-hearted woman who’d like help showing up as your joyful, radiant, powerful self, watch my free masterclass and book your free call with me at VanessaAreli.com.
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