Step 5: What Does it Mean to be a Highly Sensitive Person?
Has anyone ever told you that "you are too sensitive," or "you need to toughen up," or "you're overthinking things?" Or perhaps you are that person offering this advice to someone else.
In keeping with the theme of this series of improving our self-worth, understanding how we are created is paramount and valuable. Statistics tell us that 20 percent of the population identifies with being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and most likely a large portion of the population lives with a child, or a spouse that is this way. (Equal number of men and women are highly sensitive, so this is not gender specific.) What does this mean? People born with this genetic trait have a highly receptive nervous system. They feel and think deeply about most things. They are more easily overstimulated by the world around them. Noise, chaotic situations, and deadlines cause them increased levels of stress and they need more downtime. They react strongly to feedback, both positive and negative. They are especially sensitive to criticism.
Now this may seem all negative for the HSP. Not so. All personalities are God's gift to the world. The highly sensitive are NOT highly flawed, they are the beating heart of creativity, imagination, intuition, and empathy. A HSP is far more open to subtleties in the environment around them. They notice details that others do not. They are emotionally reactive and compassionate and are often deeply spiritual people. HSP's often feel what others feel. What would the world be like without these wonderful qualities? It does not mean the rest of the populace does not have these qualities; it merely means they do not flow as intuitively.
However, life can be incredibly challenging when a person experiences, feels, thinks, and processes everything deeply. If you find yourself as one of the 20% or live with someone who is…there is good news. Understanding that we are all created differently and endeavouring to learn about each other and/or embrace our individuality can change a life, a marriage, a family.
According to Elaine Aron, an American clinical research psychologist and author of the Highly Sensitive Person which has sold over a million copies, her well-researched idea that HSPs are deeply affected by their environments, "for better and for worse" is value information. A difficult childhood to a HSP is more likely to cause depression, anxiety, or shyness. However, conversely, a good childhood for the HSP will result in that person having greater success than those who are not sensitive. For further reading on Differential Susceptibility here is a very good article. https://hsperson.com/why-differential-susceptibility-is-so-important-for-you/
Personal story of Suzie:
On a personal level, before I understood HSP, I was ashamed of my reactivity. So I did what people around me thought I should do rather than what would help me thrive, gain confidence, and embrace who I am as a Highly Sensitive Person. With knowledge and a few healthy adjustments (such as daily quiet time, not comparing myself to others, knowing that my HSP battery charges slowly and drains quickly, and accepting myself for who God created me to be) I am happy to say that I now embrace this God-given trait. I am proud to be a Highly Sensitive Person and the advantages this brings to my family.
If you find you identify with the HSP, be encouraged, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps.139:14) Just like me, you have the capability to embrace your sensitivity through understanding and knowledge. Or maybe you recognize the trait in a friend or loved one and want to understand how to help them thrive. Below are some resources to begin learning.
· Book: The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron
· Information: Julie Bjelland, LMFT, is a psychotherapist specializing in high sensitivity, author of The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person, and host of The HSP Podcast. Her online courses, blog, and free webinars have helped thousands of highly sensitive people.
· Free Sensitivity Quiz
· Elena Herdieckerhoff Ted Talk on being Highly Sensitive 15 minutes
(Disclaimer: Both Suzie and I are women of faith and agree with everything in this video except Elena's view at the very end on John Lennon's Song, Imagine, as it flies in the face of our beliefs. We can't begin to imagine a world without our loving Jesus, nor would we want to.)
Suzie and I became fast friends in high school, never knowing what God had in store for our future. Her quest to understand who she was and flourish, has made her a resource specialist. My ability to write fiction with purpose has allowed these two qualities from two highly sensitive people to come together in harmony.
In my latest book, Jeanette's Gift, I have created a character who is highly sensitive to the world around her. She feels deeply for the plight of a family without a mother. As a teacher, she is keenly aware of the disparaging differences between the haves and the have nots. All her life she has longed to be loved by a man who will see beyond the glasses, the shyness, the plain-faced one.
Of course, being set in the 1800s Jeanette did not have all the information we have today, so between the help of a wise older woman, and the truth of Scripture, the message of growing in self-worth blossoms upon the pages.
Both Suzie and I know we would be nothing without our dear Jesus who has led us toward healing from childhood pain, allowed us to celebrate our highly sensitive personalities, and flourish in an often unkind world.
We believe with all our heart that God will do the same for you. If you feel that you are one of the 20 percent, we encourage you onward, to learn and be all you were meant to be as a creative, empathic, imaginative, intuitive HS YOU.
Written by Blossom Turner and Suzie Zanewich
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