When you have strong emotions and overflow with empathy, you might be labeled as too sensitive, dramatic, or weak. And—being a highly sensitive person—that might make you feel demoralized, demeaned, and devalued.
But highly sensitive people, or HSPs, are more powerful than you might think. They have an enhanced ability to notice subtleties in their environment and in other people’s emotional states.
How To Know If You’re A Highly Sensitive Person
Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis recently addressed this on Instagram in an open letter to “highly sensitive women” (sourced from clinical psychologist Dr. Michaela) who are struggling with their careers.
“When you’re a highly sensitive woman trying to do all the things you need to excel in your career (and keep your bosses happy) whilst managing overwhelm, burnout, imposter syndrome, anxiety, and overthinking everything is HARD,” Davis wrote.
She may be a Hollywood star, but so many of us can relate.
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HSPs may also be overwhelmed by bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or violent shows. Extra-busy days can send an HSPs into a darkened room for a calm moment.
And thanks to societal norms and expectations, HSPs often feel judged for being too emotional and taking things too much to heart. They might wind up depleted and exhausted from all the feelings.
But HSPs can use these supposed flaws in their favor—sensitivity can be a superpower.
The Bright Side Of Sensitivity
Psychologist Elaine Aron first named the high-sensitivity trait in 1991. She found that one in five people have a set of genes that engender a highly-attuned central nervous system. Aron believes these characteristics evolved as a survival mechanism to stay safe during prehistoric times.
Luckily, those longevity tactics can come in handy in the modern world in several ways:
- Decision Making: Some call it “overthinking,” but taking time to observe and make the correct choice is rarely a bad thing. HSPs think before they speak.
- Attention To Detail: Since HSPs notice nuances, they are likely to detect mistakes that others missed.
- Emotional Intelligence: Research shows that HSPs have high-functioning superior mirror neurons, which means they can sense others’ emotions long before anyone else.
- Appreciation Of Beauty: If you’re highly sensitive, it’s likely you enjoy scents, sounds, tastes, and works of art more than the average person.
All of this adds up to someone who’s awesome both to work with and to be friends with. Don’t let others convince you it’s a weakness and not a strength. What a gift!