In Praise of The Highly Sensitive Person

“The highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”—Dr. Elaine Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

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In Western culture, being highly sensitive is often socially and culturally unacceptable. In a society that overvalues toughness, it can be hard to value your gentle and sensitive nature, especially as a woman. Women’s feelings are seen as a problem. If a woman cries or expresses strong emotion, she is seen as unable to lead or think rationally while men with similar traits might be seen as passionate. Men are warned about being overly sensitive so they aren’t perceived as overly feminine. Strong females are those who are perceived as having more masculine traits, but are still sexually appealing.  Above all else, ladies, be fuckable! #sarcasm

We revere the badass, the tough-as-nails, the stoic, those who quickly suck it up and move on.

Sensitivity is unjustly equated with weakness. When the world tries to sensitivity-shame you, remember these four sources of your gentle, mighty power.

  1. HSPs are 15 to 20 percent of the population — that’s fifty million in the United States. Let us find strength in our numbers. We might not fit in, but that doesn’t mean we are alone.
  2. Your empathy is an asset — you see and think of things that others don’t. You are usually the first to see if a loved one is having a problem, the new shoes that you’re wearing, or a change in weather. Highly sensitive people are also highly conscientious people, Aron says. Because of this, they’re more likely to be considerate and exhibit good manners — and are also more likely to notice when someone else isn’t being conscientious. For instance, highly sensitive people may be more aware of where their cart is at the grocery store.
  3. HSPs tend to be more aware of our inner emotional states and quick to learn from criticism (which cuts deep into big hearts and rich souls).
  4. At work, HSPs are typically conscientious, loyal, detail-oriented and intuitive. We are often unusually creative and productive workers, attentive and thoughtful partners, and intellectually gifted individuals, which can make for richer and more profound creative work as writers, musicians, actors or other artists (not that we are limited to those professions).

Wearing your heart on your sleeve in a world that tells you not to is a courageous act. Do not let the world change your sensitivity. Use your sensitivity to change the world.

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