Highly Sensitive PersonJan 23, 2022
I was wondering what to write about this week, so I was browsing through the different suggested topics, and the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) was requested over and over.
(I really just had to give that intro so no highly sensitive person thinks I’m talking about specifically them! 🤯 🤣)
We are all sensitive. (I hope!)
But some of us are highly sensitive, some of us live with highly sensitive people, and some of us are raising children that happen to be highly sensitive people. And this is a challenging task which can sometimes feel like a juggling act.
What is an HSP? An HSP is (a personality type of) someone who reads the world in a highly emotionally sensitive way. HSPs offer lots of value! They often offer a tremendous amount of empathy and caring to those around them. They are usually sensitive to others and have added insight and intuition. But there are difficulties to being an HSP as well. Situations that are moderately stressful to the average person can cause an HSP to spiral into emotional reactivity and overthinking. HSPs take things personally. So it can be difficult to be in a close relationship with an HSP.
(It’s not black and white… obviously. There are people who are only sensitive around specific people or situations, wit’s many varying degrees of sensitivity. Ofc, there are many shades of grey, as with most personalities!)
A key to living as an HSP, and with an HSP is to develop self-awareness and to learn techniques to become both more compassionate in some situations yet tougher and thicker skinned in other situations. (Of course, there are people who are offensive or mean and will blame the other for being too sensitive. This happens. But we aren’t talking about that now.)
Ok, so tell me! How can HSPs - and really all of us - NOT take things personally?
When someone cancels a meeting last minute, we take it personally. We assume our time isn’t valued by the canceller (made up word? I’m cool with that.) When someone passes by without saying hello, we take it personally. When a driver honks at us on the highway, personally. When we want to hang out with someone, and they decline – and they get busted hanging out with someone else, super personally!
We feel betrayed. We feel hurt. And it can be totally consuming.
What part of our minds is speaking when we spiral into these thought processes?
Answer is: (drumroll please) It’s our EGO!
When our ego takes over, we are constantly fighting with the rest of the world and often ourselves too.
Here are three strategies to help us:
1. “It is not about me, myself, and I. Look at the other person’s intention.”
We need to shift our focus from ME to WE. Shift thoughts to curiosity to seek understanding as opposed to blaming.
• We need to take the other person’s perspective into account. Maybe that “get together” was planned weeks ago well before I asked my friend to hang out. And maybe my friend felt bad telling me that he had other plans (perhaps because I’m too sensitive). Opening up an honest conversation with ‘The Hurtful One’, can help us learn if it is about us or if it wasn’t about us at all. By communicating (and yes this will require being vulnerable, some people find that cringetastic!) the connection will deepen, and we will slowly begin to feel more secure in relationships.
• When I see someone not giving me proper respect, I need to remind myself - it’s not about me. How people treat me is often a reflection of them, not me. (Read that sentence twice!).
• I once heard that out of the 50,000 (ish) thoughts we have a day, only 10,000 are generally positive. (I really wonder how one counts thoughts, but I will leave that to the scientists.) We are naturally negative people. It takes a lot of effort to see positive in other people’s intentions. (More on positivity in the future!) But those who do see positivity around them, typically live a happier, more fulfilling life.
But what if that doesn’t work? Here’s another option.
2. “It is about me, myself, and I. Look within.”
• Am I insecure? Maybe the hurt feelings have to do with a part of myself that I’m not fully comfortable with. People may attack us, criticize us, or ignore us. They can walk all over us. But remember: we will always keep our value. As long as we value ourselves! No one can take that away from us. You can take a $20 bill, spit on it, crumple it and even throw it in the garbage, but it will always hold its value.
• Maybe I’m being triggered because of something from my upbringing. Often, insecure thinking is rooted to being criticized in childhood. (This is another reason to be frequently positive and complimentary to your children.)
• Maybe there’s a bit of truth to the criticism I’m getting. Maybe I’m not the best at get-togethers (or play dates, for the younger kiddies). Maybe I don’t “play well” with others. Maybe I wait for the others to initiate conversation. Maybe I drive too slowly (and nothing’s worse than a slow driver in the left lane).
• Maybe my expectations are too high. Perhaps I expect too much respect that I’m constantly being let down by boss, my parents, in-laws, children, my friends, my spouse, my business partner, my clients.
When we feel hurt, we need to give ourselves a compassionate “hug” and a dose of empathy: “This hurts. I truly long for recognition and respect and love.”
Embracing our sensitive souls and the awareness of our own sensitivities will make it easier on us and on the people around us. Begin practicing self compassion and directing kindness and gratitude to ourselves instead of allowing the voice in our heads to constantly engage in self-criticism of “I must not be valued.”
Wishing you a sensitive week — not too much, not too little.
Just the perfect amount 👊🏼,
- Now, may be a good time to review some self-compassion ideas that we spoke about in a previous letter! Click Here to read!
- To buy Elaine Aron’s well regarded book on this topic: The Highly Sensitive Person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you Click Here to buy!
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