“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” ~ Mother Teresa
Are you often told that you are “too sensitive,” too emotional” or “too needy?” Do you think more deeply about things and worry more than an average person? Do you prefer quiet environments? You are not alone. Actually, according to Elaine N. Aron, who first developed and researched this term in early 1990’s, it is quite common; with as many as one in five people possessing traits of highly sensitive people.
Many times they suffer from anxiety and depression which can turn into severe clinical depression if they don’t get professional help. They often try to please others and feel guilty when they are not able to meet their needs. Research also indicate that highly sensitive account for 15% to 20% of the population, which makes up quite a large percentage of humanity. Yet we’ve often been led to believe that sensitivity is a weakness.
Highly sensitive people also often choose careers that are not your average as they are very sensitive to the environment and they prefer to work alone as to avoid harsh criticism and having to answer a demanding boss. These includes musicians, interpreters (I was one of them once), as well as people being on call, such as medical professionals. They all have one thing in common: they often feel misunderstood, alone, under-appreciated, and over-worked.
What makes highly sensitive people different from the average person and also makes them want to run away and hide?
- They are easily overwhelmed. They get easily overwhelmed by their environment whether this represents other people or loved ones, as well as bright lights, noise, strong smells, loud music, or sirens. They are often light sleepers and they have struggled with insomnia due to worrying about what had happened during the day, for example. They also tend to analyze everything.
- They feel guilty all the time. Highly sensitive people who work in non-traditional jobs many times cannot see family or friends often and they feel guilty about it. They feel more than most people and therefore, it’s not easy for them just to let it go. They feel bad when they miss a family dinner, birthday party, or a social event. Many times they are not able to make plans more than a week in advance and many of them even work on weekends. Consider people who work a graveyard shift or interpreters – no such thing as a weekend. When everyone celebrates, they need to work. They are also very conscientious, hardworking, meticulous, and detail-oriented.
- They need privacy. They are often introverted and need time to think and reflect. Others may misunderstand their behavior as being “snooty” or “antisocial.” Many highly sensitive people have learned from a young age that they need to keep their feelings and thoughts to themselves as they have been told that they were “weird” or “cry babies.” As children, they were often seen as shy. They also prefer to exercise solo. Highly sensitive people tend to avoid team sports as they feel that everyone is watching their every move.
- They feel unappreciated. Musicians are on the top of the list here. Music and art are generally considered an “extra curriculum.” Many times they are not taken seriously as they don’t have a “real job.” Few people know how much work and dedication it takes to become a well-known musician. Not everyone can be the next Beatle. Think about bass players. The average music lover pays very little attention to bass and what it does for the music that they are listening to. Mostly, the lead singer and the guitarist are given the kudos. So they learn to stay in the background not getting the praise that they deserve.
- They are more emotionally reactive as they feel more deeply. Generally speaking, highly sensitive people have more empathy when their friends – or even strangers – are going through challenges. They feel everything on a deeper level and they are usually very intuitive. They make good social workers, teachers, and counselors. However, they need to learn how to take better care of themselves as they are prone to professional burnout. This was one of the first things that I had experienced as a new counselor trying to do more than I could handle which led to frequent colds and illnesses as the immune system gets compromised….continue reading »»»»»»
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