by Jenna Avery, CLC, MCP, MLA
If you often feel overwhelmed by your environment or the people around you, you may be highly sensitive.
You’ve probably been labeled as shy – or worse: “too sensitive” — even by people who love you.
As highly sensitive person, you have a uniquely perceptive and sensitive sensory system — also called Sensory Processing Sensitivity, or SPS.
Because of this sensitive processing system, you are more sensitive to EVERYTHING — emotions, energy, environmental conditions such as lighting or sound, other people, excitement, and stress. As a result of what is constant stimulation to you, you feel easily overwhelmed or sometimes unable to cope. This can be particularly confusing when others seem unperturbed by the same experiences.
For example, your friends might be able to shop all day, go out to dinner, and then head to a loud party. For you, that would be unbearable.
Research psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, has studied high sensitivity extensively. Her research shows that being sensitive is a personality temperament or trait, one usually inherited. According to Dr. Aron, up to 20% of the population is highly sensitive.
Being highly sensitive comes with a number of gifts, as well as challenges. See if any of these highly sensitive qualities resonate strongly with you.
How to Tell If You Are Highly Sensitive
1. You are deeply affected by all aspects of your life.
As a sensitive soul, you have great emotional passion, intensity, and depth. You may have been told that your emotions are “too much.” You are sensitive, caring, and easily affected by the energy and emotions of others. These qualities make it easy to lose touch with your needs and desires.
2. You have heightened perceptive skills.
A sensitive soul is intuitive, highly aware, and keenly observant of the subtleties of your environment, including energy, light, noise, smell, texture, and temperature. You may also be empathic or even psychic. Your perceptive skills operate in the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual realms. You tie together things you see into complex and original concepts. This makes you a visionary.
3. You have a lower tolerance for stimulation than others.
Because you receive so much information from your surroundings, your threshold for what’s “too much” is significantly lower than for those around you. This means: a) You may be seen as shy or timid; and b) You may feel uncomfortably dissimilar to others because you respond so differently to stimulation. The important thing to keep in mind is that EVERYONE gets overstimulated at some point; you simply get overstimulated sooner than others might.
4. You are highly conscientious and thorough in all your undertakings.
Sensitives makes a great employees. You concentrate intensely and process multi-source information deeply. However, you require privacy, uninterrupted time, and little or no pressure in order to do your best work.
5. You have a strong relationship with aesthetics and art.
As a highly sensitive soul, you have a passion for beauty, art, and aesthetics. You may be highly artistic and creative yourself. You easily create beauty and comfort. Seeing things “out of alignment” can actually be physically or psychically distressing.
6. Your inner life is just as intriguing and inspiring as your outer life.
You likely have a rich, complex inner life and are highly imaginative. You may find it challenging to connect to “real world” priorities and realities.
7. You absolutely require private time alone in order to feel replenished.
Up to 70% of highly sensitive souls are introverted. But all sensitives — even those with more extroverted temperaments — need the down time and solitude typical introverts require, often in a darkened, quiet room.
8. You have a strong spiritual connection and depth.
If you are highly sensitive, you experience a profound spiritual connection with the divine and/or spiritual realm. You “see” a lot in what appears common. Because of this you may feel impatient with the truly mundane.
Thriving As a Sensitive Soul In This Not So Sensitive World
Learning to thrive as a highly sensitive soul presents challenges. If you’re sensitive, you have likely accumulated years of programming designed to get you to “get over” your trait because you don’t “fit in” with society. And yet being highly sensitive is a vital part of you.
A first step toward thriving as a sensitive soul is to understand and accept your trait. Hear this now: There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are just different. As one of my clients says, being highly sensitive is both a gift and a responsibility.
Sensitive souls require regular self-care, meaningful work, and supportive relationships. Working with a sensitive coach or therapist who helps you tune into your own magnificent inner guidance system – your sensitivity – is a powerful means of support.
Additionally, there are books, websites, web-based communities, and teleconference gatherings on the subject. Connecting with like-minded souls is often deeply healing for sensitive persons.
Taking It Beyond Surviving — Or Even Thriving
Once you’ve truly claimed and embraced your high sensitivity, it’s time to move on to the next level of mastery. How will you use your sensitive gifts for the greater good?
As a sensitive empath with an eye for what’s possible, you have creative, visionary wisdom the world is truly waiting to receive. Let’s get you into action sharing your art, message, or movement with the masses.