Do you know that nagging feeling when you think something is inherently wrong with you because of comments you’ve heard all your life, and then one day, someone gives it a name and touts its positive attributes? I felt enlightened and relieved after reading an article in Fast Company, titled “5 reasons highly sensitive people are an asset to your team.”
I’ve heard “You’re too sensitive” and “Don’t be so sensitive” for as long as I can remember. I heard it from my family and in the workplace. The statement always carried a disparaging tone that I would imagine hearing if I’d been told I was stupid or ugly. So, naturally, I always thought being sensitive was bad.
Apparently, “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) is a term that was coined in 1991 by a pyschologist named Elaine Aron. I must have been sleeping under a rock because this is only now coming to my attention. Evidently, being highly sensitive is not equivalent to wimpish. HSP brain scans show active neurons that engender empathy and emotional responses but in a good way. “This sensitivity is thought to be linked to higher levels of creativity, richer personal relationships and a greater appreciation for beauty.” Who knew?
The article is primarily about why HSPs should be appreciated as a team member at work, but I think it applies to personal scenarios as well: Detailed, self-aware, astute at picking up nonverbal cues, empathic, perceptive, able to create harmony, enjoy meaningful connections, conscientious and intuitive. External stimuli is unnerving, and we need time to process and assimilate experiences. That’s me – yea!
Generally, labeling people is not the best practice, but I find comfort in being able to apply an affirmative moniker to a trait that has caused me embarrassment and self-deprecation. So if you are a fellow HSP, the next time someone says you’re overly sensitive, ignore the accusatory inference, and take it as a compliment.