Dr. Elaine Aron defines the highly sensitive person as someone who “has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”
It’s estimated that as many as 20% of the population could be classified as highly sensitive. So, you’re not alone if you believe that you’re highly sensitive. This might sound like a defect, but it can be very valuable to be highly sensitive.
Highly sensitive people tend to be very thoughtful, creative, and intelligent. They can also be great partners. You have a lot to offer if you’re highly sensitive.
There are several characteristics that suggest you might be a highly sensitive person:
1. Your feelings are easily hurt. Do your feelings seem to be hurt more easily than those of the average person? This is a common theme in those that are highly sensitive.
2. Negative thoughts and emotions consume a lot of your time. Do you spend a lot of time dealing with negative thoughts and emotions?
3. Difficulty accepting criticism even if it’s accurate and constructive. Criticism isn’t easy for most people to hear, but is it devastating for you? Are you greatly upset by any type of criticism? Does criticism make you want to quit?
4. Overreaction to perceived slights or mild insults. When someone fails to say “hello” to you, does it bother you a lot? Do you assume the worst when someone slights you or makes a questionable comment?
5. Easily overstimulated by crowds, too much activity, bright lights, loud noises, or strong odors. Do you avoid places with a lot of people or loud noise? Do strong odors bother you? Are you easily overstimulated in general?
6. Easily upset by negative news media. When you watch or read about negative news stories, are you bothered more than most others you know?
7. You enjoy spending time alone. Do you truly enjoy spending time by yourself? When you’re alone, do you like to keep things simple and quiet? Or, do you listen to loud music while playing video games?
8. Does it drive you crazy when you have something in your shoe? Do scratchy fabrics drive you nuts? This is another good indicator that you might be highly sensitive.
Consider these advantages of being highly sensitive:
1. More empathetic. If you’re highly sensitive, you can relate more easily to the emotions of others. It’s almost like you know what everyone is thinking and feeling.
2. More aware of social cues. Highly sensitive people are very aware of social cues like body language, facial expressions, and how to use and interpret personal space.
3. More alert to changes in the environment. You know when something has changed, or items are out of place. You can feel when the mood of a room has changed.
4. Able to enjoy subtle things. You can notice small things and appreciate them. You’re more likely to enjoy looking at art, a butterfly, or the clouds than the average person. This is almost like a superpower. You can entertain yourself with simple things.
It’s easy to see how these characteristics would be useful in art, negotiating, or working in counseling. There are many ways to use these abilities to your advantage.
There are also fields that you should probably avoid if you want to feel happy and peaceful. Working on the bond trading floor in Manhattan probably isn’t your cup of tea. Selling door-to-door probably doesn’t appeal to you either.
Use your natural strengths and avoid your natural weaknesses. This is always good advice if you want to be happy and successful.