It’s an unfortunate misconception that we all feel and experience sensations in the same way.
Some of us, whether due to biology or psychology, experience much of life with greater intensity, making situations that are difficult even harder, and finding challenges in day-to-day situations that others don’t tend to find problematic.
What’s more, people tend to look down upon highly sensitive people and perceive them as weak or dysfunctional, when this couldn’t be further from the truth.
According to Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., roughly 20% of people are highly sensitive persons (or HSPs). Maybe you’re in a relationship with a highly sensitive person– or maybe you’re starting to think you’re one yourself.
Whatever the case, there are a few important things to know about the way an HSP approaches life, love, and success that can be helpful to understand.
By understanding these distinctions, you’ll understand yourself (or your partner, friend, etc.) better, and be better equipped to thrive.
Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate.
– Anthon St. Maarten
1. Approach to life
One of the greatest destructive beliefs that highly sensitive people fall for is the idea that they’re somehow broken. This belief colors their entire life, and can be very discouraging.
The way HSPs function, interact, and react to others is different from the average person, so they begin to feel like something is wrong with them.
If you’re a highly sensitive person, know that you aren’t broken, you’re just different, in a similar way that one person with a type of knowledge, physical capability, or level of wisdom might react differently to life experiences.
By that, I mean there are both advantages and disadvantages to being a highly sensitive person. If you understand this, you can make better choices.
One perfect example is personal boundaries. Many HSPs find it difficult to put their own needs first, and find saying no to others painful. It’s a beautiful gift to connect with others with such deep compassion, a gift many don’t have, but if you don’t reserve enough ‘me’ time, then you won’t have any of yourself to give.
As an HSP, see your extra sensitivity, compassion, and ability to emotionally connect with others as a powerful gift — but only if you give yourself enough attention first.
2. Approach to love
In love, and in general, many HSPs tend to hide from their feelings. They believe that by bottling down their uniqueness, they can attempt to blend in.
However, if you’re a highly sensitive person, your uniqueness is a gift– not a defect. And, if you hide from that gift, you’ll only experience pain by suppressing how you truly feel.
It’s easy to become obsessed with finding something or someone to “fix” you. But so long as you look outside of yourself, you’ll never be happy.
We all feel as though something is missing within us. I call it “the void” and it manifests in many different ways, from searching for the one to complete us to obtaining wealth, fame, or accolades. However, searching for a partner that is our “missing piece” is by far the most common iteration of that void-filling tendency.
Stop comparing yourself to others, and start appreciating your own special qualities. See yourself as powerful and worthy of love.
An adept HSP knows their worth and feels confident in their uniqueness without needing a relationship to confirm that. Once you get to that point, you’ll be attracted to someone who is loving and emotionally healthy as well, leading to a much stronger and healthier relationship.
3. Approach to success
Hghly sensitive people are even more likely to be self-critical because they’re conditioned to believe that their behavior comes from a place of weakness and imperfection.
This can hold the average HSP back from their own potential for success, because they’re even more likely than the average person to develop a critical inner dialogue, one of the greatest hurdles to personal success.
However, an HSP who has mastered their unique qualities learns to develop self-compassion and self-love, as well as a mindset of self-development through repeated failure. This practice of self-care helps them understand that failure doesn’t point to their own inability, but rather to their lack of knowledge or ability– something that can be improved.
Remember, your heightened sensitivity isn’t a curse, flaw, or defect. It’s an incredible gift that needs to be approached in a kind, caring, and intelligent way. If you can learn to do that, you will find love and success, and help other HSPs do the same.