Recently there has started to be more awareness around being a highly sensitive person. There are websites and Facebook pages so people who are have highly sensitive qualities now have some resources. That’s a big help as most of these sites say that these sensitive qualities should not be thought of as limitations. Because they aren’t, but most of these places don’t tell how to change what seems like limitations into something else. In this article, I will show you how to change what at first might seem like limitations into strengths.
First, what is being a highly sensitive person, and might you or someone you know have those characteristics?
A Highly Sensitive Person or HSP for short is characterized as having more sensitivity or even hypersensitivity to external stimuli (sights, sounds, smells, lights, crowds, etc.) and a higher or stronger emotional response to situations or events. It’s more common than you might think with up to 20% of the population having these traits. And it’s not just introverted people, 30% of HSP are actually extroverts.
In most cultures being highly sensitive is seen as a disadvantage. For this reason, many people that have highly sensitive qualities are often misunderstood and criticized. They have been called out by teachers or parents as being too sensitive, too quiet or shy, taking criticism too personally, or being too affected by what was going on around them. HSP were already are feeling emotional from a situation or event and then they were criticized for being too emotional about it. That criticism and their own internal dialogs can leave them feeling like they don’t belong, that they should be less emotional, turn down their senses, have thicker skin, or even that something is really wrong with them.
With all the stimuli around us in our modern world, it can be hard to be this sensitive. There is the internet, social media, television, and almost constant exposure to advertising messages that sell products often by implying, “you aren’t good enough, successful enough, or can’t be happy until you have our product.”
These external influences, added on top of any internal critical dialog, can exacerbate sensitivities. So, it’s no wonder why with these heightened perceptions a highly sensitive person can feel like these qualities are limitations as they can make living day to day harder than for other people that do not seem so “sensitive.”
Some of the qualities of a highly sensitive person are:
1- Having strong emotional responses to situations or events– Crying or becoming upset easily.
2- Taking criticism harshly and personally.
3- When making decisions, weighing other people’s feelings higher than their own. So, it can take longer to make decisions and with more internal conflict.
4- Becoming overstimulated or reaching saturation points quickly in loud, bright, frantic environments or even in common places like shopping centers or grocery stores.
5- Needing more alone time to decompress – even if they are very social or extroverted.
6- Becoming anxious around conflict. Often doing everything possible to change the situation, even if the solution hurts the HSP.
7- Not asking for what they want because others might become upset or think the request was too much.
8- Experiencing situations and experiences more intensely.
9- Feeling the emotions behind someone else’s words even when other person isn’t expressing their feelings.
10- Having difficulty in transitions, changing jobs, relationships or even when daily plans unexpectedly change.
Given these definitions and how most cultures see HSP, it can really seem disempowering to be this sensitive. Without tools and training, many of these qualities can feel like a heavy burden and lead to high stress levels, withdrawal, fear of going outside, being around large groups of people and even leading to depression, anxiety, sleep issue, or body health problems.
Often it can seem easier for HSP to withdraw and avoid places where their senses or emotions could be triggered. They can then become reluctant to take risks, even small ones. This cautious behavior can lead to risk avoidance and isolation.
But…What if the mainstream definition of HSP is just the first part the qualities of highly sensitive people? What if by going deeper we can start to see the benefits?
Are HSP people sensitive? Yes! But a better question might be, why are they sensitive? Because HSP are actually Very Aware People. When we change how we define at HSP to be, instead, being very aware, it starts to give us a glimpse of the capacities and benefits of being a very aware person.
#1 Highly Aware people just notice more!
If we change the HSP definition from being highly sensitive to being very aware, that also removes the predisposition that highly sensitive people have to be impacted by the world around them just because they are sensitive.
Why does this matter? Because the words we use create our reality are often much more powerful than we give them credit for. If you call yourself sensitive, by definition that means you “have” to be affected by experiences and the other people around you. Because you are “sensitive” to everything around you. If you are even more than sensitive, you are Empathic, that has an even more forceful definition. Empaths “have to feel” other people’s emotions. If you are an empath you don’t have a choice; you have to feel other’s emotions, just like they were your own feeling. But change those definitions to, you are aware, or you are highly aware and something else happens. You still are aware of the energies and emotions in people around you, so you aren’t suppressing or losing anything, but you don’t have to be as impacted by experiences or others’ feelings and emotions.
Since I was a child, I was sensitive, too sensitive. This was even before there was the HSP definition. So, I thought I was the only person that felt this way and my sensitivity felt like a huge limitation. It was hard for me to be around upset people or people in pain, I could quickly get uncomfortable in noisy or chaotic environments, and I took criticism personally. I didn’t seem to fit in, and it seemed everyone else had it easier, at least emotionally.
After years of work, I was able to discover and develop tools to help change the parts that felt limiting and start to see the capacities and benefits. I no longer consider being sensitive (or more accurately being very aware) as a limitation. I see this as a very powerful strength!
