The Simple Sophisticate, episode #44
Abraham Lincoln, Jane Goodall, Princess Diana, Katherine Hepburn, Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Glenn Close, Steve Martin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson.
As you might have guessed each of the well-known individuals listed above either exuded or exudes traits of a HSP. Here are a few more: Frank Lloyd Wright, Ansel Adams, Frida Kahlo, Barbra Streisand, Mozart, Neil Young, Alanis Morisette, Elton John.
Dr. Elaine Aron, who is a research psychologist, university professor and psychotherapist as well as a self-identified HSP, points out that HSPs are “traditionally poets, writers, teachers, doctors, healers, lawyers, scientists, philosophers and theologians.” However, it is important to note that we recognize the names above because each of them embraced the strengths that define HSP.
So what exactly does highly sensitive mean? Aron, the best-selling author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, shares HSPs have an “increased sensitivity to stimulation” and “are more aware of subtleties and process information in a deeper, more reflective way.” And in so knowing the term, it is equally important to note, someone who identifies with being HSP is to know you were born with a sensitive nervous system, it is innate. And if you tap into your full potential, you will be astounded by the gifts you can bring to the world.
A few facts to be aware of:
- Neither female or male have more of a tendency to identify as HSP, but due to certain cultural stereotypical expectations, such as men should not exhibit HSP traits, and women, while more welcomed to embrace them, often do so only to realize that society see such traits as inferior.
- 15-20% of the population is HSP (22% were found to be moderately sensitive)
- Most introverts are HSP, but there are a few extroverts that are HSP as well. Susan Cain’s best-selling book Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking referenced Dr. Elaine Aron’s book frequently.
- Non-HSPs are not inferior or should not be labeled as “insensitive”. The term sensitive is used in psychological terminology involves the nervous system as it is much more than one’s emotions. Anyone can be overwhelmed if too much stimulation occurs, it simply occurs quicker for HSPs and involves a wide array of stimuli that is often disregarded as having the ability to stimulate.
Characteristics of HSPs
1. Conscientious. Keen awareness of subtle details which cultivate a highly accurate intuition. Can be harmful as HSP may resort to being perfectionists or people-pleasers, so it is vital to find a balance.
2. Define “fun” differently. Adult learning classes, lectures, symphonies, art exhibits, opera, yoga, cooking classes, any event that is more intimate and has a thoughtful purpose is more in alignment of fun for HSPs rather than a busy happy hour at a bar, crowded gyms or lively cocktail party.
3. Sensitive to subtle things in the air, lights or fabrics. Hay fever, pollens, scents, odors, itchy fabric are much more perceptible to HSPs.
4. Good at tasks that involve observing minor differences. Scientists, detectives, caretakers, parents, teachers, psychologists, etc.
5. Able to focus and concentrate deeply.
6. Have an active imagination. The creative mind is the engine of the HSP and ideas can spark at any moment.
7. Prefer conversations of substance, philosophy, feelings, struggle, and dislike idle, pointless chitchat.
8. Due to society supposing they are flawed as revealed in a study shared in Dr. Elaine Aron’s book, many have a battered self-confidence and low self-esteem. However, once the HSP discovers the error made by society, they can reframe their past experiences and thrive.
9. Many who find their dream job, find a vocation that is focused or dealing with finding meaning for their life. HSPs are curious individuals and because they are conscientious, desire to find ways to help, improve and progress themselves and society.
10. Able to process material at deeper levels. Many HSPs may have heard the critique, “You over-analyze everything”, but so long as the analysis isn’t taken down a destructive path, it can lead to wonderful creations, inventions and ideas.
11. Typically a “Morning Person”, although there are exceptions. Because HSPs tend to have a hard time sleeping as they are sensitive to their environment paired with an active mind, they will wake up early and want to get the day started as they have things they want to accomplish and are acutely aware of the finite time available to them.
12. Enjoy time at home to decompress. (Read #16 in the list of Things Needed to Thrive to understand why.)
13. Over-arousal may lead to not participating in activities with others that you might have enjoyed in other circumstances, and thus, you may have heard “You’re missing out!” which builds worries, regrets and guilt that is misplaced. Staying home rather than participating if you are already overwhelmed will ensure when you do decide to participate, you will enjoy the experience.
14. Have heard common phrases such as “What is the matter with you?” and “Stop being so sensitive.”
15. Self-reflect more regularly.
16. Aroused more intensely by new and prolonged stimulation.
17. Greatest social fulfillment tends to come from close relationships, and this is where you are able to shine. HSPs are quite skilled in close,personal relationships, but can put up a wall if hurt in the past.
