I’m pretty certain I was born sensitive. My earliest memories all revolve about feeling intensely. And this is exactly how I define sensitivity: feeling with intensity. It’s about having a deep inner emotional world and noticing subtleties others often don’t seem to be impacted by. Scientists actually have a technical name for people like me. We’re called The Highly Sensitive Person, and it even comes with its own awesome acronym: HSP. Cool, huh? Maybe. But it’s a tough world to be a sensitive person in. Yet, you all need us. We have a superpower. Seriously. We’ll get to that part later.
It’s tough for HSPs to grasp how others could miss what seems to be so glaringly important and obvious to us. What hits us deep in our hearts and even our souls, we can’t ignore. But HSP’s are only approximated to be 15-20 percent of the population. So we live in a minority, often feeling pretty alone and misunderstood in how we experience the world.
Music was usually at the center of my earliest sensitive memories. I would be deeply moved (usually to tears) by music of all kinds. Just a twist on a music box could get me going. It just needed the right tempo, chords, and rhythm. I remember being little and crying when my mom would play Cannon in D on piano at night. My brother, somehow hearing my snuffles or sobs, would soon yell downstairs, “Mom! She’s crying again.”
My mom would come to comfort me only to hear me say, “It’s just so beautiful.” Probably a great compliment to her, I mean who wouldn’t want to hear that response? I love that little me who felt so deeply and honestly. She inspires me. But remembering her also reminds me that this was when my baggage began to collect.
Those words: she’s crying again. In part, they told me something was wrong with me and my tears. From what I could tell, no one else was impacted like I was. I seemed to be different and different didn’t seem so great. So the baggage began showing up and by baggage, I really mean my shame. The shame of my sensitivity. The shame that said something was wrong with me.
My parents, my sister, my brother, teachers, friends, boyfriends often didn’t know what to do with my emotions. Why would they? I came into this world wired differently and frankly, how could they relate? So, unintentionally, I began to be filled with shameful messages of being too much. Too emotional. Too dramatic. And yes, of course, too sensitive.
I worked really hard to tone it down and build a tougher skin. I heard that message a lot as well, that I should “toughen up.” If I could be tougher, then I thought I would be more liked and sadly, I also believed I would be more loveable. I started to played rugby in college for this reason. I’ll be honest, I was really good because I’m an athlete… but it didn’t do much to embrace my sensitive side. Because to toughen up, I had to care less. I had to be less invested in how matters impacted the heart of others and myself. Overall, I wasn’t very successful … because it was never who I was. And when you’re literally wired to be a certain way, there’s not much you can do about it.
See this is the superpower of being sensitive. We care so much. So much that sometimes we’re flooded, overwhelmed, and don’t know what to do. But we care so much. I believe our superpower helps the remaining 80-85% of you notice what matters. Like our relationships, our connections to each other, how we treat each other, our animals, our environment and our world. I like to imagine more HSPs becoming great influential leaders so that we can transform what has been otherwise cold, uncompassionate, and uncaring. But to become these great leaders, we cannot carry our baggage of shame. We cannot believe we are too much.
A dear friend of mine (a fellow HSP) shared that when she gets in arguments with her partner and her sensitivity becomes activated, she fires back, “I’m special and you’re really lucky to have me.” I love this! I love how she embraces and transforms what could otherwise be shameful into owning her superpower of being sensitive.
We all play a part here. Those of us who identify with feeling intensely need to embrace how much of an incredible gift this truly is. To commit to showing up with our big ol’ hearts open so that we can help others open their hearts too. For those of you who love us sensitive types, just love us. See our gifts, learn from us and create space for our sensitive souls. Try not to shame us by telling us we’re too much but instead try being curious. It’s hard to understand our intensity, I can get that. Just try imagining anything you might feel being 10 times stronger. That’s essentially what it is like for us on the inside. When we see an animal or person suffering, our hearts literally break. We are then more compelled to help and take action. For me that can include needing to bring home shelter dogs or feeling the pain and panic when we pass an accident on the road. It’s only because we feel it all more deeply — happiness, sadness, excitement, fear.
Together we can transform the shameful baggage of sensitivity. Together we can see the superpowers of sensitivity and use them for good, not evil. And while some of us may be more inclined to be sensitive, I wholeheartedly believe we all have big hearts inside. Maybe we could work on having less armor around our hearts and allow for more of our hearts to be known.
If you want to learn more about HPS and take a quick assessment here is a great link: https://hsperson.com