Thought Catalog

This Is What Life Is Like When You’re A Highly-Sensitive Person

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Matthew Henry

I have always been sensitive. Deeply sensitive. Heart-wrenchingly sensitive. For most of my life I felt like I was walking around without skin on. Exposed, open, affected by everything around me. As a child I knew I was different. I soaked up other’s moods like a sponge, and felt like my emotions were on overdrive all the time. Because I was so easily upset, I was misunderstood and teased often. “You’re too high-strung, you’re too dramatic, too sensitive, too emotional, too nervous, etc.” As a result, I bought into the myth that sensitivity is a weakness and I began to feel flawed, damaged, not good enough. I began to fight hard to hide my sensitivity, to hide who I truly was.

As I grew older, this sense that I didn’t belong only grew stronger. I felt messy and vulnerable. In an effort to disconnect from the massive swells of emotion running through me that carried twinges of shame, I became cripplingly perfectionistic. Sharply focused on the things I thought I “should” be doing and what others thought of me, I began to lose a sense of who I truly was or what my dreams were. I got straight A’s, never talked back, always dressed impeccably and built a successful career- but I was incredibly unhappy, and I felt lost and inauthentic.

For those who don’t know, an HSPs is someone who processes sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems. Because of this HSPs have a harder time filtering out stimuli such as noise and light, and get more easily overwhelmed by their environment. HSPs also feel things more deeply than others, both physical and emotional. An empath is someone who can deeply perceive emotions in others and actually feel what they feel. You can be neither, one, or both. I am both.

By the time I realized this in my mid-20s, I had sunk into a deep pool of self-destruction. Like many HSP/empaths, the experiences of my childhood had given me the message that I was unacceptable as I was. The truth is that people are afraid of what they don’t understand. And because that high of a level of sensitivity is not the norm, it can make people uncomfortable. But in my child mind, I could not comprehend this, and only knew that I felt overwhelmed and defective. Many HSP/empaths are prone to addiction to deal with this sense of overwhelm and shame. To try and turn off the chaos of life around them. For me, it was a serious eating disorder. My quest to be perfect to make up for my “flaw” almost killed me.

After a long journey of recovery hard work to love and accept myself, I had the most incredible experience. While I was being trained as a life coach, the other students were saying things to me like “OMG, you’re so sensitive and intuitive, it’s amazing”. This was a paradigm shift moment for me. That this trait I had ran from for so long could actually be… admirable?

The truth is that HSPs are naturally creative, and are gifted with a high level of intuition and empathy. Their deep compassion and awareness drives them to want to help others and change the world. Highly sensitive people are natural visionaries, peacemakers, creatives and humanitarians. I finally began to realize this, and to see that this thing I had always thought was a curse, that I had fought so hard to change, was actually my greatest gift. But a gift I had to learn how to care for.

One of my classmates put it to me in a way that really resonated with me; she said: its like you’re one of the X Men. Your sensitivity is your superpower!! But you must learn how to control and use it and respect it, otherwise it will destroy you. You will never win if you continue to fight your true nature- it will always rise to the surface in a never-ending battle.

It is not easy to be an HSP or an empath. It’s like the dial on life is turned up super loud. It can be scary, feel exhausting, confusing, and leave you raw. If you are an empath or HSP, you must learn how to take care of your gift, honor your super power. And be proud!! You have felt and dealt with SO much! You are not weak, you are strong. You are a warrior. You are a SUPER sensitive! You are a badass! Use your power to give back, this world needs you! TC mark

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