Sense and Sensitivity

The ups and downs of daily life as a Highly Sensitive Person

How Sensitivity Can Help You Reach Your Goals

How your sensitivity can give you the drive to live the life you’ve imagined.

One of the hardest things to cope with as a highly sensitive person is the intensity of our feelings. Whether those feelings are absorbed from the people around us, or we feel overwhelmed by too much sensory stimulation, the result is that we can feel overcome by emotion. But these feelings don’t have to cause us to run and hide. In fact, these feelings can be the very thing that leads us to fulfil our dreams.

When sensitive people feel overwhelmed by too much noise or stress or being around negative people, our first instinct is to want to retreat from the world. We seek an escape from the demands that life places on our sensitive nervous system. Many sensitive people find refuge in solitude or in nature. A walk in the quiet of the countryside can be enormously restorative. But others find the stimulation of daily life too much and resort to self-defeating behaviours, like trying to numb their feelings with food or alcohol, or attempting to deny their feelings altogether and just ‘get on with it.’ Similarly, it can seem easier to just deny this sensitive side of ourselves and try to behave like everyone else, so that we push the feelings away and ultimately reject our own true nature. Unfortunately, not only do these tactics seldom work, but they tend to exacerbate the intensity of our feelings, causing us to feel the anxiety that so many HSPs struggle to overcome. What’s more, denying our feelings and the effort to repress who we really are as a way of trying to cope with the resulting anxiety can lead to self-loathing and low self-esteem that only makes matters worse.

Instead of turning away from our sensitivity and the feelings that come with it, we need to embrace them. Feelings, both good and bad, are energy, which is why sensitive people often succumb to feelings of anxiety. We absorb energy around us all day long and by day’s end, we are flooded with it and we feel rattled and stressed, like a kid on sugar stuck in a classroom. Instead of trying to suppress that energy, however, we can use it to benefit ourselves and others. The sensitive person’s ability to absorb emotions and sensory information gives us a natural source of energy we can use to drive our ambitions. Studies show that it is not intelligence or even talent that allows some people to succeed while others fail. It is drive, otherwise known as perseverance or grit. It is the unfailing motivation to keep moving toward your goals, despite the obstacles. To keep pursuing your goals takes energy and HSPs have a regular source of energy every day. We just have to learn how to channel it.

Highly sensitive people also have the advantage of possessing high standards and a low tolerance for boredom. We also tend to be creative, imaginative, individualistic and we can understand complex ideas, situations and people. All of these qualities promote our sense of drive and help to motivate us to focus on reaching our goals.

Because HSPs are often creative, finding an outlet for that creativity means that we can release all that energy we absorb, as well as bring beauty and joy into the world in a way that can benefit and inspire others through our work. At the same time, by pursuing creative endeavors we are giving ourselves a regular dose of meaning in our lives that boosts our self-esteem and alleviates the anxiety caused by the flood of emotions. Whether we’re writing, painting, singing or caring for children, creative activities can transform highly sensitive people from receptacles for negative energy to vibrant channels through which positive, creative and inspiring energy can flow.

So many highly sensitive people struggle not only with the intensity of their feelings when they become overwhelmed, but also by the challenge to find meaning in their lives. By using the energy we absorb to drive our ambitions, we can find the peace and the happiness we’ve been seeking. It’s sensitivity, not ruthlessness, that can help us reach our goals. And it’s authenticity, not the suppression of our true selves, that can drive us to our dreams.

Deborah Ward's new book, Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness, is available now.

more...

Subscribe to Sense and Sensitivity

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?