There is a certain negative or critical tone that used to exist in referring to someone as sensitive. Perhaps it was and still can be an inherent belief that sensitivity is the opposite of being tough, resilient, or strong. The truth is, being a sensitive person takes tremendous strength to navigate the world and the people in it. Often those that are highly sensitive are deeply introverted and empathetic, two traits that take much courage and resilience to touch base with the rest of society. Thankfully, increased discussion of concepts like empathy and introversion has led to a more positive view of being a highly sensitive person. But the question remains, how can one deal with being sensitive to the world around them?
Traits of a Highly Sensitive Individual
There are essentially three categories that can help you measure if you’re a sensitive person, each coming with their own triumphs and challenges. Personal sensitivity or one’s own feelings, sensitivity to others, and sensitivity to one’s environment are all different aspects of someone’s personality that make up this trait. What does this look like?
Personal sensitivity – Difficulty letting go of thoughts or emotions, fear of rejection, constantly comparing oneself to others, feelings of anxiety or tension, and feeling frustrated by situations that seem unjust or unfair.
Sensitivity to others – Worrying about what others think and feel, a tendency to take things personally, feeling that others are judgmental, struggles to be oneself in group settings, difficulty receiving critical feedback
Sensitivity to one’s environment – emotionally sensitive to large crowds of people, feeling discomfort at certain external stimuli such as bright lights or loud sounds, feeling upset while reading about the news, getting overwhelmed easily when it feels as if too much is going on.
The positive traits of people that are highly sensitive include emotional awareness, empathy for others, the ability to pick up on small cues that others miss, dedication to fairness and justice, passionate and innovative thinking, and an ability to demonstrate good leadership through valuing others.
Leaning into Your Nature to Help You Navigate
Something specific to and extraordinary about those that are highly sensitive is that while some of their traits have the potential to make it harder to interact with the world around them, they can be incredibly beneficial when embraced instead.
Seeking Calm – Because being a sensitive person can often feel like overstimulation, many seek calm in order to help manage the stress it can cause. In doing so, they often become the calm for others, making them an asset in otherwise high-stress jobs. Sensitive people also tend to be highly empathetic, giving them the tool of being able to better emotionally identify with others. While it’s important for sensitive people to be aware of taking on the feelings of others themselves, they can often be the most trusted and helpful support for their loved ones.
Trusting the Intuition – Feeling a significant amount of sensitivity to the world around them, these individuals are often highly perceptive and emotionally aware. This can help one develop the ability to “trust their gut” when it comes to decision-making, helping sensitive people to be efficient and dynamic leaders.
Thinking Through Decisions – On the other side of intuition, when a “gut-feeling” doesn’t exist to help with decision making, those that are highly sensitive are often more aware of subtle details, which can make them more cautious decision-makers. They often feel the need to deeply think things through in order to avoid making a “wrong” decision. This can be helpful in leadership roles or jobs where a high degree of trust is required, making them thoughtful in their choices and considerate of the effects they can have on others.
Allowing Emotions to Inspire Passion – Sensitive people are often deeply feeling and, therefore, passionate about the things that matter to them. They can be very imaginative, perceptive, and deep thinkers, helping them with creativity and innovative thinking.
Connect to Others – People that are highly sensitive often work well with others in team and group environments. Deep and intuitive thinking often helps them work as part of a whole. Their sensitivity to the criticism of others might make it difficult for them to be the final decision-maker of the group. They are often conscientious and courteous, assisting them in navigating conflicting ideas. Due to the fact that many sensitive people are empathetic, they can be good communicators and be thoughtful of the feelings of those around them.
Being a highly sensitive person can be overwhelming in many ways. Emotions, sensory experiences, and other people can all feel larger than life and seem like too much to experience at times. Instead of shying away from sensitive traits and avoiding a deeply feeling nature, leaning into these characteristics and giving them space to flourish can help a person become an amazing leader, co-worker, friend, and partner. We need sensitive people to connect us to our humanness and the beauty of the experience of feeling.