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Are you an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)? Yep, me too! (...& here’s what that means!)

Are you a what?!

I have recently learned a description for myself that is so accurate I couldn’t help but yell, “OMG, Where has this been my whole life!?”

Have you ever heard of a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP)? Me neither, but when I did, it completely changed the way I viewed myself, my child (who is one too), and why I have the strengths and challenges I do…

But before I tell you what it is, let me ASK you...Do YOU:

  • Get easily overwhelmed by bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sounds?

  • Get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?

  • Make a point of avoiding violent or scary movies and TV shows?

  • Need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?

  • Make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?

  • Have a rich and complex inner life? (Elaine Aron, 2020)

If you have answered yes to more than one of these questions, chances are you ALSO are a HSP. Perhaps you have called yourself a “sensitive”, an “empath”, or something else, but I have found HSP to be so much more encompassing than any other explanation I have found.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?

Made popular by the work of Dr. Elaine Aron, a HSP is someone who feels the world around them very deeply. HSPs would feel so much more deeply than a non-HSP if the two were in the same space at the same time, their perceptions would be dramatically differently than if two non-HSPs shared the space.

Interestingly, 15-20% of the population are HSPs and while not a disorder (the scientific term for this is “Sensory-Processing Sensitivity”), Highly Sensitive People can both THRIVE in and become OVERWHELMED by the depth of their intense inner-life.

HSPs are both introverts and extroverts (about 30% are extroverts). HSPs are successful in high-functioning, intimate roles such as teachers, health-care workers, therapists, (or coaches), and more, but also run the risk of burning out when they feel the world around them too strongly.

HSPs are not necessarily intuitive or psychic, but they can be because they feel the world in a deeper, more in tuned way.

(Here are some fun little videos that help explain Highly Sensitive People and their strengths)

What’s it like being a Highly Sensitive Person?

As a self-described HSP (who scores very highly on this test) I will offer a snippet of a day-in-the-life of how I experience the world (and maybe you will resonate).

(If you want more than a snippet, I wrote a whole blog on it here!)

Sometimes just the smell of coffee can wake me up (without even drinking it!)

If it is a low pressure day I will have a headache that is impossible to get rid of. Getting dressed, I must wear a soft fabric (NO polyester!) and if there is a tag on my clothes, I will have to cut it out or will be bothered by the sensation all day.

When I pass a crowd on the street, I can feel each person’s emotional vibration as they pass-- worried, busy, tired-- I pick up on their energy and the more people I cross, the more intense I feel everyone (which is why high-density cities like Hong Kong can be so exhausting!).

Luckily if I walk by beautiful street-art, or a stunning natural view, it takes my breath away and I feel a deep love for the world.

I feel the view in my whole body, not just my eyes, allowing me to remember every detail and describe it thoroughly months, or even years later.