The term “highly sensitive” was coined by Elaine N. Aron. Her research shows how highly sensitive people have a more complex and detailed way of processing sensory input. (Aaron 2004)
I’m very grateful Elaine proved that highly sensitive people (often referred to as HSP’s) aren’t making things up. Because I know from experience how confusing and painful it can be when the people around you don’t understand why sensitive souls react a certain way.
If you’re not sure whether you are a highly sensitive person (aka sensitive soul) you can take my free Sensitivity Quiz here.
If you know you are a sensitive soul, then you might have heard people tell you the following:
(And if you’re not a sensitive soul, you might have been the one saying this…)
Why are you being so difficult?
You are so (hyper)sensitive (the way people say this makes it abundantly clear that this is a negative trait.)
You are exaggerating
You make too much of a fuss
You are lazy (my brother used to think I was lazy, because from his perspective there was no other reason to be tired so often or be unable to do things).
You are selfish and don’t think about what others want or need (oh irony!)
You are not the only one that matters
You can’t act like you’re the only person in the world
You need too much ceremony (before you can go anywhere)
You don’t care about other people (ehm, too much perhaps?)
You don’t want to connect
You make things needlessly complicated
If you are a sensitive soul, it’s painful to hear this.
If you are not highly sensitive, you are probably annoyed by the sensitive ones because you didn’t understand their behavior and this is what it looked like (and it seemed so outrageous).
What I’ve come to realize is that it’s nobody’s fault. It’s like trying to explain the difference between red and green to someone who is colorblind. It’s impossible.
It has taken me years to come to this point and understand that I can’t blame non-sensitive people for reacting the way they do. And I’m hoping they will get to the point where they are not criticizing sensitive souls for acting the way they are—for being who they are.
I think it’s important to bring more awareness to the entire topic of sensitivity. Because there is a lot of misunderstanding—about what it means to be highly sensitive and what the (unneeded) negative side-effects can be.
PS If you’re a sensitive soul then my book Radiant: How to Have All the Energy You Need to Live a Life You Love is perfect for you. In it I share a lot of practical tools and tips on how to handle your sensitivity and have more energy. Read all about Radiant here