18. Due to low self-esteem (because society didn’t view the HSP traits as the ideal), you may fall in love with someone very much your inferior. (Listen to the podcast for an intriguing study about why so many college students “fall in love” during their first year.)
19. Tend not to share openly with just anyone. Colleagues or acquaintances may not understand this behavior and may label HSPs as aloof, arrogant and/or cold. Ultimately, it comes down to not wanting “to play politics”.
20. Group brainstorming and team projects are not as productive as you feel stifled and limited.
21. Excel at being self-employed as you can control your hours, stimulation, kinds of people you deal with and unlike many first-time entrepreneurs, will probably be conscientious about research and planning before you take any risks. However, be aware you may worry excessively and unnecessarily, and you may be inclined to work unthinkable hours as your creative minds is full of ideas.
22. Due to high intuition, can perceive trends in markets, and needs and potential before others do.
23. Find tranquility in nature, especially water.
24. Observant and therefore, very successful in understanding and building relationships of trust with children and animals.
25. Sensitive to pain.
26. Have an artistic side you enjoy expressing.
What a HSP Needs to Thrive:
1. Balance. When it comes to arousal and overstimulation, getting to know yourself is crucial. Know and be able to recognize when you are over-aroused, so you can either prevent such situations from happening or have a plan about how to tactfully remove yourself.
3. Plenty of downtime.
4. Daily alone time.
5. Rest. Retire when you become sleepy. Establish clear evening rituals to signal to your mind that you are going to bed soon. Create a sleeping environment that is conducive to a restful night’s sleep.
6. Clear communication. With your significant other, friends, family, colleagues, communication is key, but it is crucial for a HSP as most people are not similar in experience as they as so long as those you are communicating with are wanting to build a relationship with you, they will be thankful for the heads up.
7. Relationships that strike the balance of giving to others and giving to yourself. If someone cannot or will not try to understand what you need, you may need to move on, but often, it simply takes communication. Dr. Elaine Aron points out that many might assume that two HSPs in a romantic relationships would be best, while others may think a ying and yang would be better. However, it truly depends on the two individuals. One a side note, she does admit that if two HSPs are in a relationships, and they both know their tendencies, they are likely to be more understanding of each other and thus foster a more supportive and less contentious partnership.
8. Time to step away from ordinary thinking – prayer, meditation, any activity that takes your mind off of your thoughts and onto the task at hand. Cooking, reality television shows, etc.
9. Spend time in nature.
10. Find and enjoy water: rain, lakes, ocean, rivers, simply drinking it regularly and often.
11. At work, choose to cultivate intense relationships where your emotional sensitivity can run free, outside of work as many may not understand.
12. Establish independence and a strong sense of self and identity. HSPs have a strong need for independence as they abhor feeling trapped.
13. Take time-outs from heated or emotional interactions. Feeling over-aroused or trapped, step away, postponing not ending the conversation.
14. Take a walk, care for your body.
15. Accept the “loneliness” that many non-HSP identify with HSPs. Time alone is the “giftedness”, as Aron describes, that comes with being a HSP. Without this time, we couldn’t reach our full potential.
16. Discover and cultivate intangible containers as well as tangible containers. A tangible container, such as a home, a car, a library or a person are places where we feel safe and can relax. When we know we have containers that provide sanctuary, we find more strength to go out into the world with all of its stimulation. Intangible containers can be found in each of us, something that nobody can take away from us: our faith, our creative mind, spiritual meditation, etc.
17. Experience new things and realize most of what you will encounter will leave you safe. Experience positive new events builds your self-esteem and self-confidence, opening your eyes to what you are truly capable of.
18. Simple is best. When there is too much stuff, clutter, or an extremely busy schedule, we become overwhelmed and are unable to perform at our best. Simplicity is a HSPs best friend.
19. More HSPs need to be present in public roles. In order to reveal to societies the gifts that are available, we must have people of both types (non-HSPs and HSPs) in pivotal publish positions. The balance in public life will make it much easier for everyday HSPs going about their lives.
At the heart of living a simply luxurious life is getting to know yourself, and if along your journey of self-discovery you realize you are a HSP, it will hopefully be a moment of aha, perhaps a burden or weight is lifted from your shoulders as it was from mine.
Being a HSP, while not rare, is something most people do not have the fortune to embody. So as you move forward, embracing all of your amazing strengths and learning how to handle weaker tendencies, know that you have something amazing to offer the world. Now you must get about the business of reveling in your full potential.
~The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Dr. Elaine Aron
What was TSLL doing during the podcast’s hiatus last Monday? Click below to find out!
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~Confidence: How to Gain It and Why It’s Invaluable (podcast, episode #5)
The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, podcast
The Splendid Table cookbook (copyright 1992)