By Andrea Wachter, LMFT
Chances are, if you are a highly sensitive person, you are no stranger to being told that you are “too sensitive.” For many people, this comment feels like an insult, but in fact, there are some considerable advantages that come along with being a highly sensitive person.
When I was a kid, I used to think that everyone was equally as sensitive as I was. I figured everyone took everything to heart like I did– they just didn’t admit it. I was sure that my siblings cowered inside like I did when our parents scolded us. I was certain that all my friends were as crushed as I was when a budding romance did not bloom into a full-blown relationship. I thought everyone wanted to die if they made a mistake or disappointed someone. It took many years for me to realize that we are not all the same breed. Some people are not crushed at the thought of disappointing another person. Some people are neutral about conflicts. Some want to lash out instead of in. (I refer to them as “Outies” as opposed to the highly sensitive “Innie.”)
Countless times as a kid, I was told, “You are soooo sensitive.” And naturally, being a sensitive breed, I cowered inside and took the comment as an insult. I decided that being so sensitive must have been a fatal flaw. It took many years before I could respond to the, “Your so sensitive” comment with a shame- free, “Yes I am.” Or “I am, so please be kind to me.” Or “Thank you.”
It is not a curse to be highly sensitive; it’s a trait and it can even be an asset. After treating many sensitive people in my therapy practice (and making peace with the quality myself), I have found some pretty nice benefits that come with being highly sensitive. Here are a few:
1) Sensitive people get to feel the good stuff more deeply- If you are highly sensitive, you probably have to deal with feeling difficult emotions more intensely than some people, but the flip side of this means that you get to feel the sweet things in life very deeply too. While you may have to use more tools to weather the storms of life, when the storms subside and there are calm moments, you get to feel those more fully.
2) Sensitive people can be very empathetic- Another benefit of being sensitive is that you can have very deep compassion and understanding for the struggles that other people face. As long as you don’t take them on or think you are responsible for fixing them, sensitive people can make excellent partners, parents, friends and healers.
3) Sensitive people can be very perceptive- People who are sensitive tend to pick up on things that others might miss. Being aware and observant can be a very positive quality. There are a lot of jobs that require great perception and insight so being sensitive can be a great asset to many different career paths.
4) Sensitive people can embrace new concepts very deeply- While sensitive people tend to absorb a lot and often have to work on letting go of hurt feelings and harmful thoughts, they can also use this quality toward positive input as well. Given a handful of healthy tools, a person who is “sensitive” to new information can be very teachable. They can use their ability to embrace new concepts and reap extreme benefits from them.
5) Sensitive people can be very creative- While sensitive people tend to be greatly affected on the inside by outside stimulus, they can also use their sensitive nature to tap into the creativity within. Some of the most creative people I know are extremely sensitive. Yes, they might have to deal with the outside world a bit more carefully than some but when they use their awareness and clarity to tap into their inner world, amazing things can happen. Being sensitive can give someone a front row seat into the inner show of creativity, intuition and clarity that lives inside of us.
6) Being sensitive encourages people to practice excellent self care- While some people can get away with postponing their needs at times, sensitive people often feel the effects of neglect sooner than most. A person who feels everything fully is more encouraged to fully take care of themselves. One client of mine said, “Other people can get away with skipping a meal now and then or neglecting their sleep for a few days. I am a wreck if I do that. Oh, maybe that’s not such a bad thing? It forces me to be on top of my self-care!”
7) Sensitive people are very aware of their surroundings- Being a sensitive person can give you a highly attuned sense of the environment around you. Sensitive people are often accused of missing nothing, but this is not necessarily a negative quality. They are often the first to spot a dolphin at the ocean, the first to spot a deer in the forest and the first to spot danger coming. Sensitive people can be quite helpful and handy on a hike or in a natural disaster.
So if you are a highly sensitive person, take heart. Once you make peace with the way you were born, you can learn to weather the storms of life and fully enjoy the many advantages of being sensitive.