Your heart beats wildly, you’re nervous. You go to say something or talk about how someone makes you feel…and nothing… you’re silent. Almost terrorized by your own translucent fear. But what fear? How is this even actually scary?
The path to discovering I was a “highly sensitive person” was filled with little inklings of previous nervousness and anxiety about professing my feelings for someone I knew already liked and cared about me. Anytime I thought about saying anything from “I really care about you” to “I missed you” nothing came out. All the things I wanted to say stemmed from a deeper root cause. A root attached to a lot of emotion. Naturally a fear came with it, not because I was in any immediate danger but because if I were to say just this one thing it would be linked to many feelings and memories, for me. I would think about saying something and I would relive or recall all the memories and feelings that happened to get to this place of how I feel now… “I missed you”. So what is the fear that came with this? Tears.
I avoid, quite often, saying things that are really important for people to hear, things people should hear, even things I know they want to hear. I know with the way I process things –so strongly and with so much thought and feeling I would most definitely start to tear up when I begin to mention or address them. When it comes to anything serious I might as well be a fish or a mermaid with the way my tear ducts spill water.
Here I am in my mid-twenties and I have finally figured out something about myself previously unrealized. Even though I consider myself fairly tough, I am highly sensitive. Although, it may sound like something really “girly” it’s not. It’s actually a fairly common innate personality trait that 1 in 5 people possess and there are different levels to being a HSP.
Dr. Elaine Aron first started researching high sensitivity in 1991 and continues to do research on it now. Publicizing this trait and notifying the world of how common but not well understood it was in the early 90's she gained some traction in introducing it to others.
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 extroverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion.
While it is still not well understood it is being seen more and more. Aron addresses that this trait is too common amongst people to be a disorder. It is also found amongst other species. HSP reflects a certain type of survival strategy; observing more before acting, which is beneficial to more than just one species.
While this trait can be a plus it can also cause more stress, not only because you may sometimes be fighting strong emotions but since highly sensitive people overly notice everything they become easily-overwhelmed or stimulated when things are too chaotic or complex (So try to be kind to the HSP in your life).
Aron addresses an important point in all of this, being that this is NOT abnormal regardless of how sensitivity is valued or perceived in your culture. Having emotion is okay, it is what makes us human. A culture that perceives it well is great but if you don't have that at least make sure you surround yourself with people who do well in accepting your sensitivity. Having supportive and understanding friends and family will only make your journey easier and helps lessen sensitivity.
Huffington Post's Top habits of Highly Sensitive People
1. They feel more deeply.
2. They're more emotionally reactive.
3. They're probably used to hearing, "Don't take things so personally" and "Why are you so sensitive?"
4. They prefer to exercise solo.
5. It takes longer for them to make decisions.
6. They are more upset if they make a "bad" or "wrong" decision.
7. They're extremely detail-oriented.
8. Not all highly sensitive people are introverts.
9. They work well in team environments.
10. They're more prone to anxiety or depression (but only if they've had a lot of past negative experiences).
11. That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person.
12. Violent movies are the worst.
13. They cry more easily.
14. They have above-average manners.
15. The effects of criticism are especially amplified in highly sensitive people.
16. Cubicles = good. Open-office plans = bad.
For more information on Highly Sensitive People we recommend the Telegraph's: Highly Sensitive People, a condition rarely understood.