The Upside of Being a Highly Sensitive Person.

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I never used to think of myself as “sensitive.”

And whenever someone accused me of it, I took it as a bad thing. I got defensive. I pretended to be harder than I was. But when I look back as far as I am able, I must admit that I have always been sensitive.

I’ve never been able to watch horror movies (except sexy vampire flicks like Interview With A Vampire). They always make me feel very anxious, sometimes to the point of inducing nausea and tremors. I’m not a “thrill-seeker,” nor am I a huge fan of big, loud parties or large crowds. In both instances, I will likely end up feeling really overwhelmed, dizzy, anxious and in need of escape after only a couple of hours.

While I am most comfortable in my home, I still find myself completely overwhelmed by my two children (who are five years and 18 months old), and my husband who is wonderful, but who suffers from PTSD. If I don’t get time alone each day, I tend to become irritable, frustrated, easily triggered and disconnected.

Regarding my empathy—which is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions”—I don’t just share someone else’s emotions, I absorb them.

This is fantastic if I’m around a high-vibration soul who is pure joy, love, and openness. But in those daily moments when my children are having a tantrum, or are afraid, or when my husband is frustrated or distant, I take in all of it. I don’t want to, it just happens. I end up feeling completely drained, exhausted, empty, overwhelmed.

This probably sounds like a shitty way to “be,” right? Well, sometimes it is, because I haven’t yet learned how to “turn it off” when I need to. I’m not sure how to block unwanted emotions from others—although I am learning slowly, but surely.

On the other hand, I have found that being highly sensitive to others gives me the wonderful ability to anticipate someone else’s needs.

For instance: our five year old came down with a cold. She was feverish, congested, and just feeling lousy. So I made her a spot on the couch by laying down a super soft blanket, and tucking it into the cushions really well so it was perfectly smooth and wouldn’t come undone. I topped that with another super soft blanket that was warm, but not hot, and heavy enough that she would feel comforted, but not overly-so.

I put on her favorite movies, fixed her a cup of bone broth, made her a little plate of snacks, and gave her a favorite stuffed animal. If she wanted to take a shower, I let her take as long as she needed. If she wanted to get up and play, I let her burn up some energy.

I knew what she needed. And I knew that she knew what she needed too.

By the next day she was feeling much better, and I felt that some of it was due to her feeling cared for, comforted, and allowed to do what her body needed to do to get well.

In another instance, a friend of ours who is pregnant and living in a yurt called and asked me what she could trade me to use our bathtub. “What the hell do you mean, ‘trade’? You don’t have to trade anything to take a bath here. Come on over!”

She felt a little nervous about asking, and said she was afraid I’d think it was weird. Um, no!

I’ve been pregnant twice now, and while I am well aware that there are lots of women who live in yurts and other simple shelters with no running water or electricity, I personally love my hot showers, and needed them often on days when I felt nauseated, exhausted, or sore.

So we set up a time for her to come over, and before she got here I cleaned the entire bathroom from top to bottom. I removed all of our personal effects and stored them in the closet. I set up a little table beside the bathtub and placed a candle (adorned with some ornamental crab apples that my daughter picked from our tree out front), a large shell containing three turkish figs, a piece of coconut dark chocolate, five essential oils she could choose from to add to her bath, and a crystal goblet of ice cold raw milk (her favorite drink).

I knew that if it were me, I would want to be pampered and taken care of, and I wanted that for her too. I happily watched her little girl while she luxuriated for as long as she wanted to, and when she emerged from the bathroom she announced that she hadn’t felt that well in a long time.

I love that about myself.

I can say with all honesty that I am highly sensitive, and it’s not a bad thing.

It can be overwhelming, yes. It can make certain situations pretty f*cking uncomfortable, yes. But on the brighter—more important—side, it allows me to care for others in my own way by tapping into their needs and desires, and then creating a space for them to be nurtured.

So if you happen to know (or get to know) someone who seems withdrawn, needs a lot of space, is uninterested in noisy crowds or parties, and is one of seemingly few people who don’t love zombie movies, they may not actually be the “weirdo” you think they are. They may just be a highly sensitive empath with the ability to make you feel more at ease and more nurtured than most anyone else you know.

You just have to allow them as much time as they need to trust that they can show this vulnerable side of themselves. Give them that time and, most probably, you’ll discover it was so worth it.


