Monday, February 10, 2014

An HSP Writer: A Declaration

I first started writing about being sensitive (an HSP) after reading this post on the HSP Notes blog. In it, Peter talks about the fact that, as a group, HSPs are conspicuous by their absence in the online world even though there are approximately one billion of us on this planet. He says that he was “amazed at just how invisible we are. And in the few places where we are visible, how little we participate.”

Why is that? One reason might be that a lot of us are simply unaware that we are HSPs. But if we look at the numbers that Peter gives us, we know that can’t be the only reason. I think, what it really comes down to, is that a lot of us are very apprehensive about coming out and declaring that we are highly sensitive.

For me, I know that telling people (through my writing) that I am sensitive has felt extremely vulnerable. It’s felt like putting a precious part of me on public display. It’s felt like I am giving people ammunition that they can blow me up with.

I have been scared of being judged. I have been afraid of being discounted. I know very well that many, if not most, people equate sensitivity with weakness. Declaring myself highly sensitive is almost like declaring myself weak. I’m also afraid that someone will tell me, “Come on, get over it. Stop being so sensitive” as if it’s something that’s wrong with me, something I can change if I just put my mind to it.

I can’t. And I don’t want to either. I value my sensitivity even though it’s hard to live with in a world that doesn’t value or respect it. I value sensitivity even though I have made many mistakes in dealing with it. I value it even though I’ve tried to get away from it, struggled against it.

For people that say that being sensitive is weak, I say, sensitivity can manifest as many things. Most of us are not taught how to handle being sensitive. As children, we don’t often learn practical ways to manage the discomfort and anxiety that comes with feelings of being overwhelmed, of being so open.

And when we don’t know how, it’s easy to adapt in the wrong ways. It’s only with time that I have started understanding myself better and learnt to re-frame the cultural narrative of sensitivity being a weakness. No, it’s not my sensitivity that makes me weak, but not accepting it for what it is. Yes, I do get over-stimulated easily. Yes, I do need a lot of down-time. Yes, I don’t handle things like external pressure as well.

But being sensitive makes up the core of all that’s right about me. It’s what makes me perceptive. It’s what makes me compassionate. It’s what makes me creative.

So, where did I get the idea that it was wrong? As people, we become visible to ourselves when we look outside and see ourselves mirrored back. Maybe someone praises us for how caring we are. Maybe someone can see not just the challenges that come with being sensitive, but also the gifts.

But we generally don’t get these positive messages in today’s world. Instead, we get messages that shame us for feeling too much. Yes, feeling too much can be very hard, but is feeling too little the answer? If, as a society, we consider being sensitive a weakness, do we also consider being insensitive a strength?

We need sensitivity. We need to question the cultural belief that being sensitive is a weakness. I think it’s being insensitive - well-defended, closed to vulnerability - that is weakness. Maybe the question we should be asking in today’s world isn’t “Why are you so sensitive?” but “Why are you so insensitive?"

What do you think?


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  2. Sometimes talking about your vulnerability is a strength in itself. It takes a lot of guts to have yourself exposed for the world to see and hear, and thus, accept. Otherwise, it is all a facade, and creates a lot of unhappiness within ourselves. Feeling "sensitive" should never be considered a weakness; it is trait that few know how to handle. Be completely unapologetic about it; it is you, and the true you :)

    1. Yes, building facades does create a lot of unhappiness. And by not speaking your truth, you become invisible even to yourself. I am finding that saying the truth (or writing, specifically) , even though it brings up a lot of old feelings, is ultimately very freeing. Even if no one gets it, you know who you are and that's ok.

      Thank you. Yes, I don't want to be apologetic for it.

    2. Found this quote on Pinterest: "Stop hating yourself for everything you aren't. Start loving yourself for everything that you are." I think it resonates a lot of truth about how many of us feel about ourselves.

  3. Ritu Dearest... Bravo!!!!

    You know I have a skeptical attitude towards anything people claim to be a pioneering research[like HSPs]... No Offence... But I think its a strength to be sensitive.[Its definitely a strength to be comfortable in your own skin ]..the proof of the pudding would be how wonderful your relationships are... You cant have any relationships without sensitivity... But out of curiosity... do you think that you are as sensitive to what others as you are to you ??? What does the author say about HSPs and how they view others ??--- In other words... ''Love thy neighbor as thy love yourself''

    1. Thanks Hersh.

      I think new information is usually met with skepticism, isn't it? It's good to question, but if you read more, you'll find that this is not THAT new. In fact, a certain percentage of the population across different species (eg: fruitflies!) is more cautious, more "sensitive" per se than the rest. The theory is that being cautious and being more adventurous are two ways of approaching new and dangerous situations. In some situations, being cautious pays off, in others, being risk-taking. This is a built-in mechanism by nature so that at least some members of the species survive.

      Elaine Aron says that being sensitive is a "neutral" trait. There are both pros and cons to it. Sensitive people are more easily stimulated by noise, bright lights, etc and that means that they can get overwhelmed easily. They may also feel emotions - both their own as well as of others - very strongly. This can result in several behaviors. They are usually compassionate and caring. But feeling so keenly can also cause them to engage in avoidant behavior when they try to shield themselves from a world that overwhelms them. Since they are in the minority, they also tend to get isolated.

      Because of their sensitivity, they are generally also very creative. And although society today looks at sensitivity as a weakness, in extremely stressful situations, HSPs do very well because they can turn inwards and into their imagination.

      Basically, it cuts both ways. It is very important to be aware of this trait, so you can channel your sensitivity instead of getting overwhelmed by it.

      This is a great, objective post on whether sensitive people are always "nice:"

      I think "loving your neighbor" as yourself is a lifelong endeavor. It is very hard.

      I think I am only just beginning to get comfortable in my own skin. Being sensitive has both sides - the challenges and the gifts, so I am only learning to manage it now.

      Both HSPs and non-HSPs can be compassionate, "good." Or not. In the end, who we are is affected by so many factors.

    2. You are right... new information is sometimes met with skepticism.... but most times people just jump on the bandwagon and are quite gullible...someone just have to refer to the work as pioneering... but my point was not that....

      I meant that it's really really hard to come up with something new!!!---
      I went to the link you shared.... Ritu... OH MY GOD!!! This is like a community! This Elaine Aron has a rockstar following!! :)

    3. Yes, that's true. Many people do. But there's also the other side. Many people (me included) spend time denying new information because it does not fit in with what they already know and believe.

      Yes, it is. It is extremely hard to be original or come up with new insights.

      That's great Hersh. Yes, it is a community. I think most people discover that they are HSPs only after a lot of searching. A lot of HSPs will go through a major portion of their life not knowing why/how they are different and that puts you at a serious disadvantage.

      Yes, she is a pioneer and a rockstar !!

  4. Ritu... you'll like this video.. its about paris intellectual culture!!-- its out here that I got ... new ideas are really hard----