And you can have your qualities become strengths too.
The full definition I use is being “energetically aware.” This encompasses the noticing more that aware people have, what we talked about previously. It also includes things like knowing others unspoken emotions, knowing things without being told, having very accurate intuition, noticing energies and having sensations that might not make sense just yet.
Energetically aware people perceive forces and energies that the general population just doesn’t notice. It’s like how a wine connoisseur or sommelier can taste and describe the flavors that make up a wine, the region it is from, and if it tastes like that style of wine is supposed to taste. While the rest of the population might just notice general characteristics such as this wine taste great, or this wine tastes bad. Is the wine connoisseur a better person for being able to specify qualities about the wine than a person that just likes or dislikes wine? No. They just have a sense or a skill that allows them to notice the subtleties of wine and being able to distinguish wines in this way is also important to them. For the rest of the population liking or disliking wine is often enough, it isn’t as important to them to taste and describe the subtleties.
The general population isn’t affected or isn’t visibly affected by the energies that can affect energetically aware people, so the general population doesn’t notice them. They don’t need to notice them because it isn’t as important for them to notice them. Energetically Aware people can be and often are impacted by these energies, so it is more important for energetically aware people to notice them. Because by noticing these energies, they can then take steps to avoid these energies or to prevent these energies from creating any adverse influences.
You notice more than you think you do.
Now if you didn’t acknowledge you were noticing things that other people couldn’t notice, you might make yourself wrong for becoming uncomfortable or for having to leave a room for “no reason”. What if you actually were noticing strong energies. Maybe from someone currently in the room, or someone that was in the room before, or even if there was a situation that had a big emotional charge recently in that room. If you didn’t acknowledge that, you might think you were weak or that there was something wrong with you when you felt uncomfortable and had to leave.
Now if instead of the example above of noticing sensations in a room that you can’t explain, what if, instead you just walked into a room that had a terrible smell. After noticing that smell might you choose to walk out? Yes, but you wouldn’t think, “I’m weak or there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to be in a room with that awful smell.” What if some of the things that make you feel uncomfortable are just like a bad smell, but instead it is energies you are sensing?
Acknowledging that you notice things that others might not notice is the first step in seeing and then using your qualities as a HSP, or more accurately an energetically aware person.
What to do now
1-Acknowledge you are very aware – Other people do not perceive as much as you do. If you notice something but people around you don’t, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, it just means that they don’t notice it.
2-Acknowledge it to yourself when you notice something. You don’t have to do anything about it, but don’t dismiss that you noticed it. You can ask questions like, “What am I noticing? What is this? Is this related to me?” Your senses are telling you observe at this. When you acknowledge what you are perceiving it then allows your senses to turn down, because they have done their job. They got you to notice it.
3-It can be hard for aware people to be around other people that are in discomfort or have strong emotions that are up. This is like in the above point. Acknowledge to yourself that you sense their discomfort. That allows your senses to turn down. If you can comfort them, yes definitely do that, and also allow them to have their experience. They might need to feel these feelings to move through this experience. You are not responsible for their feelings. You can be with them through this, but even though you can feel their struggle and know what they are going through, you are not responsible for their feelings.
4-When in stimulating environments with many people –We often sense the emotions and energies from people around us and think those are our emotions. First, acknowledge that you are sensing these energies and emotions. Then ask,” Is what I’m feeling, my feelings, or other people’s feelings?” Any feelings that aren’t yours, release. (Just ask these feelings to release, and that is enough to start releasing them.) You don’t have to pay attention or to focus on feelings that aren’t yours. Letting go of other’s feelings makes these environments more enjoyable.
5-Trust your intuition. If you know or feel something is off, trust those feelings. Your intuition is almost always right. You don’t have to have a logical reason, often you just know.
6-When your emotions change for seemingly no reason – ask, “What am I aware of here? Am I noticing something?” Many times, when our emotions change for seemingly no reason, we are noticing other people’s emotions and taking them on as ours. This can be from the person right next to you, friends, family, or even from people not close to you at all. This happens more often than you might think. Any emotions that aren’t yours, release.
7-Learn to use and increase (not suppress) your awareness skills. It’s a bit counter intuitive. But the more you build your awarenesses, the less emotions or energies will surprise you. As you learn how to increase your perceptions, that also shows you how you can turn down perceptions. (After you first notice and acknowledge them.)
Energetically Aware People have great capacities and by using these steps above, they can change what had first seemed like negatives into strengths. The more energetically aware people bring their strengths and capacitates to the world, it creates a world that works better for everyone. What strengths and capacities do you have that you could use to create your life and a world that is better for everyone?
If you would like more information and tools that energetically aware people can use, you can join my empowerment email group below and/or you can take the “Are You Energetically Aware” Quiz to test your level of energetic awareness.
Max Riggs is an Empowerment Coach, helping people see the capacities they have, using their strengths for them rather than against them, and turning anything thought of as a limitation into a strength.