I am a huge proponent of people developing self-awareness. A deeper, realistic understanding of ourselves is essential prior to making changes or moving towards actualizing our potential. During this process of gaining a better of understanding of ourselves, we may realize things we would like to change. However, most of the time even just the act of becoming aware of our true nature, thought patterns and behaviors can be enough to move us towards self-actualization. Knowing what we are working with is half the battle and realizing that we are fine as we as we are, can be a liberating notion that pushes us forward.
If we are always so busy trying to change ourselves, when do we have time to develop ourselves?
I realized recently that I am an HSP, a highly sensitive person. Yes, there is a term out there! ....isn't that something us humans do so well; labeling and categorizing things into groups.
I was also surprised to find out there is a lot of research and science behind the term and what defines a person in this way. For me, finally having someone define the way I've always felt and speak about the struggles I've always faced, helped me abandon the need to change and embrace the desire to grow.
What defines the term HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)?, and how do I know if I am one?
According to Elaine Aron, Ph. D, 'the highly sensitive person, has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in highly stimulating environments'. Elaine estimates that approximately 20% of the population have this innate(since childhood) trait which was developed as an evolutionary strategy of processing information carefully before acting.
The underlying temperament of the HSP is introversion, with approximately 70% falling into this category and only 30% falling into the extroverted category. As a generalization, highly sensitive people can be more vulnerable and shy and tend to become easily overwhelmed in overly stimulating settings, enjoy lots of time in nature and solitude.
As well, HSP's tend to feel emotional reactions more strongly, both positive and negative, prefer to see situations before jumping in, notice little subtle changes, weigh out every decision, and are more aware of the thoughts and emotions of others. Highly Sensitive People tend to have a more reactive immune system and can be inflicted more easily with illness when undergoing times of stress, and are more prone to auto-immune disorders. For this reason understanding that you are an HSP can be very beneficial, allowing you to proactively reduce scenarios that cause stress, and tailor your environment and diet to help reduce immune reactions.
People who are highly sensitive are also often highly empathetic and feel an almost selfish need to take care of others in order for to make themselves feel better. This can sometimes lead to a need to please others too often and also a need for perfection in their lives and the lives of those close to them. It is very hard for an HSP to see a loved one suffering, because she/he will often feel that pain as if it is happening to her/him. This sensitivity to pain and suffering can sometimes manifest physically within the highly sensitive person as illness or it may cause them to seek out ways to dilute their feelings in harmful ways; such as with drugs or alcohol.
Comprising only 20% of the population, HSPs can often feel different which can lead to low self-esteem, but rather than focusing on their differences highly sensitive people should embrace their abilities. It's fine to enjoy doing things in small groups rather than large crowds, it's great to socialize with friends one on one and be the person that people come to because you listen and have the ability to empathize with their situation, its amazing to take time to explore nature, and to be alone. As tough as it is when things aren't going well, it's great that you are able to feel emotions like happiness, excitement and enthusiasm intensely.
There are many challenges that go a long with being a highly sensitive person, but there are also great rewards and a depth of life available to you if you choose to accept and embrace who you are and move forward.
What does it mean to be an HSP?
Simple pleasure Vs. Complexity Anxiety (Day 31 on the road)
Becoming Aware (Day 14 on the Road)
Blaze your own Trail in 2017
Photo by Nick Haycock