Highly sensitive people are by no means perfect. We can be fickle, high maintenance, and overly analytical to the point of being infuriating. We are easily hurt, and we process through things at a depth that can feel gratifying to us, but which may seem utterly ridiculous to others around us. I mean, really? Are you seriously talking about the sociopolitical implications of french fries? Duuuude. Calm down.
But you know something? It’s not all bad. Highly sensitive people, despite their eccentricities ALSO have some super-powers that make them well worth keeping around in your life (and I should add that they ALSO make life worth celebrating if you, yourself, are an HSP)
1. Highly sensitive people are RESILIENT. True…we aren’t tough. Highly sensitive people have nervous systems that are simply on alert more often. To be a highly sensitive person is to have a layer of skin that is removed, thus exposing some vital parts of ourselves to the world in ways that can rub our psyche’s a bit raw. That’s not just true metaphorically, either. Research shows we tend to have a lower threshold for physical pain. BUT there is an upside to all this sensitivity. HSP’s are subjected to discomfort at a higher rate than the average person. Think about it. Most people love sleep-overs. HSP’s probably had to overcome a certain amount of discomfort to join in. That feels lousy in the moment, but what it ALSO means is that we get a lot more practice than the average person in moving through uncomfortable situations. As a result, once we become adults we have a long history of bouncing back after having felt slapped down. Highly sensitive people may be easy to tackle. But rarely will an HSP stay down. No matter the challenge, they have a tendency to bounce back with enviable efficiency.
2. Highly sensitive people are ENDURING. I don’t know a lot of highly sensitive sprinters in life. Instead, highly sensitive people have a tendency to play the long game. They know how to see a destination and break it down into digestible increments. And they know how to stay the course even when things get difficult. Again – some of this may simply be due to practice. If you’re used to life being, on the whole, a bit of a challenge…then you’re used to needing to take things one step at a time and endure. This is why they tend to be reluctant to leave jobs without a plan. They don’t leave relationships until they are SURE they have tried everything. Their love of harmony combined with their intellectual prowess gives them a sense that they can get through anything with enough gumption. If they quit, it will only be after they have exhausted all their options…And not a moment before. In the game of life, highly sensitive people are ultra-marathoners.
3. Highly sensitive people are PERCEPTIVE. In research about those who have high processing sensitivity, it’s frequently shown that HSP’s tend to pick up on a number of nuances others might miss. One example is with art. They tend to see more variety of colors in a given art piece than the average person. They will hear more nuanced sounds in a song, as well. They are paying attention to subtlety. Now…this by no means should tell you that they can Sherlock their way out of things. These super-powers aren’t based on logic. So you could easily see an HSP who appears absolutely lost (and probably is). HSP’s are notorious “absent minded professor” types. What I mean by saying that highly sensitive people are perceptive is simply that they are able to notice the subtlety around them. That gift allows them to ALSO feel into the nuance of other people’s emotions. If you have the attention of an HSP, you can bet that they are keying into many facets of you that you may have no idea you’re even putting out there. For this reason, they tend to make excellent confidantes and problem solvers…at least if the problem is a complex one.
4. Highly sensitive people are CREATIVE. All that perception of the nuances in the environment often links hsp’s with a tremendous capacity for creativity. Highly sensitive people tend to make great artists, writers, and philosophers. Why? Because they notice things. They pay attention. And because they are experiencing a great amount of complexity in each experience they have, they tend to be good about communicating the complexity of that experience to others (whether in writing or in some more tangible form of art.) Even if you are an HSP and you are convinced you lack creativity, my hunch is that you’re probably a very creative problem solver. Highly sensitive people, due to their keen senses, really don’t like unnecessary suffering. They are able to find some interesting workarounds when a situation calls for it. If you want out-of-the-box thinking, try calling on an HSP.
5. Highly sensitive people are CONSCIENTIOUS. You might not think this one is very sexy, but hang on. One of the primary characteristics of those who are able to live an exceptionally long life is conscientiousness. HSP’s tend to have that in spades. For this reason, they tend to be excellent coworkers and even leaders. If they say the will do something, they will probably do it. And it will likely be on time even if it kills them. Tell an HSP to do their homework, and they will. Tell them to take their vitamins, and they will. All that is required for an HSP is a very good reason. And the primary criteria for “good reason” tends to be as simple as – is this thing in alignment with my values? Will doing this thing mean I am operating with integrity? If yes – your HSP comrade will be unstoppable.
To be clear…I’m certainly not saying that this is an exhaustive list. I happen to think HSP’s and introverts have a number of super-powers that are worth celebrating. These are just the primary five I have found to be most universal within the community. I’m ALSO not saying that highly sensitive people are somehow better than everyone else because of these five qualities. I just find that the conversation about what it means to be “sensitive” is often framed in a derogatory way. To be sensitive is often linked with weakness. But I am deeply passionate about revealing that the reality is just the opposite. Sensitive people tend to be tough…just not in the traditional way we have come to think about what “tough” means. We aren’t the Wolvarine of superheros. We can’t bust through walls of steal unscathed. We aren’t superman – who will be unmarred by even the fastest of bullets. But we are, nevertheless, unique and…dare I say…super.
Perhaps the best way to frame it is to say that we are more like the Jean Gray of superheroes. On the surface, we look willowy and unstable. Emotional. Empathetic. Easily conquered. But just as with Jean Gray, we harbor a secret strength. We may have to put forth a lot of effort to manage our abilities, but if you think of us as weak, and you attempt to challenge us…no matter how effectively you knock us down, you will likely only discover that one hell of a phoenix lies dormant within.
What do you like best about being an HSP? What are some superpowers you think I might have missed (and should be on this list)?