Characterised as a high level of sensitivity to external stimuli, being a Highly Sensitive Person tends to correlate with a greater depth of cognitive processing and high emotional activity.
Research suggests that as many as 15-20% of people have this trait, so it really is a wonder that more people don’t realise that it’s actually a thing. In your brain. That you’re born with. Crazy, huh?
As a HSP, the world can seem overwhelming at times. Society constantly tells us to push ourselves beyond our limits, and it can often render a HSP feeling like they’re failing, not thriving.
Here’s our top tips on how to navigate life as a highly sensitive person…
Get to know yourself
I heard about HSPs on a podcast about a year ago, and as someone who has always thought of themselves as highly sensitive, it really changed the way I viewed myself. I immediately ordered Elaine Aron’s book and took the online test. Needless to say, I was about as highly sensitive as they come — there was not one item on the self test that didn’t apply to me.
Since then, I’ve been viewing the process as a learning curve. There are countless things that I found infuriating about myself before (e.g. my inability sleep unless I’m in a pitch black room with earplugs in and a boyfriend that isn’t breathing too heavily) that I’ve now learnt are simply part of my personality, however annoying they may be for others.
Know your limits
Acknowledging the way you’re wired will help you set limits and boundaries with your wellbeing in mind. This will allow you to live your best life, whatever that looks like. (NB: it doesn’t have to look like being an influencer and attending press parties and socialising every night of the week. Ya gotta do you, and what’s best for your sensitive soul).
If that means that you can’t commit to after-work events any more than one night per week, that’s fine. If it means leaving an entire day free at the weekend to spend time with yourself, THAT’S COOL. Overcommitting yourself when it feels so counterintuitive is never, ever worth it.
Being highly sensitive has its faults. It feels like it’s at odds with what society requires, but learning to accept that this trait is simply a part of what makes you, you, is fundamental to navigating life as a HSP. Which leads me to…
This one is super important. In a world where the default expectation is that you’re a super sociable, extroverted over-committer, people can get weirdly offended when you set boundaries that protect your energy. Turns out that “I need to be by myself” isn’t usually deemed an adequate excuse to decline a social invitation for a lot of people.
But let’s be clear. This is not your fault. You don’t need to apologise for needing to carve out time and space over the weekend to just be. You don’t need to apologise if your discomfort of watching scary or violent movies renders you ‘uncool’. You don’t need to apologise if you can’t stay over at someones house because the thought of being in a space that isn’t yours for such a long time makes you anxious, or if your tendency to get overwhelmed is frustrating for people.
That is just who you are. Cute butt, beaut soul, sensitivity, and all.