~ I'm extremely sensitive. ~
The first thing people think when I say that out loud is that I'm either shy, introverted, emotional, or need others to walk on eggshells around me. There's an assumption people have about highly sensitive individuals... namely that we're weak and fragile creatures - the genetic lottery of life losers.
It's easy to see that perception in actions when you google the word - Sensitive. You'll see irritated skin, headaches, and crying people.
This is how Merriam-Webster describes it:
Sensitivity is having a huge PR problem, and someone needs to stand up for it. The ability to be sensitive is a superpower, not a weakness. Think about your senses being constantly alert! The inner world is vibrant with intensity. Sadness is deep, love is real, and joy is pure. Empathy is limitless and care is unending. It is a never-ending process of osmosis.
Throughout my life, I have heard statements like "Stop taking everything so personally" and "You're too sensitive". One of my favorites was "You should really toughen up a bit". The message here is very clear. A highly sensitive individual is a highly flawed individual. In the past, I used to believe that I was weak and needed to include a disclaimer, "Careful, living heart inside." But many people did not understand that, and I have become somewhat of a recluse. Slowly secluded from people, I used to cry because life wasn't what I wanted it to be. I was referred to a professional who was only interested in talking about the most painful past experiences, which was not helping me manage my present pain. As I was searching for answers, I began to read more and more about feelings, emotions, spirituality, quantum physics, and behavioral neuroscience. As soon as I was enlightened and able to stand up again, I was inspired to help others who were experiencing similar emotions as well as those who were trying to mask them.
Allow me to share a few benefits of being highly sensitive. First of all, I have an extremely overactive mind that cannot be turned off. In addition, I cannot watch scary or violent movies since they make me feel like a prey.
Having seen "Jaws" as a child, I was afraid of swimming pools for many years, and I still avoid lakes and oceans today.
In order to sleep well, my pillow cannot be too hard, nor too soft. It must be just right. My pillow is my most loyal travel companion. Perhaps having a sensitive side seems like it's a curse, but I actually take it as a gift.
Having the ability to connect deeply with others is my favorite part. My intuition is like an infallible GPS that guides me through life. About 15-20% of the population is highly sensitive, so I know I'm not alone. Those with high sensitivity tend to analyze everything and everyone deeply. The environment often overwhelms them. It's why we'd rather be alone or with a small group of friends we're really close to. Whenever we go to large gatherings, we feel completely overpowered because there's just too much to take in.
Empathy is another characteristic that we tend to possess. Whether we like it or not, we feel what others feel, so much so that seeing someone in pain causes physical pain within me. Interestingly, there is a Hebrew saying that perfectly matches the description: "When one cries, the other tastes the salt.”
People with heightened sensitivity are also like finely tuned sensors that are able to pick up on even the tiniest details. Sadly, we are the kind of people who need complete darkness to sleep and wake up to the sound of the neighbor's dripping sink. There is much more to being highly sensitive than just emotional reactivity.
Most people assume that women are more sensitive than men, but studies have shown that 50% of HSPs are actually men. There is a general belief in our society that men are not supposed to be sensitive, but rather aggressive and competitive. It is unfortunate that, even though man can be both sensitive and strong, it is still a concept that is much alien to us. As a whole, HPS's are not worse or better than anyone else, they are simply different. It would be unfair to compare them with each other. It is very likely that every one of them has a unique, sensitive fingerprint that is based on other markers, such as gender, cultural background, and ethnicity. Being highly sensitive is not a disease and it is not a choice, rather it is a component of your genetic composition. We are essentially born to be mild but please don't confuse that with weakness I won't let anyone walk all over me.
Pointing out someone's sensitivity is like pointing out that their skin is too dark or their eyes are too blue. Despite how often you say it, you still have the same pair of blue eyes staring back at you.
Sensitivity has come to be seen as a potential Achilles heel in our society that tempers our ability to become detached and optimized. Our society scorns dreamers, idealists, and creators. Historically, this has not always been the case. The contributions of philanthropists, philosophers, poets, artists, and painters to society were all honored in centuries past. Who would we be without Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, or Chopin? Not to mention Mother Teresa, or even Gandhi. The world as we know it would certainly be a little darker without them. It's not that all highly sensitive people shape the world, but most of them have a genuine desire to connect and create meaning. Since they are so familiar with pain, they want to elevate the forgotten and help the unfortunate. These days, HSPs hide their sensitivities in an attempt to appear normal. But, if we don't make changes, we will all lose. What would our society be like if it didn't have the driving force of sensitive creation? How would we face the challenges if we discredited imagination, intuition, and empathy? I believe we need to start accepting and appreciating sensitivity immediately.
Everyone is sensitive in different ways and to different degrees. The most sensitive people are just at the far end of the spectrum. This is why talking about sensitivity is so important. Getting together as a society and rewriting the negative cultural narrative and being sensitive is a must. Sensitivity is a great quality, and we need to start leveraging it. We should all be able to share our sensitive sides, not just HSPs.
I believe that schools and workplaces are two areas in which urgent change is needed. Teachers need training to recognize and respond to kids who are sensitive. It's time to stop the well-meaning desire of parents and teachers to toughen them up.
On an organizational level, the system favors individuals with steel elbows, since sensitive individuals are more cooperative rather than competitive. Consequently, they are left behind on the corporate ladder. This needs to change by creating an environment where all personality types can thrive, not just the selected few. Bringing sensitive people into the room is in corporations' best interest. It keeps creativity, integrity, and ultimately... humanity alive.
As individuals, we can each make a positive impact by refraining from judging the delicate differences of those around us. The next time you wish to highlight a sensitivity in someone, take a moment to pause, then fill that pause with understanding. You will benefit greatly from the simple act of accepting. I would like to encourage my fellow sensitives to stop hiding. Your beauty lies in the fact that you are you. It is not you who is the problem, but rather the world in which corruption, greed, and violence are the norm. Highly sensitive people should not hide from this phenomenon within their protective shelters, as their role is to step forward and share their sensitive gifts with all of us. Political and environmental issues are severe today. To navigate the turbulent times ahead, we need more than ever the contributions of sensitive minds and hearts.