“Sensitive people feel so deeply they often have to retreat from the world, in order to dig beneath the layers of pain to find their faith and courage.” ~Shannon L. Alder
Being a highly sensitive person can be rough in a world full of agendas, processes, rules, and numbers. Feelings and senses, being intangible and invisible, are often dismissed because not everyone experiences them in the same way. The intensity of those experiences varies, as well, depending on the individual, which makes it all the more confusing.
Living in a society all about speed and efficiency, feelings can often be perceived as a hindrance to productivity. They are not seen as what they truly are—internal signs and guidance of what needs attention in the present moment.
I came into this world a sensitive empath with a keen intuition. I would pick up energy from my environment, as well as other people, quickly and easily.
Even as a fun-loving and carefree child, I noticed tiny details no one else did and felt things toward them no one else felt. I could be laughing one minute, then at the sight of an injured, struggling bee, stop in my tracks and start to panic because I didn’t want to see it in pain.
I dreaded being sensitive as an adult, especially when I worked in the corporate world. I felt so out of place and different from others, who seemed to just let things roll off their backs and focused on their own goals.
I would sense someone was having personal problems before anyone else knew, or that something was going terribly wrong about a project before it happened, and then I’d want to change direction. I felt those things were more important than the minute detail of who was bringing bagels for the next meeting.
People often saw me as irrational, paranoid, or even difficult because there was no concrete evidence that what I was saying was true. It would take days, weeks, sometimes years for things to surface and prove me right. I often felt frustrated.
For many years, I wished I was less sensitive, that I wasn’t so easily affected by others’ words, expressions, moods, and intentions. I felt my sensitivity had caused me nothing but pain and frustration.
Life would be far easier and less complicated if I wasn’t so sensitive. I could just be blissfully unaware and truck along like everyone else.
The many personal praises I’d received for being kind and compassionate became meaningless because, in my mind, I’d gained nothing in return. I continued to feel overlooked and unappreciated, doubting I had any deeper value to offer the world besides my productivity.
I tried to suppress my feelings for a long time, then went on to read books, join workshops, and acquire self-improvement tools in an attempt to lessen my sensitivity.
Ironically, through that journey, I learned that I had it backwards. I’ve come to not only accept my sensitivity as is, but also see it as a gift and use it every day to my advantage. Now I actually want to strengthen my sensitivity and encourage my feelings to speak louder.
5 Advantages to Being Highly Sensitive
If you see your sensitivity as a liability, as I once did, take a minute to reflect on the many advantages to being highly sensitive…
1. You are self-aware.
You are good at putting yourself in others’ shoes and sensing their feelings. That makes you conscious of your words and actions and how they may affect others.
Having this solid foundation of self-awareness enables you to constantly learn about yourself and how your environment responds to you so you can adjust accordingly if needed. Not everyone has the capacity to respond with sensitivity to others and adapt to unique personalities and situations, but you do, and that helps you along the journey to happiness and personal fulfillment.
2. You are intuitive.
You pick up the abstract and invisible, and you have an ability to detect hidden information. This gives you insights into issues that have not yet surfaced and enables you to identify solutions that benefit you and the people around you.
For example, I was recently put on a call by a client with a web designer I’ve never met. She reacted angrily toward my tardiness (my previous meeting had run late) and the fact I was talking to her in my car and not at my desk.
Even though I’d never spoken with or met her, something told me this wasn’t about me being late. I waited until she was finished and asked her if my client had told her about the design changes I was going to make. She responded immediately: “No, actually this all came as a shock!” I then explained my position and filled in the blanks for her, and she changed her tone right away. She even apologized for her earlier reaction and said that she was having a bad day on top of that.
It was a situation that could have gone very differently if I had taken it at surface value and reacted with annoyance instead of listening to my senses and being empathetic.
3. You have a deep capacity for compassion.
You are compassionate toward others because you feel more deeply and intensely than most. Compassion is one of the most underrated strengths in modern society. While it does not come across as an obvious trait for monetary success, it contributes greatly to anyone’s long-term personal success. It is a required component for love, forgiveness, overcoming setbacks, and sustaining personal and professional relationships.
4. You have higher EQ (emotional intelligence).
You are most likely good at reading others and recognizing what they’re feeling and are better at relationships, whether personal or professional, as a result. Being sensitive to others’ feelings makes you caring and understanding, with a knack for sorting out complicated emotions.
5. You let your heart guide you.
You are soulful and in tune with the essence of who you truly are. Your feelings are the driving force of your desires, needs, and choices in life, which means you don’t simply go through the motions. You are sensitive to subtle internal signs that help you make choices that feel right for you.
5 Steps to Harness Your Sensitivity and Turn it into a Strength
So now that you’ve changed how you perceive your sensitivity, how can you leverage it to help yourself and others?
1. Do not judge yourself.
It’s easy to tell yourself “Stop being so sensitive” or “I have no reason to feel this way” when you hear these things often from others. It’s important to change your internal dialogue and stop shaming yourself for your feelings. They come up for valid reasons and they deserve your attention.
2. Practice gratitude.
Thank the universe for your sharp senses and live as if you consciously chose to have them. The more gratitude you show toward your gift of sensitivity, and all its advantages, the more you will embrace and understand it.
3. Trust the energy or messages you pick up.
You feel what you feel for a reason. Your job is to figure out what that reason is. Regardless of how nonsensical your feelings may seem, respect them, honor them, and explore them further.
Your feelings could be a reaction to someone who triggered something inside you, or they could indicate something that needs to be resolved so you can move forward in life. Trust that your feelings are guiding you toward the next steps in your journey. Don’t react until you have an understanding of the message or lesson to be learned.
4. Establish an emotional (or energetic) boundary.
You likely pick up other people’s feelings and moods so readily and easily it can become confusing or even overwhelming at times. Pay close attention to the way you feel or react. Are your feelings your own, or is your energy being swayed by someone else’s? Whenever your energy is affected by your environment, take a deep breath in through your nose, exhale from your mouth completely. And recenter yourself.
It will also help to practice mindfulness, perhaps by developing a consistent yoga or meditation practice, so you can more easily recognize when you’re being affected by someone else’s energy.
Remember, there will always be people who seem to clash with you. Expect it and let it be okay while maintaining your own emotional space by consciously choosing the energy you want around. If you feel the energy of anger, frustration, or doubt reentering your space, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and choose again.
5. Help others.
Highly sensitive empaths are likely in this world for the purpose of spreading kindness or healing others. Because you have been through so much internally, you have a soft spot for others who are going through painful experiences. Whether you choose to do so as a career or just by being there for someone who crosses your path, you have the ability to touch someone on a deeper level and help release their hurt. Don’t let that talent go to waste!
I hope this has helped you see what a gift sensitivity really is. As you understand your sensitivity and gain more trust and confidence toward it, you will feel more empowered to use it every day to your advantage, just as I have.