Have you ever walked into a Super WalMart and felt completely overwhelmed? Do overhead fluorescent lights inspire rage inside you? Does just the thought of watching a violent horror movie make you sick to your stomach?
Then you may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) – like me!
Welcome to the club, brothers and sisters. But don’t worry, it’s not the kind of club where you have to go to meetings and stuff, because we all know that would be a little over-stimulating for all of us.
So what the hell is a Highly Sensitive Person? And is it a real thing? According to Dr. Elaine Aron, it is. She coined the term and has been studying the psychological make-up of HSPs for nearly 25 years. According to her, you may be an HSP if you
- Feel overwhelmed by bright lights, loud sounds, or strong smells.
- Withdraw from overwhelming situations.
- Avoid violent TV shows and films.
- Notice subtleties in your environment that others miss.
- Were ever characterized as being shy.
Now, I’ve never been called shy. In fact, I used to think I was an extrovert (I fall somewhere in between). But I can pretty much relate to all the other characteristics of an HSP. Sammy Nickalls wrote a post for Hello Giggles called 22 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person (and That’s Okay!). Seriously, I needed someone to say that it’s okay, because I pretty much relate to everything she wrote.
I was starting to feel guilty or somehow flawed that I prefer exercising alone, working alone, have trouble making decisions, and have an extreme sensitivity to sound. I should buy stock in whoever makes earplugs, because I go through several tubs of them each year. And seriously, DO NOT get me started on fluorescent lighting. I would prefer to sit in the dark than subject myself to fluorescent lights. I always thought it was because I had overhead fluorescent lights in my bedroom growing up. Good to know, I suppose, that it’s just part of the package of being an HSP.
Apparently, even the way I eat and treat my body can be traced back to being a Highly Sensitive Person. Shit, even the way I live in my own home, and how I decorate it is probably a result of being an HSP. My husband knows very well not to turn on overhead lights unless it is an EMERGENCY (or if he’s feeling the need to be given the third degree about why he needs to have so much light). And I can finally feel less guilty about always wanting to indulge in some flowers for the house.
I think my creativity is indelibly tied to my high sensitivity, which I see as a good thing. On the flip side, however, I also think my anxiety is tied to my high sensitivity. I struggle more and more with anxiety as I get older, even though I’m totally aware of it, what triggers it, and have many methods to deal with it such as meditation and gardening. But my anxiety persists and grows as my creativity persists and grows. I suspect they will always be tied together somehow, and that it’s something I will deal with over the course of a lifetime.