All my life I felt like a nerd, like being different and that something is wrong with me – till the moment I learned that I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). This knowledge was such a great relief to me. Since then I understand, why I behave how I behave and why this is often so different to others. I realized that I am not unsocial. I am able to accept my needs. And I have clarity what I can do to survive difficult situations, get better handling them and at one point even thrive in them.
What is a Highly Sensitive Person?
Highly Sensitive People have weaker filters in perception and a far more sensitive nervous system. Thus, their perception has a higher granularity and is more detailed. They take up more sensations in a higher intensity and process them more thorough. Whereas, this happens for different Highly Sensitive Persons in very different areas, as for example for noise, colors, scents, or logical or intuitive situations. As we absorb more information, we are saturated and overstrained quicker. Over-stimulation is achieved earlier.
About 15 to 20 % humans are highly sensitive. I find it very interesting that the same rate appears also for animals. They are more alert, get more easily irritated and unsettled. In return they have a higher ability to learn and are more original.
In earlier times a lot of cultures valued Highly Sensitive Persons. They worked for example as advisers and healers. Nowadays, especially in the Western culture, the abilities of Highly Sensitive Persons are not so much appreciated. Skills of extroverts are preferred.
Upsides and Downsides of a Highly Sensitive Person
Already as a child a lot of Highly Sensitive Persons get the impression that something is wrong with them. They suffer from the noise in the classroom or schoolyard. They do not understand the prevailing rules and the behavior of the other children as they are looking for a deeper sense. What is fun to others feels like rude, scary, or overstrained to them. They tire quicker. They doubt themselves as they have difficulties with situations that appear to others as a piece of cake and as they seem to be less resilient.
Highly Sensitive Persons sense their own moods and emotions and the ones of others far more easily. They like to think in a larger context and have a higher sense of responsibility. Their inner life is very rich and complex and highly imaginative. It can be also painful and problematic. They have a longing for meaningfulness and their calling.
My Own Experiences
As I started to learn about Highly Sensitive Persons, I was amazed. My own childhood was described. All the time I felt like something is wrong with me. Situations that other children perceived as exciting and cheerful, appeared scary to me as running and jumping around. I had other interests and the way other children played seemed to be odd to me. To survive I built a wall around my highly sensitive self – brick by brick. For years I tried to behave like “normal” in order to fit in. I lived overstepping my physical boundaries. I paid for this by being regularly sick as catching a cold or a gastro-intestinal disease.
Already before I had learned about Highly Sensitive Persons my longing to be myself became greater than the longing to be part of a group. I started to live more and more the way I wanted to – no matter what others think about me. This had caused some conflicts. But interestingly far less than I had expected. Probably as I started to eliminate the wheat from the chaff in all areas of my life as the persons I want to have as friends and the work that I want to do.
Being highly sensitive came first as a surprise to me. Due to my own-built wall I did not feel sensitive at all. I assume that a lot of Highly Sensitive Persons do not feel very sensitive and are not perceived like this from others, as they have constructed their own wall for their protection, as well. For example, I never have thought about my father as being highly sensitive. But after I learned about this concept, I found so many indications that he was.
Since I know that I am highly sensitive, I apply it to navigate better through my life and thus enjoy it more and attain long-term better results. It helps me to understand my needs and take better care of myself.
For example, on the physical level, I watch that I have enough sleep. I work out regularly, but pay attention that I am not overdoing it and have adequate rest in between. Since then I am sick very rarely.
And for example, on the psychological level, for years I thought that I am unsocial, as I do not like to be together with a lot of other people. I feel very uncomfortable in crowds. And I do not like superficial conversations. Now, I know that this is because I am highly sensitive. Instead of having a bad consciousness, when I prefer to meet with other people 1:1 and to have more in-depth discussions, I enjoy it. I discovered that virtual meetings and Social Media are great tools for me to get in contact with other people and to make myself visible.
Especially, the approach of doing consistently small steps, as I described in one of my articles, helps me a lot, as it does not lead to over-stimulation and feeling overstrained.
Even, that I struggled for years being highly sensitive and it caused me a lot of pain, I am deeply grateful of being highly sensitive. I cannot imagine a life without my inner world being so rich, colorful and complex. And it helped and helps me to maximize my talents and to take full advantage of my strengths.
Photo by Anthony