Here are a few phrases which make my heart break a little when I hear them said about the trait of high sensitivity:
“I was diagnosed as highly sensitive a few months ago.”
“Yes, I have the condition too.”
“I try to manage my high sensitivity.”
I feel like crying out “no, NO, NOOOOO!!!!” whenever I hear words like this. And then enveloping the speaker in a big hug.
Why? Because it’s a sign that the person has internalized the idea that being “sensitive” means there’s something wrong with them.
And there’s not.
There really isn’t.
There’s nothing wrong with you
Being highly sensitive is NOT a condition (medical or psychological); it’s not an illness; it’s not a diagnosis; it’s not a disorder; and it’s not a chronic ailment that needs to be managed.
It just means that you have a nervous system which is more sensitive to your environment (both external and internal) than the other 80% of the population. It’s a neutral trait.
And in this awareness lies great power because it’s an invitation to reframe your life so you can thrive. To stop thinking you’re broken and start embracing who you are.
The only thing that needs managing is learning to care for yourself and thrive as so many of us sensitives live in an overstimulating culture which is obsessed with busyness, noise, achievement and growth.
Western societies have come to value attributes and behaviours which don’t come naturally to us high sensitives. Things like always being a team player, thinking on your feet, quick responses, the expectation that you’ll thrive in noisy workplaces. Things like competition and “them and us” thinking. The harshness and judgement and shaming that seems to have become the norm in public life.
Yes I know it can feel tough to feel somehow different to the norm (while also knowing, there’s no such thing as normal anyway!).
Embrace your sensitivity
Here are some of the gifts of being a highly sensitive person.
- Be more likely to need to reflect on things before taking a decision but then you’ll come up a well-thought through solution / decision;
- Tend to see the best in people;
- Be quick to pick up on subtle cues that others don’t see;
- Have a strong sense of intuitive guidance;
- Have a felt sense of how all of life is connected;
- Deeply appreciate the arts and nature.
What you can offer is what is sorely needed in society!
So there’s no condition to be managed.
Your sense of “otherness” and “wrongness” comes from having being brought up and living in a culture which doesn’t value your gifts.
This doesn’t mean you have to fix your sensitivity and develop a thicker skin.
Please don’t waste your energy on trying to fix yourself.
Instead put your energy into this – your job is threefold:
#1 Learn your unique needs so you can regulate your easily-overstimulated nervous system
Such as through:
- adequate rest (e.g. sleep or resting with your eyes close to reduce sensory stimulation or a practice like restorative yoga);
- doing what brings you joy (which can be as simple or complex as what truly suits YOU);
- connecting to transcendence to rise above daily demands on your body and mind (e.g. through connection to nature; prayer; or meditation, for example).
#2 Allow yourself these things … without guilt
This can be challenging. But the stress and lack of self-esteem you may feel will begin to lessen when you allow yourself what you need to regulate your nervous system so you spend less time in flight/fight/freeze response and more time in your body’s relaxation response.
#3 Reframe yourself and your life through the lens of seeing your sensitivity as a gift
As a sensitive you have gifts of insight, intuition, reflection, measured responses, appreciation of the inter-connectedness of life – all gifts that this world sorely needs.
DO THIS: Write down at least five gifts that you have because you can feel so deeply.
Celebrate them – share some in the comments below.
So please, never refer to your sensitivity as a condition to be managed or a diagnosis or a problem.
I know it’s challenging when you may have lived so much of your life thinking there’s something wrong with you.
You are one of the wise counsellors; creatives; and peace-bringers that this world sorely needs.
And the sooner we sensitives realize and embody this, the sooner we can bring our unique healing gifts to a world in pain.
Embrace your sensitivity beloved fellow sensitive. Find your inner peace.
Because the world needs your light.