Are You A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)? Why It Doesn't Mean You're Weak

June 5, 2017

Highly Sensitive Person

If you’ve found your way onto Peaceful Dumpling, you’re likely an avid believer in compassionate living. From diet to lifestyle, you’re probably interested in a life that serves both your body and the planet as well. But there’s also a higher chance that you fall into the category of “Highly Sensitive Person.” HSP’s are exactly as it says on the box: more sensitive than the average person. This is thought to be about 15-20% of the population at large. This can be sensitivity to anything affecting one of the 5 senses but also the emotional body. HSP’s often become overwhelmed more easily than the average person and need time to themselves to reprogram. But learning how best to handle being an HSP will help you immensely. I’m also here to tell you that it can actually be an asset if you let it.

The term “Highly Sensitive Person” was coined in the 1990’s by the psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron. She’s since written a book on the topic that looks at how to navigate the world as an HSP. Her standpoint of HSP being a personality trait rather than a disorder is fundamental in allowing those who live this way to try to see it as a positive thing. If we see something as a disorder, we immediately feel a need to correct it. We feel like there’s something wrong with it. If we see an aspect of ourselves as a personality trait, we can simply accept it as who we are. The latter is incredibly good for our self-esteem.

There are many different ways that we can register as being highly sensitive. These include the following, which have been extracted from Aron’s quiz that can be accessed on her website. This list is by no means exhaustive.

  • Affected by other people’s moods
  • Incredibly sensitive to pain
  • Uncomfortable with loud noises
  • Deeply moved by the arts (music, theater, dance etc)
  • Overwhelmed by bright lights, sirens, flashing lights
  • Become easily stressed when there is a lot to do
  • Troubled by violent news, films, books
  • Embarrassed easily when being watched/observed
  • Feel the need to withdraw in busy situations
  • Notice subtle changes in surroundings

So you see, there are many ways that a person can be sensitive. You might read the above list and notice some of them resonate deeply with you while others not so much. You might find you are highly affected by sound and light and smell when you’re unprepared for them–however, once you get yourself into the right mindset, there’s no problem. We are all unique and interpret our worlds differently, and it is OK to have different needs compared to those of your peers on any given day.

The first step in finding out whether you are an HSP would be to head over to Aron’s quiz and see how many points you check off. If you’re not an HSP, it’s still worth considering learning about those who are so that you can be patient and understanding of HSPs in your life. We might have a sibling, parent, or child who has different needs as an HSP. It’s important that we try our best to see their point of view, even if we are not affected in the way that they are.

If, like me, you have discovered that you are an HSP, you might find comfort in knowing that it is actually a thing. What I mean by that is that it can be nice knowing that all these things you worry about aren’t imaginary. Your nervous system is just a bit more finely tuned than other people’s, and because of that, you need extra time or space to digest the madness of the world around you.

There are some things that I have learned to do for myself over the past couple years that could help you when it comes to living life as an HSP. These include:

  1. Saying “no” to things that you don’t want to do rather than feeling obligated to please others.
  2. Striving for quiet time directly before and after sleep. This means no electronics, bright lights, or loud music.
  3. Communicating your feelings honestly. I always thought that it would make situations worse by expressing something I was unhappy about until I tried it and realized how wrong I was. People appreciate an explanation and honesty. If you don’t like something someone is doing, aren’t happy with how they’re treating you, or whatever else, talk to them about it, and it can often be resolved then and there.
  4. Engage in as many creative pursuits as possible. Expressing yourself through creativity is the best way to get the intensity of both the good and bad out of your system. Doing this allows you to hit the reset button.

HSPs have a lot to contribute to the world. They are often the most understanding people as they feel emotions very intensely. Being acutely sensitive to other people can overwhelm an HSP, but this kind of empathy can also be incredibly powerful and supportive. We all wish for peace and cooperation wherever we are in the world, and the most basic aspect of achieving this is understanding. If you’re an HSP, you know that you have certain needs in order to be able to maintain balance in your life. This also makes you far more understanding of the needs of others. This compassionate way of living makes you far better equipped at living in and encouraging harmony. As you can see, being an HSP can be a real asset–so long as you learn how to manage it. Take pride in your ability to so easily tune-in and connect to other people. The world needs more of us doing so.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person, or do you know any in your life? What strengths do you see in these people?

Also by Kat: 3 Coping Strategies To Help You Fight Depression And Finally Heal

Related: 9 Signs You’re A Sensitive Person (And Why That’s Okay)

Feeling Crazed & Burned Out? Channel Yin With These 5 Grounding Rituals

Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!


Photo:  Unsplash

Kat Kennedy is an Arizona-based physiology doctoral student and holistic health advocate writing about science, health, and her experiences as a third culture kid and global nomad. She's @sphynxkennedy everywhere.


always stay inspired!