- Being highly sensitive comes with its share of benefits as well as challenges.
- Greater empathy, kindness, and the ability to self-reflect and solve problems serve highly sensitive people well in relationships.
- However, a tendency to freeze under intense pressure and take negative feedback personally can be drawbacks, particularly at work.
Do you think and feel everything more deeply?
If so, then you may be one of the 20 percent of people who fall into the category of being a highly sensitive person (HSP).
Characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person
Biologically speaking, highly sensitive people pick up on more stimuli within and around them. Studies have shown that the HSP brain is more active in areas related to attention, emotion, action-planning, decision-making, and having strong internal experiences.
In fact, managers consistently rate people with higher sensitivity as their top contributors. As professionals, HSPs are innovative, deeply committed to fairness, and have a knack for leading teams of people in a way others simply can’t.
At the same time, hyper-attunement can be draining. Situations that might be moderately stressful to the average person can cause a sensitive person to spiral into overthinking.
This is especially true for "Sensitive Strivers"—highly sensitive people who are also high-achieving. The concept of sensitive striving comes out of my decade of researching and coaching. Sensitive Strivers are like HSPs but also show above-average ambition and an appetite for continual growth.
14 Signs That You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
If you relate to most of the following, you can confidently call yourself an HSP.
1. You're extremely empathetic.
HSPs possess a keen ability to sense others’ feelings, needs, insecurities, etc. Science proves it: HSPs are shown to have more active mirror neurons, which are responsible for understanding others' emotions. Your emotional intelligence and empathy make you a master at communication, conflict resolution, and inspiring others to action. Unfortunately, you may also slip into people-pleasing and putting others’ needs ahead of your own.
2. You cherish reflection.
As a highly sensitive person, you operate best when you have time and space to reflect before responding. You pick up on nuances and are skilled at making connections and integrating complex information. It's essential to give yourself the chance to process all that information you're constantly taking in.
3. You hear “don't take things personally” (a lot).
HSPs tend to react more strongly to situations. You may sometimes wonder why you are so deeply affected by the world around you while others brush things off easily. HSPs may feel like there is something wrong with them for being so sensitive. As a result, many spend years denying their gifts and strengths.
4. You freeze under pressure.
Working under a deadline might make you anxious, and speaking up in meetings is terrifying. Having a giant to-do list is overwhelming. That’s why it is essential to find ways to manage your time, so you don’t become overstimulated.
5. You're at home inside your head.
HSPs have vibrant inner lives. This means you are an incredibly original, creative thinker who is extremely self-aware. On the flip side, it’s not uncommon for you to overthink and over-analyze day-to-day experiences, causing you to veer off into self-consciousness and self-criticism.
6. You have a tough time with negative feedback.
HSPs react more strongly to criticism than non-HSPs. Therefore, they may go out of their way to avoid being criticized, such as by working extra hard, which leads to burnout.
7. You're deliberate in the way you make decisions.
HSPs often struggle to make decisions; they fear choosing the “wrong” option even if the stakes are low. Because HSPs are so conscientious about how their decisions impact others or how they may be perceived,
8. You're on top of the details.
HSPs are extremely perceptive. They pick up on the specifics of situations and notice the tiniest changes. This detail orientation is a positive trait in many scenarios. You’re highly attuned to others’ likes, dislikes, and preferences, and that perceptiveness can win you friends and allies right off the bat. On the flip side, your meticulousness can turn into perfectionism if you don’t manage it carefully. Remember, sometimes done is better than perfect.
9. You exude kindness.
You’re often complimented on your politeness, courtesy, and clear understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong. You’re probably the champion of integrity and upholding your word at the office. While these traits are important, HSPs can be easily peeved by difficult co-workers who don’t share the same traits or values.
10. You're a problem solver.
Commitment and dedication are qualities that make HSPs great team members. Always attentive to the environment, HSPs are able to sense conflict, mitigate problems, and flag new opportunities.
11. You notice what others miss.
Ever left a meeting and remarked about your boss’ incessant pen-tapping only for your co-worker to say, “Oh, I didn’t notice that”? Highly sensitive people are attuned to and process noise, chaos, and other external stimuli profoundly, so what may be a major annoyance to you could go pretty much unnoticed by a non-HSP.
12. You go through tissues like it's your job.
HSPs become overwhelmed more quickly than others, and that often manifests itself in tears. It’s important to realize that while you may be able to manage your emotions more effectively, they are nothing to be ashamed of.
13. You enjoy working from home.
Highly sensitive people often prefer work environments where they can control external stimuli, such as how well-lit, quiet, or uncluttered their workspace is, making them partial to working from home as opposed to an office with an open layout.
14. You seek meaning and purpose.
HSPs are driven by intrinsic factors (such as finding enjoyment in their work) rather than external ones (such as money or prestige). You are the type of person who looks for work that feels like a calling, rather than taking a job just for a paycheck.
If you have spent your life confused and unhappy with your strong emotions, try to think instead about ways that you can use these traits as gifts and leverage them as strengths. Learning about how your unique HSP traits work is the first step.
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