Once upon a time I was browsing through my local library and came across a book titled Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person by Barrie Yaeger, Phd. I grabbed it off the shelf and brought it home without looking inside. That book began a much deeper dive into a more thorough understanding of myself and what it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP. I found parts of me in those pages. The term Highly Sensitive Person was coined by Elaine Aron, Phd. She has a series of books addressing HSP’s. Elaine created a quick and simple way to introduce high sensitivity through the acronym DOES (D=Depth of Processing, O=Overstimulation, E=Emotional Reactivity and S=Sensing the subtle). Highly sensitive people tend to think very deeply, considering all aspects of an issue, concern or situation often leaving no stone unturned. We are hard wired to notice the details including sounds, temperature, smells, others emotions, lighting, textures like scratchy clothing, flavors and so on. Observing a beautiful piece of art can be a six sensory experience to an HSP. We take it all in. Walking through the world with heightened sensitivity can be challenging and at times overstimulating even if one is experiencing something fun. I used to make beaded jewelry regularly for fun and could get overstimulated in a bead store. There were so many choices and decisions to make. It’s far more challenging to navigate more intense life situations such as driving in a large city to a job interview or having an emotionally charged conversation. It is easy to respond in less desirable ways when under these types of pressures. There is so much more to this high sensitivity trait including the types of jobs we are best suited to: Counseling, Guides, Consultants, Creative Arts, Self-Employment, Virtual Employment and other employment where we have control over our environment, breaks and scheduling.
One of Elaine Aron’s books is titled The Undervalued Self. In short, it touches on how easily an HSP can undervalue their self worth. We comprise about 20% of the world’s population. It’s pretty darn easy to undervalue yourself when you think you need to be like the other 80% of the population to navigate the world effectively. In fact, we aren’t intended to function like the larger percentage of people. All we need to do really is be ourselves and be recognized for what we do best and do it in the environment that allows for the most success. I am oversimplifying here for the sake of this article as there is much more to being an HSP and all the feelings one might have around this identification. Today I’m drawing attention to one of the positive aspects, heightened awareness. Tuning into my surroundings can allow me to see and feel good opportunities as they come to me and equally important to steer away from people or situations that are not helpful to me. This type of awareness could also be called intuition. HSP’s can be like ninjas if we allow it. Magnetize the helpful or good and leap over or deflect that which is really not for you. Words are powerful. They can define us if we allow it. There is a feeling around the word sensitivity that others could perceive as weakness. Let me assure you that it takes a great deal of strength to walk around in a sensitive body. I really like using the words Highly Aware when I discuss my sensitivity. It feels more empowering even if it’s challenging at times to be in this body. It’s the body I’ve got and I’m going to make the most of it.