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Author: Lindsay Lewis

Apprentice Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s Own

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Lindsay Lewis

Lindsay Lewis is a woman of many hats: Mother, Wife, Domestic Goddess, Customer Service Representative, Artist, Musician, Farmer…. and so on and so forth. In a quest to figure out exactly who she is, the written word has proven most valuable in putting the pieces together. Whether recording dreams, journaling, meditating, working with crystals, smudging, writing for creative, pleasurable, or professional means, it all entwines together to unleash the Self that fear once enslaved.

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anonymous Mar 22, 2016 9:21pm

Oh my I love this. I feared that id be alone forever been this way but reading your experience I see you have a life full of people and I really admire your honesty, that you are still learning about getting it under control. I really needed to read this today. Thanks <3 <3

anonymous Dec 8, 2015 2:35pm

I have always been referred to as "sensitive" and only until lately have I felt a negative connotation to the word. But I am coming into my own recently and have realized that being sensitive to situations and others emotions is absolutely not a negative way to be. I actually find myself using that same sensitivity to feel for those who can not suspend their ego enough to relate to people in situations that they have not lived themselves. I am grateful to be "sensitive" or "emotional" especially in a world where truly connecting with others seems to be a dying opportunity. Thank you for shedding a positive light on a personality that is often patronized.

anonymous Nov 25, 2015 6:36am

Wow! This article resonated with me so much. Thank you!! I am a highly sensitive person who lives the way you described. My son, age 8, often says, "mommy, I love being with you because you just know what I need even before I know it". He appreciates and responds positively to my attention to detail, especially his emotional needs, physical comfort, sights, sounds, tastes "just right" kind of approach. Here is my dilemma (putting out some personal fears so be easy on me please): I tend to do this for the adults in my life I care for yet they seem "unphased", as if they could care less or worse, they have made somewhat sarcastic comments like "just ask jenn, she will make sure all is perfect"… What I am saying is, I know part of this is "just me" and I notice more, think about more, feel more in many instances, but I would also enjoy some gratitude from others at times. I feel depleted when there does not seem to be a "give and take" at times. I do not do things FOR praise or a returned favor but when it is one-sided so often, I feel empty and uncared for myself. It seems I have not found another HSP to befriend… do like-minded people in this regard tend to seek out one anoother or is the HSP partnered up with those who "need" them, only to take more than they give? And how does the HSP find their own interpersonal/friendship/romantic needs met with such personalization, attention to detail, and care? Peace.

anonymous Aug 25, 2015 10:26pm

Thank you! A hundred times thank you!

anonymous Jul 30, 2015 4:20am

This really felt like you were writing about me. I’m always one step ahead of everyone it seems. I am the person who usually ends up “saving the day” and a bigger downside to being hsp is you feel you need to fix EVERYTHING. I’ve learned thru the years to not burn myself out and to keep a part of myself FOR myself. I cannot help someone else unless I’ve taken care of myself and hsp individuals will sacrifice everything to help someone.
Great article! So glad someone “gets me”.

    anonymous Nov 25, 2015 6:38am

    Yes yes yes! This is my issue that I grapple with all the time. I "over"care for others when they seem to not really want it, see it, care about it, get it or appreciate it…. taking care of "self" is a good idea but I would like to find some like-minded individuals and have a "take care of eachother" club!

anonymous Mar 25, 2015 9:56pm

Nice article. Good turn around on the positives on being built that way. That rejuvenating solitude is key! Learning to turn it on or off is also key. At least it was for me.

anonymous Feb 15, 2015 9:33am

I love this post!! This ultimately defines me. I have just become aware of the whole notion of a “highly sensitive person” and in the last few years became aware of what exactly an empath is, and one book that was recommended to me by another HSP person is “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron! I have only started this book, but already in the third chapter this book has given me such verification and belonging, but ALSO it has helped me with tools for when I do have to go out in to the big, highly stimulated world and how to cope with what I am feeling, etc. So this to you, or anyone who sees this, is my recommendation of that book. A highly sensitive/empathic person can use all the help we can get in such a disconnected, unfeeling, highly stimulated world! 😉 Namaste to all of you!

anonymous Jan 15, 2015 6:24pm

This really resonates with me. However I am still rather young and have no children and I find that a lot of the time due to my sensitive nature and need to care for others and create opportunities for them to feel good, that I am being taken advantage off. I am not sure how to stop this as I am also not typically one to allow this to happen but I see it happening more and more in my closest relationship. I never expect anything in return, but I am finding that the energy I am getting back is very negative and I am not sure how to change my ways or confront people about this.

