For most of my life, I always thought that there was something wrong with me because I always felt like I didn't belong to any group. I was still that quiet kid in school, hiding in the background, awkwardly just listening to everyone around me. Throughout most of my childhood, I was bullied just because of this. I would feel lost and overwhelmed.
To this day, I am very often labeled antisocial and shy, because I don't give out the best first impression. I have felt misunderstood and undermined for most of my life, which is why today I link this to years of anxiety and times of depression. I would question my sense of worth and sanity. The fact is many hypersensitive people have similar experiences throughout their life since we want to fit in. We feel rejection on a deeper level than the non-hypersensitive people, and we want to avoid those negative feelings, so we try to blend in. The problem with that is we don't respect our limits of overstimulation, and that can negatively impact our mental health and overall wellbeing .
On a similar note, I mentioned in my THE KEY TO WELLNESS THROUGH YOUR CHAKRAS article that it is essential for our wellbeing that we keep our chakra system in balance. It may be challenging to keep our chakra system in balance if we feel overloaded with emotions, thoughts, and sensations. Plus, suppressing our true self can harm our chakra system's function by creating blockages within it .
However, thanks to this random post from Facebook about highly sensitive people, I realized that I found the answer to my questions. Once I understood and accepted this part of me, my energy shifted, and it became clear to me that there was nothing wrong with me. The overwhelming feeling of knowing that there was nothing with me and that I wasn't the only person with these characteristics was a feeling of a newfound love for myself.
Finally, I divided this article into two parts. One part will focus on some characteristics of a highly sensitive, and the last part will focus on some coping mechanisms to live in a society where being highly sensitive is viewed as a disadvantage.
Characteristics of highly sensitive people
According to a study, 15-20% of the human population has a sensitive processing system, better known as highly sensitive people . When I continued my research, I was able to confirm that I was a highly sensitive person. A highly sensitive person is known to have specific characteristics described with the "DOES" acronym (Aron 2013).
Here is a brief description of the acronym: "D" is for (…dept of processing… ), "O" is for (…easily over stimulated…), "E" is for (…giving emphasis to our emotional reactions and having strong empathy…) and "S" is for (…sensitive to all others subtleties…) .
This finding was just what I needed to realize that I am not antisocial, weird, or awkward. I have a different way of processing things. For example, instead of deciding right away on a plan, I always need to reflect on every possible solution before making the final decision. That could be annoying for some people, but I need the peace of mind that I thought it through.
Here are a few more characteristics that confirm that I am a highly sensitive person, according to Elaine Aron (2013). Maybe you will see yourself in here to or someone you love.
- I observe everything in a room, and I am susceptible to people's moods and energy. For example, going into a meeting at work was very overwhelming. I would feel it when there was tension in the room to the point that I had to doodle on a paper to ease the discomfort. My boss would think that I wasn't listening, but I realize now that it was my way to channel the energies around me.
- Another experience from working as a Social Worker would be how important it was for me to have some time alone after a hard day. If I didn't take the time for myself, I would become depressed and anxious. The high-stress days were too overwhelming for me. I felt like I needed to hide in my cocoon.
- CAFFEINE. I didn't drink coffee until my first year of university. I was so sensitive to coffee that I would feel like I had an alcohol buzz. I would become jittery, anxious, and nauseous. At that time, I felt like I needed it, so eventually, my body got used to it. Now I can't have more than a cup, and it needs to be before 11 am. If I drink a cup of coffee after 11 am, I need to say goodbye to a restful sleep that night.
- I am a very intuitive person. I have self-awareness, and I am often guided by whatever makes me feel right. A silly story that relates to this could be when I realized that the butter I was purchasing was left in my cart when I got to my car. My friend told me to view it as a gift, but I was overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt. I went back through the self-checkout and bought the butter. I know that it is innocent, but I couldn't get myself to leave without paying.
- Job interviews or under pressure scenarios are my worst nightmare. I have so much trouble performing under pressure that I usually don't do too well. My placement supervisor handed me a job when I graduated because of my performance there. However, I failed the interview and didn't get the job because I was all over the place. In the end, they called me a few weeks later because it didn't work out with the other employee. The point is, highly sensitive people's underestimated capabilities are often due because it takes them longer to process things. But not many people know that it is because they think of many possible scenarios at the same time.
