Do you find that you are more sensitive to your environment than most other people you know?
When you buy clothing, does the texture of the fabric impact your purchasing decision? Are you likely to cut off the tags on your newly purchased clothing or accessories because they irritate or make you uncomfortable?
Are you easily overwhelmed in a loud or chaotic environment?
Do you tend to overthink something someone said or did or the way they said or did it?
Does being around nature recharge your spirit, your energy?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, congratulations, you are probably one of the “rare” highly sensitive personalities! Don’t panic. It isn’t a diagnosis or a form of mental illness, and no – it’s not another way of saying you are autistic as some might try to tell you. It is simply a personality trait and one that, only in recent times, is starting to get the attention it deserves.
15 Tell Tale Signs of a Highly Sensitive Person
Here are 15 telltale signs that you might be a highly sensitive person.
- I find that I am more sensitive to my environment than most other people I know.
- When I buy clothing, the feel of the fabric impacts my purchase decision.
- I race to cut of the tags because they irritate my skin or make me uncomfortable.
- I am easily overwhelmed in a loud or chaotic environment.
- I tend to overthink something someone said or did, or the way they said or did it.
- Being around nature recharges my spirit and energy.
- I sometimes find myself questioning the intent behind what others say and do.
- Too much of a stimulus can become irritating after a while.
- I am highly attuned to the emotions and needs of others.
- I appreciate calming or very simplistic forms of music, colors, and decorations.
- I tend to be highly conscientious and prone to being deeply affected by criticism or negative feedback.
- I’ve been told, “You’re too sensitive.”
- I can read a room and the people in it quite quickly, because I’m perceptive of the emotions of others.
- I like routine, organization, plans, and schedules. They protect me from sudden changes, disappointments, and setbacks.
- I require downtime to recharge from social interactions.
To see 20+ more signs of a highly sensitive person, you can take the Highly Sensitive Person test. However, please keep in mind that this assessment or inventory is not a “diagnosis” as it is not an illness. The assessment is an invitation to explore your inner world. Based on your findings, you may wish to connect with a therapist or specialized coach to improve on your “superpower.” Also, to be clear, it is possible to be sensitive in one or some of these areas and not others.
Related Resource: To learn more about HSP download this free e-book called Flawed Superhero.
What is a Highly Sensitive Person?
The Highly Sensitive Personality (HSP from here on in), is someone whose nervous system is highly attuned to their environment. As I look back on my life, I see instances where even as a small child, I was expressing signs of this.
There was the trip to a carnival as a small child (maybe 6?) which I barely remember. I had to ask my sister about it as I was writing this, because my memory of the event is so vague. Here’s all I remember: there was a mannequin playing an organ and I saw fake blood and hair come from somewhere. The pitch of the organ seared through me and the sight of the fake blood and hair terrified me. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. It didn’t matter how many times someone said “it isn’t real.” It was real to me.
Around the same age, I walked in on my parents “play wrestling” and I thought for sure they were really angry and fighting and I screamed for them to stop. (I was not a screamer.)
As I got older and went into junior high and high school, the smell of all the young mens’ cologne and girls’ perfumes hitting me all at once, made me sick to my stomach. To this day, there are foods I cannot eat simply because the texture is gross.
How is this HSP thing a “superpower” if so far, everything I’ve described is not a positive trait necessarily?
What are Highly Sensitive People Good At?
HSPs can often read a room and the people in the room quite quickly. If you have an HSP as a friend, they’re likely the one that can tell when something isn’t quite right with you, even if you put on an academy award winning act. Usually, they are at least partially accurate. Because of this “superpower” HSPs are often the one(s) to say what you need to hear before you know how to articulate to how you feel.
They’re usually the friend(s) you go to for advice, knowing that they are most likely to not only tell you what you need to hear, but will do it with gentleness and kindness most of the time. No one is perfect, of course. We don’t always get things right.
At this point, maybe you’re wondering: what’s the difference between being HSP and being intuitive – or an empath? That’s a great question. Before I answer that, I’ll quickly define what an empath and intuitive is.
Related Resource: To learn more about HSP download this free e-book called Flawed Superhero.
Are Highly Sensitive Personalities also Empaths and Intuitive?
