I'm a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and That's Okay

Jessica

Advice for anyone who has ever been told to toughen up and stop being "too sensitive."

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Think about your definition of a highly sensitive person.

Do you imagine a highly sensitive person as someone who is empathetic, someone willing to listen, someone kind?

Or, do you picture a highly sensitive person as someone whose feelings are hurt easily and frequently; are they someone who cries a lot and takes everything too personal?

As far back as I can remember, I've always known I was "too sensitive" of a person because the people around me never let me forget it. I cried easily at school when someone said something hurtful to me, and I noticed none of my classmates cried as often as I did.

I've also always been a sucker for heartwarming documentaries about reunited families and rescue animals, and I never thought that was a bad thing until others made comments about how "emotional of a kid I was" and that I should stop watching sad movies. (When I was 8-years-old, my parents hid the VHS of the movie Selena from me because I cried so much at the end when the Tejana singer died.)

As an adult, I still cry easily from both sadness or joy. Little things make me cry. Commercials make me cry. If you recall the scene from Dumb and Dumber where Harry and Lloyd sit in bed and cry hysterically at a sad scene on TV, and it turns out not to be a movie, but a Pacific Bell commercial. That’s me––I’m Harry and Lloyd.

But from an early age, I promised myself I would stop being so sensitive. I'd had enough of the teasing and jokes. I didn't want to be weak anymore because it made me different from everyone else.

Of course, I didn’t know being overly sensitive would always be a part of me, and that it wasn't something that would just disappear overnight no matter how hard I tried. I was too young to understand my sensitivity was always going to affect how I handled stress and trauma.

Highly Sensitive People (HSP) have no choice but to learn how to navigate this particular personality trait.

But being an HSP isn't a bad thing––it is simply a widely misunderstood part of so many people. Being a highly sensitive person does not mean you are weak or incapable of handling problems and stress in your life. You just need to learn how to use your sensitivity as a strength instead of a weakness.

A highly sensitive person is someone who is thought to have "an increased or deeper sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli."

HSP's feel and process things deeply and quickly. They can be easily overstimulated from their surroundings (like large crowds, bright lights, and loud sounds) and they are more emotionally reactive than others. They can be especially harsh on themselves when they make mistakes and they might have a hard time processing any negative emotions.

In the past, when a bad thing happened to someone I cared about, I took the weight of their problems as my own. I became personally affected as I tried to fix their issues and I ignored my stress levels because I wanted to help anyone who needed it. I adopted the pain of others as my own and experienced secondary trauma, like when I tried unsuccessfully to save a friend from a toxic relationship.

I remember when I was 11 years old, my mother brushed my hair while I sat on the floor in the living room. We were discussing hairstyles, and I told her I wanted to try a new haircut.

She told me I needed to choose carefully because I had a big forehead.

I cried immediately. “I have a big forehead?!”

It upset me to find out my forehead wasn’t normal. It was the end of the world as I knew it. But my mother couldn’t believe I was crying. Her words were, “You’re too sensitive. It’s not that serious.” Looking back, it wasn’t the nicest comment, but the dismissal of my feelings was the worst part. At that moment, I didn’t feel like I was being too sensitive. I was just processing what I felt. Why was it such a bad thing to feel?

HSPs are always being told to stop being so sensitive because “it isn’t a big deal.”

And every time I hear that I think to myself:

Well, it is a big deal. For me. Why is not okay for me to feel what I feel right now? I will come down from this “high” of emotions. Let me accept that sometimes my emotions get the best of me. But let me make these realizations on my own. Do not make me feel childish for crying at this moment.

I know it’s okay to cry if I feel like crying. It doesn’t make me weak.

The next time someone tells you, “You’re too sensitive,” take a step back and look at your emotional process.

Ask yourself, what made me feel like this? Did my actions or words lead to the best possible outcome? Is it possible I am exaggerating? (Nobody is perfect!) As a highly sensitive person, it is always wise to reflect on how you manage your thoughts so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Remember, there is nothing wrong with being sensitive.

Being too sensitive means you care a lot, you are deeply moved by and sometimes overwhelmed, and that means some things take a toll on you more than others.

When I realized sensitivity is a reflection of the heart, I saw a change in how I responded to stressful situations. I learned I can still be caring. I can still be empathetic. I can still love deeply and strongly, and be there for others without going overboard. I know I am capable of cutting off emotionally exhausting persons, but I can still be supportive of someone in need without crippling myself.

In order to live your best life as an HSP, you have to learn how to say no to overwhelming situations and relationships. HSP's often take on extra responsibilities in their relationships, friendships, and at work because they don't want to hurt someone else's feelings by saying no.

If you know you can't handle a double shift at work, but you feel bad to let your coworker down, even though they never help you when you ask, you need to practice standing up for yourself and putting your needs first.

"I'm sorry, I wish I could cover your shift, but I have plans."

Even if these plans are just snuggling up on your couch and watching a movie, you're not lying. By practicing saying no, you're engaging in healthy self-care and justifying your reason for not helping someone who probably wouldn't do the same for you. This doesn't make you a bad person.

The most important part of HSP’s is that we understand the root of our emotions and stop beating ourselves up over our feelings. It takes dedication and conscious effort to find a balance and stop allowing others to put us down for doing something that is only human, feeling. Because being a sensitive person is a beautiful part of us. We care deeply for the people in our lives, and that should never be something that someone uses against us.

© Jessica Lovejoy 2021. All Rights Reserved.

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I share my life through stories about relationships, healing, self-improvement, and pets. Sometimes, I write articles that online trolls can't resist.

Los Angeles, CA
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