Here are a few more characteristics according to Elaine Aron (2013):
- You are easily overwhelmed by sensory things like bright lights, coarse fabrics.
- You have a rich, complex inner life
- You are deeply moved by the arts or music
- You are easily startled
- You get overwhelmed when you have a lot of tasks on your to-do list
- You become unpleasantly overstimulated when you are in a group setting
- You have difficulty dealing with changes in your life
- You try to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations
- When you were a child, your parents or teachers would describe you as a shy kid.
How I cope with this hypersensitivity in a society that lacks sensitivity
Viewing it as a gift
I view my hypersensitivity as a gift of being highly intuitive and hyper-aware of not only myself but my surroundings. Being intuitive helps me choose my surroundings. I only surround myself with people who make me feel good. My hyper-awareness of subtle cues about discomfort or tension allows me to do something to uplift energies in a positive way for myself or those around me.
Here are just a few positive views, according to Elaine Aron (2013):
- Better at spotting errors and avoiding mistakes.
- Highly conscientious.
- Able to concentrate deeply. (We do best without distractions)
- Especially good at tasks requiring vigilance, accuracy, speed, and the detection of minor differences.
- Able to process material to deeper levels of what psychologists call "semantic memory." Often thinking about our thinking.
- Able to learn without being aware we have learned.
- Deeply affected by other people's moods and emotions.
Respecting my limits
I don't have many close friends, and I think that it's because I don't leave the best first impression. The friends I do have took the time to get to know me and waited until I broke out of this shell. The reason I am talking about friendship is that I find it necessary to respect myself in any relationship. I did lose some friends along the way because I prefer staying in than going out at night.
Through the years, I came to terms that it's okay to say no when I don't feel like it. The friends who genuinely care for you will also respect your limits. Don't get me wrong, I still go out to celebrate special occasions but only for my good friends. I even usually dread those social gatherings, but since realizing that I was a hypersensitive person, they aren't so bad. These gatherings made me feel like an outcast, and I would stay in the background. But now, I respect myself, and I know that I am worth their time and discussion. I usually scope around for the person that seems to be on the same wavelength and socialize with them. I am not antisocial, I love being around people, but I know now that I need to be with the right people for myself.
Taking time throughout the day for mindfulness (especially on fast-paced days)
Practicing meditation is my favorite mindfulness activity; it helps me clear my mind and guide myself in the right direction throughout the day. During stressful days, I tend to become overwhelmed with worry and pressure, but meditating even for just 5 minutes helps me to act and think clearly.
Another mindfulness exercise I recently started doing, especially before bed, is writing. Putting all my thoughts and feelings on paper also helps identify my emotions so that it can flow more naturally.
Practicing Reiki on myself helps me keep my energy flowing and my chakra system in balance. The chakra system is so vital for my emotional equilibrium. At the end of my sessions, I feel like I rejuvenated in some way. It prevents me from being overwhelmed by scattered emotions because it allows them to flow more freely and clearly.
I usually cleanse my mind, body, and soul by burning white sage. Just the smell of it brings me an immediate sense of release. I often offer this to my friends and family before a reiki session or when they are feeling overwhelmed with emotions. Also, whenever I think sporadic energy in my home, I cleanse every room in my house.
Finally, I am so grateful for this realization, and since then, it has allowed me to grow through my mind, body soul. I accept myself and love myself the way that I am. It helped me to expand and receive my gift of hyper-awareness and intuition.
Here is a link to a test to if you or a loved one might be a highly sensitive person: https://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/
Thank you for taking the time to read this article and please feel free to comment or follow me for more articles on holistic approaches to the mind/body/soul,
1-ARON, Elaine (2013) The Highly Sensitive Person, Kensington Publishing Corp, 345 p.
2- ANODEA, Judith (1999) WHEELS OF LIFE, 528 p.
3- ARON, Elaine (2013) The Highly Sensitive Person, Kensington Publishing Corp, 345 p.