By Andrea Wachter, LMFT
Have you ever been told that you are too sensitive? I sure have.
I always felt different than most of the people around me. I seemed to take everything to heart, while others seemed so much more resilient.
My siblings seemed unaffected when our parents scolded us, and I wanted to disappear in a spiral of shame. I felt crushed when a budding romance didn’t bloom into a full-blown relationship, while my closest friends seemed unfazed when it happened to them. I could barely recover from relationship glitches, while others seemed to bounce back unscathed.
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 more centered or resilient in the face of conflicts and challenges. Some people want to lash out instead of in when they feel angry or hurt.
I remember a turning point when I made peace with being a sensitive breed. I decided to stop viewing my sensitivity as a flaw or a curse but rather as a personality trait that required excellent self-care.
I began to respond to the “You’re so sensitive” or “You’re too sensitive” comments with a shame-free, “Yes, I am.” Or “I am, so please be kind to me.” Or simply, “Thank you.”
After working with many highly sensitive people in my therapy practice (including myself), I have found some considerable advantages that accompany this characteristic. Here are a few.
Sensitive people tend to experience pleasure more deeply.
If you are highly sensitive, you may have to cope with feeling difficult emotions more intensely than some people, but the flip side means that you get to feel the sweet things in life very deeply too. You might have to use a lot of tools to weather the storms of life, but when the storms subside, you get to fully bask in the sunny moments, thanks to feeling things so deeply.
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 absorb other people’s problems or think you’re responsible for fixing them, being a sensitive breed can contribute to being a really caring person.
Sensitive people can be very perceptive.
Sensitive people tend to pick up on things that others might miss. Being aware, observant, and insightful can be very positive qualities. There are a lot of situations, tasks, and jobs that require great perception and insight. This can make the gift of sensitivity an excellent asset to many different career paths and life circumstances.
Sensitive people can deeply embrace new concepts.
While sensitive people tend to absorb a lot and often work on letting go of challenging experiences, hurt feelings, and unhelpful thoughts, they can also use this quality towards positive or productive input. Given a handful of healthy tools or new concepts, a highly sensitive person can use their gift of sensitivity to embrace and absorb information and reap many benefits.
Sensitive people can be very creative.
People with high sensitivity can often use their sensitive nature to tap into their inner creativity. Some of the most creative people I know are extremely sensitive. Of course, they might have to deal with their external world a bit more carefully than some, but when they use their awareness and clarity to tap into their internal world, amazing things can happen. Being sensitive can give someone a front-row seat to the inner show of creativity, intuition, and clarity that lives inside us.
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 sooner and stronger than most. A person who feels everything fully needs to fully take care of themselves. A client of mine put it this way: “Other people can get away with skipping a meal now and then or neglecting their sleep for a few days. I’m a wreck if I do that. Oh, maybe that’s not such a bad thing? It forces me to stay on top of my self-care!”
Sensitive people tend to be very aware of their surroundings.
A high level of sensitivity can give you a highly attuned sense of your immediate environment. Sensitive people are often accused of missing nothing, which is not necessarily a negative quality. They are often the first to spot a dolphin in the ocean, a deer in the woods, or danger on the horizon. Sensitive people can be quite helpful and handy on a beach walk, a forest hike, or a natural disaster.
If you are a highly sensitive person, take heart. Once you make peace with this innate trait, you can learn to weather the storms of life more effectively, take care of yourself more respectfully, and fully reap the many advantages of being a sensitive breed.