Yes, I AM highly sensitive. Are you too?

Highly Sensitive Meditation teacher Stella in a cornfieldI’m a highly sensitive person.

I love peace and quiet. I love to sit and think and feel and day dream.

I’m easily over-whelmed my noise and bright lights and being around a lot of people I don’t know so I tend to avoid large gatherings or come across as quiet and reserved when I’m in them.

I also have a very busy mind which notices all that’s going on around me and is aware of the permutations of a course of action even before I take the first step! And I have a vivid imagination.

I need my time alone each day – and if I don’t get it I wind up anxious, drained and utterly exhausted.

So, what’s wrong with me? …Absolutely nothing!

I am sensitive.

This craving for quiet is an innate characteristic. It’s about how my nervous system works.

About 15-20% of the population have a nervous system which is more sensitive to their surroundings and stimuli.

I’m what’s termed a highly sensitive person.

Are you highly sensitive too?

Sunny glow
Could you easily while away an afternoon watching the shifting sunlight on the waves?

If you tend to be very aware of the subtleties in your environment, if you pick up on other people’s moods, if you need quiet-time on very busy days, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, if you’re overwhelmed by loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, if you startle easy, if you have a rich inner life, then you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP).

We live in a world of open plan workspaces, of group work, of noise and stimulation, of aggression and pushiness. Outgoing people seem to “get on” in life better – being rewarded for their gregariousness by promotions and popularity.

Being sensitive can feel like a curse – we feel EVERYTHING so intensely it can be overwhelming!  We can feel like a square peg in a round hole of our culture.  “Sensitive” is used as an insult. We often feel misunderstood and over-looked.

But I am passionate about the trait of high sensitivity being a gift.

HSPs tend to be more empathetic, more intuitive, more aware, more soulful, deeper thinkers.  We are creative. We think and process deeply which means our ideas and solutions come from a place of awareness not reaction. Which is what our society sorely needs!

And I’ve noticed that the trait of high sensitivity is more well-known in America and less spoken of or written about here in the UK.

So I’m starting this new strand on my blog on being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) alongside my regular blogs about finding stillness and inner strength through yoga , relaxation and meditation (which are subtly aimed at people who are highly sensitive without actually saying as much … Hey, not everyone gets it!  I’m on a mission to educate!).

With my blogs on high sensitivity I will:

  • Stand up for sensitivity – as a gift!
  • Share my experience of life as a highly sensitive introvert
  • Inspire you to appreciate your unique, sensitive gifts

About High Sensitivity

Sweet Pea - highly sensitive people notice the details
Noticing the details

A highly sensitive person is someone with a trait characterized by hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity.

“Sensory Processing Sensitivity” is the scientific name for this trait (known in the mainstream as being a “Highly Sensitive Person”)

The term and trait were developed and popularised by the research and writings of Dr Elaine Aron.

To find out if you’re highly sensitive take the test. (Reveal: I took this test and answered yes to every question)

Dr Elaine N Aron describes high sensitivity thus:

“Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population–too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.

It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it to be in most or all animals, from fruit flies and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others’.

You are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. So even if you wear glasses, for example, you see more than others by noticing more.

You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.

This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called “shy.” But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.

Sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem. They are told “don’t be so sensitive” so that they feel abnormal.”

I’d also like to mention my (unscientific) hunch that there’s a link between high sensitivity and a tendency towards anxiety. That’s totally my experience. I think it’s because our  nervous systems are in a constant state of overwhelm from all of the stimuli around us that we experience the symptoms of anxiety.

It’s our body’s nervous system response to external stimuli i.e. stress hormones are produced. Add to that a tendency to think deeply about things and to notice the moods and energy of other people can easily lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.

There’s nothing wrong with us – it’s more a case of our culture not being aware of or suited to the needs of highly sensitive nervous systems!

So, please join me as I explore high sensitivity and work towards empowering other sensitive love and accept sensitivity and to thrive in an often insensitive world!

Let’s keep in touch

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4 thoughts on “Yes, I AM highly sensitive. Are you too?

  1. Having taken the test, it confirms that I’m highly sensitive too (no surprises there!). And I think that your hunch about there being a link between being highly sensitive and anxiety is spot on. And in my life, I think it contributed to my agoraphobia. Home was a safe haven and the noise, busyness, light and constant stimulation of the outside world was completely overwhelming. Hence the panic attacks and need to be ‘out of the world’.
    Quick question – is the dentist an ordeal? It still is to me, with the noise, lights and bodily space being invaded. Breathing and relaxation techniques work to some extent, but wonder what strategies you employ?

    1. Thanks for sharing Sue. I find social gatherings of people I don’t know the worst – too much to take in AND I’m expected to make small talk? No thank you! But I’ve found realizing it’s because my nervous system gets easily overwhelmed helps me to accept that there’s nothing wrong with me in not finding such situations comfortable. Regarding the dentist – my strategy is all too often avoidance! Naughty me… The main centring practice I use is grounding – feeling the support of the chair or the ground beneath me through my feet. It helps me to get out of my head and to calm my nervous system. Love, Stella xxx

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