anonymous Jan 14, 2015 7:01am

Thank you for this perspective 🙂

anonymous Jan 10, 2015 8:28pm

Yes!!!! Nodding all the way through this. We are not alone. xxx

anonymous Jan 10, 2015 5:40pm

Hi Lindsey. Your live language is "acts of servise" that because you so care of others and know how to. I am highly sensitive empathetic person, aka psychic. I experienced also some of your examples time ago. I learned to meditate and create my shields and also walking "uncovered", is amazing to have this ability. You can work with a lot. Today I can sense straight away if something is touching me and stop it before entering my energetical space. Also I learned read people, from their energy and I am helping them to understand themselfs. And lots of more. The main is to work to necome centered so you can distinguish what's you/ yours and what belongs to others. Post me if you have questions. Best luck on your journey. With Love. Lenka.

anonymous Jan 9, 2015 11:26am

It's so good to read your article. Since I was a child I've had that label. As an adult I work as a nurse and massage therapist, and it serves me well to have a sixth sense working for me. The hardest part for me is it is combined with an Irish heritage that is both good and not so good when it comes to remaining patient when I see that something is going to happen and am not able to manage the environment to prevent it. I've been working on visualizations to help modify the strong emotions so I live a healthier,calmer life.

anonymous Jan 9, 2015 10:54am

I LOVE this beautiful article. As an HSP I can definitely identify with your story, and it reaffirms the gifts and downside of being an HSP. Thank you.

anonymous Jan 9, 2015 10:43am

Thank you for this article, for weeks now I couldn't put my finger on what was making me uncomfortable with my home life and when I read the sentence about being overwhelmed by your kids and husband, that's it, that's the issue I'm having! I kept beating myself up for being angry and irritable and was almost convincing myself that I was a cold, mean person but I'm not, I am loving and sensitive with a temper. I don't always handle situations well but I'm not a terrible person for that…. anyways, thank you.

anonymous Jan 8, 2015 11:13pm

This article hits home! Awesome article, and several of my friends have posted this article link to there portal. You share your sensitivity…and as another ' highly sensitve…. we sually hide them. Dodging somethings that might feel awkward, not being able to 'think' when you pick up on too many. Your story rings true to so many people. As a mom and good friend to my girlfriends…this is spot on. I absolutely love how you cared for your sick kid….highly sensitive people have a gift when it comes to taking care of the ones we love and it is second nature to go the full mile because we guide
Genuinely care. Getting time alone a day (showering or bath by yourself/reflecting/and especially if we encounter our 'limit' in the crowed or awkward situations is tough with my own toddler and yourself runs thin with no sleep, personal space or just working on growing as a highly sensitive person. A lot of people don't get it and say we have no backbone….how can you be that sensitive? It's not like we are crying when people cry, we are on a completely authentic journey with taking in others which is a gift more so than a curse. It is a blessing, sometimes I wish I could pause it, but, in reading your great article, it just reminds me that the world would be a much different place if highly sensitive people didn't share their benefits on others we love

anonymous Jan 8, 2015 8:32pm

Thank you so much for writing this beautiful reminder of what gifts we can share with our friends and loved ones as highly sensitive people. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it, and like a bit of an outsider, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want it any other way!

    anonymous Jan 20, 2015 10:31am

    Meena, I'm so glad that you can appreciate my article! I think that "overwhelmed" has been used more than any other word in my vocabulary (except for maybe "and" and "the") over the last few years. I will say that being able to put a name – Highly Sensitive – to my experience and my feelings has helped tremendously in recognizing that I'm not "weird," or "awkward," but rather strongly tuned-in. And I'm okay with that, and have actually been accepting and celebrating this!

anonymous Jan 7, 2015 7:28pm

I so identify with this article!

I wanted to share something with the author but didn't see an email address for her. I found this video from mother/daughter parent coaches about parenting a highly sensitive child, thought the author might like to watch:

    anonymous Jan 8, 2015 8:54am

    Thank you so much, Lindsay! I'm really surprised and happy that my submission has resonated with so many people!

    I appreciate the link, and will definitely check it out today. <3

    ~ Lindsay Lewis

Kathy Swanson Sep 13, 2016 4:18pm

hi lindsay! i am highly sensitive (empath) too. always have been. regarding overwhelm of others energy, as well as my owns fears, i have found "tapping" (emotional freedom technique) to be EMENSELY helpful. i thank nick and jessica ortner in my mind everyday for their wonderful free videos. good article, by the way! <3