What is an Empath?
An empath has a unique ability to feel another person’s emotions as if they are their own- even without being physically present.
They are often skilled helping practitioners, therapists, coaches, mentors or ministers. The downside is, as you can imagine, this ability to sense and experience another person’s emotions can lead to emotional and mental exhaustion that manifests in physical illness.
An empath’s ability to sense energy and feeling is not limited to people only. An empath can also sense nature’s energy as well. If that sounds strange, I’d encourage you to look into the science of how plants and all living things are actually sentient beings. Energy is in everything.
As an example, I have a dear friend that told me a story about her neighbor who decided to have 50 pine trees cut down. The trees weren’t diseased or dying. They were an – inconvenience to him. Her eyes welled up as she told me this story months after it happened. “I thought something was wrong with me,” she said about the profound loss she felt over the event. I knew the opposite was true. She is a highly intuitive empath. My friend felt the life force/energy from these sentient beings get ripped from the earth! If that isn’t hard enough for an empath, she then overheard the wood chipper turn these beautiful innocent beings into mulch!
I not only empathized with her, I celebrated her gift to be able to feel it! She’s learning to appreciate these deep feelings as superpowers that help her connect to and perceive the world around her. Seen and unseen.
Are HSPs and Empaths One in the Same?
The fact is not all HSPs are empaths. It is my opinion and experience that HSPs become empaths only as they learn to appreciate and nurture the positives of being an HSP. Like every personality trait, there are both positives and dark sides to each, so it’s crucial an HSP learns to curb the dark sides while appreciating the strengths and developing them further. Someone who has not learned this important distinction and skill will often find relationships impossible to navigate. The tendency to overthink and project can devastate a young and fragile relationship. The intense sensitivity can become an obstacle to intimacy and growth in a relationship. I had to learn a lot of this the hard way and in multiple situations. I don’t recommend that method!
So how does intuition come into all of this?
Each one of us has 2 brains. There’s the one in your skull, and there’s your “gut.” I am quickly paraphrasing, so please do some additional research. In a nutshell, the communication between your primary brain and your gut is made possible by your vagus nerve. Latin for “wandering,” the vagus nerve is actually a bundle of nerves. It starts at the base of your skull and “wanders” all the way down to your abdomen. The term “gut feeling” comes from the activity of this part of your nervous system. Gut feelings are “intuition.” Assuming you have a functioning autonomic nervous system, you have gut feelings. So while you may not be an empath as described above, or an HSP, you do have intuition. Whether or not you listen to it or develop it is an entirely different matter and a personal decision.
I happen to be all 3. I am Empath, HSP and Intuitive. I did not always appreciate these qualities or see them as such. Especially earlier in my life I would constantly hear things like: “You’re too sensitive.” At that I shut down and withdrew, thinking that my feelings were unimportant or worse – invalidated. However, I can cite many examples of how listening to my intuition saved my life.
The most dramatic example of this is when I was a small child walking home from school one day. I felt that I was being watched and my gut told me I wasn’t wrong. Sure enough as I glanced a look across the street I saw a blue car, slowly creeping along the road. I couldn’t see anyone in it, but I knew it wasn’t driving itself. I intuitively knew I needed to walk faster and I did. Within seconds, I chucked my tin Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox and books aside and ran like I’ve never run since.
I could have been a statistic that day, but my God-given intuition and -I’m guessing -a team of angels, helped save my life. (How else did I jump over 4 foot tall hedges?) My stalker/potential abductor didn’t give up easily. I hid behind those hedges for what felt like eternity.
The other times I listened to my intuition weren’t quite as dramatic, but I do believe it saved me from a few potentially abusive relationships.
The most important thing I can tell you about your intuition is: listen to it. Do not second guess it- especially when it is potentially a life or death situation or a relationship that isn’t coming together naturally and peaceably. There’s a reason you feel what you feel. Believe in it. Believe in yourself.
- For more about your vagus nerve, please watch this free Masterclass called You’ve Got a Nerve as well as the free Companion Guide here. To learn more about HSP download this free e-book called Flawed Superhero.
- https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empaths-survival-guide/201706/the-diference s-between-highly-sensitive-people-and-empaths
- Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve, Stanley Rosenberg