I am a highly sensitive person. I found this out last year when I wrote this post, but I didn’t really understand the impact being highly sensitive has on my life until I read The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron. I recommend taking this test to see if you are a highly sensitive person. It will really change your outlook on yourself and help you understand the way you interact with the world.
While a lot of people have a moderate sensitivity level, about 30% of the population is like me – easily aroused and overwhelmed. Every person is different, but this book really helped me see myself in a more positive light. It taught me that I have the power, now that I understand this is a big part of myself, to understand when I’m being exhausted by my surroundings and what to do about it.
There are so many great resources for highly sensitive people, but this book was the best I’ve found so far. There are websites and podcasts dedicated to explaining what to do in situations when I’m overwhelmed and how to avoid becoming so in the first place.
To a non-sensitive person, it’s easy to brush off what ails us because they don’t feel what we do. Sudden, loud noises can scare me so badly that I need to take a minute and calm down. Constant loud noises can give me a headache and put me in a bad mood where I’m unable to concentrate. Being hungry makes me lose focus on all else but getting something to eat (to the point of being sick sometimes – I often wondered if I was anemic) and my friends and family can attest to that fact. I love going out and meeting friends, but after a while of being social, I will need to be in a quiet room alone to recover, and often we are thought of as introverts. I actually consider myself an extrovert, but my sensitivity demands that I take care of my body after enduring being out with friends.
My current job is, according to the book, one that no Highly Sensitive Person should ever have if they can help it. I don’t have a cubicle and all the teachers’ desks are together in a large room lit with harsh fluorescent lights where the phone rings constantly, people run around yelling at each other, students scream in the hallways outside the door, and sometimes teachers will intentionally come up behind me to say something in my ear. I usually have to take long breaks in the bathroom with the lights off so I can get some peace and quiet in a cool dark room. This book did a great job of explaining how people like me either quit their loud jobs or power through it, sometimes at the cost of their sanity.
I read this book slowly and took in everything Dr. Aron had to say and it helped me tremendously. Knowing what to avoid so that I’m not so overwhelmed, and knowing how to explain to myself why I am feeling that way, has been a lifesaver. Of course, she also shared stories of HSPs who love their trait. Being highly sensitive isn’t all bad. I feel the meaning behind literature and music more deeply than non-HSPs, and I can empathize with my friends’ situations more than they sometimes know.
I was always told as a kid that I was “too sensitive” and that I need to “toughen up” when really I needed someone to tell me, “It’s okay, don’t push yourself.” The book talks about how society determines whether or not being highly sensitive is valuable. In the U.S., it is generally frowned upon, as we like open criticism and tough skin. In Japan, people are expected to “read the air” and be sensitive to other’s needs. However, the balance is different for every person and I usually find myself falling in the middle.
I have come to love myself more through the words of other HSPs and I truly think knowing my personality and my body will help me become better attuned to what I need and how to function better through self-motivation. Sometimes it’s lonely not feeling understood by others, but books like this one help me remember that I’m not alone. The trait is also hereditary, so although my mom told me when I was younger that I shouldn’t be so sensitive, I think we both know where I got it from.
Being sensitive isn’t a bad thing. I think understanding those you love who are sensitive will help you become more caring to them. Even if you don’t consider yourself sensitive, if you think someone you know is, let them know about this book. Sensitivity is a great thing, even when it seems to get in the way of life. Really, my life as a sensitive person is the only one I know, and I’m glad for it. I feel connected to people more thanks to my sensitivity. This book helped me start my journey on understanding myself and others, and now I know to trust my intuition because it’s usually right.