Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Learning to Accept Your Highly Sensitive Self

I'm the first to admit that I have always felt somewhat out of place around others. The exception to this, I think, has been when I've been around other empaths. As a child, as a coming of age adolescent, and as a twenty-something young adult I've felt an underlying uncomfortable feeling. I'm not sure if this feeling came from me or from others, but I've usually picked up on the unspoken feeling of being "different" somehow. Whether that was a result of me being introverted, highly sensitive, or a combination of the two, I suppose others might have been uncomfortable with their inability to "pretend" in my presence. Or the fact that my more reserved nature forced them to reflect rather than react to some sort of stimulation that would distract them from being themselves.

I can't count how many times I've heard it. The dreaded "you're too quiet," or "you need to talk more," and let's not forget "smile, you look like you're having too much fun." I hate hearing all of them, especially the last one. No one else seems to be walking around like Bozo the Clown, so why am I any different? I'm just being me. I'm not mad. I'm not upset. It's not that I don't like you. I'm just lost somewhere in my thought process and I haven't found the right words yet. Or I'm listening to what you're saying or taking in all the stimulation that's bombarding my senses into shut-down mode. Last, but not least, let's also not forget the intermittent stares of concern and perplexed uncertainty. Perhaps others are uneasy with our ability to see through their masks. Or that we don't have to always verbalize in order to communicate.

Put two sensitives in a room with each other and these issues disappear. I suppose we have our own kind of unspoken code that's exchanged between us. It's the knowing glance, the recognition of the familiarity in each other's eyes, the knowing feeling of intuitive attraction. I liken it to the way the characters that are angels in Wem Wender's "Wings of Desire" glance knowingly at each other as they pass by, without having to say a word. I also like to think that as empaths, we can be like those angelic characters at times. We have the ability to unconsciously "hear" the thoughts and conditions of others' spirits, with the natural inclination to provide them the understanding and comfort they need to see their situations in a different light.

This isn't to say that I think that being highly sensitive means that we're inherently "better" than non-HSPs or that we should exalt ourselves for our unique characteristics and abilities. However, I think that we learn to devalue ourselves for simply being who we are due to receiving negative feedback from the non-HSP world. We get the message that who we inherently are is not acceptable or "ok." As a result, we go through life thinking that something is wrong with us and learn to either try to be something we're not, become an obnoxious rebel or settle somewhere in-between.

Being the natural people-pleasers that we are, we sometimes lose ourselves in the quest to avoid conflict, feel accepted and make sure that others are happy with how they experience us. What I've recently learned is that continuing to deny your true essence can become a futile, self-defeating trap that leads to hidden resentment and frustration. After all, you can't possibly please everyone one hundred percent of the time. No matter what you do or where you go, there's always going to be someone who doesn't like or understand you. Despite our high expectations of ourselves, we are still as human as the rest of the world, with a mix of imperfections that contribute to our uniqueness.

Your uniqueness is what makes you "YOU." It's a set of characteristics that contributes to the innate talents that the rest of humanity needs and can benefit from. We aren't meant to be carbon copies of each other. If that were the case, the interdependence that the world needs to function couldn't exist. Somewhere inside you have to make the journey of not only reflecting on who you really are, but also develop the resolve to say that you are ok with being "YOU." You can't truly validate yourself with the opinions of others or the attachment of your identity to things outside of yourself. If you do, your identity becomes lost and fragmented, as external opinions and attachments are unpredictable and fleeting.

The only person who can validate you is your own self. From within, you are the one who says "I'm ok." From within, you learn to understand and appreciate who you are, imperfections included. From that inner validation, you can begin to unmask the uniqueness that has so much to contribute to the world. Those contributions will find their way to those they were meant to reach and bypass those who are here for a different reason. What we all need to remember is that "different" should not be equated with "wrong." The world around us isn't painted in grey and white (at least most of the time). Why paint over yourself that way? Better to let it chip away to the original color that lies underneath. Its vitality is exactly what's needed on the landscape of existence.


  1. Thank you for putting this into words so clearly. I've been struggling with frustration and feeling out of step with others, and I think this is a big part of it.

    "The only person who can validate you is your own self." Apparently, I need to learn this over and over. Thanks for saying it when I needed to hear it!

  2. You're welcome! When I started this blog, I never imagined I would cross "virtual paths" with so many others who could relate so well to my thoughts, views and experiences. It's been comforting to be able to see that I'm not the only one out there and receive such inspiring feedback.

  3. "i believe in differences my differences from the society makes me somebody"... I remember i used to say that when i was a young boy back in the days, it's good to see that there are other people out there who had the same experiences, i had the same experience and it was hard to adjust with the social life, but now when i look back it makes much more sense than back then..

    Be Blessed.. feel free to check my site: http://www.sourceoforigin.com

  4. "What we all need to remember is that "different" should not be equated with "wrong." I needed to hear that SO badly - everyone around me tells me I'm wrong, my feelings are wrong, my reactions are wrong, in short, I'm just WRONG - period. I'm so glad to find someone else like me, and to hear I'm NOT wrong! Thank you!

  5. You're welcome! I truly believe that there isn't a "right" and a "wrong" per se. Each individual has a right to their feelings, reactions, perspectives, etc. No one else really has the right to label someone else as "wrong" or their reactions as "wrong" either. I think that's another difference between HSPs and Non-HSPs. The non's are too quick to view things according to their perspective only, whereas HSPs almost automatically try to put themselves in the other person's shoes. Empathy; the world could use more of it. =)