A Highly Sensitive Person experiences the world differently than others.
Discovering the term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) changed my life.
I learned why I operate the way I do. Why I struggle in some areas and shine in others. And why boundaries around my time and energy are vital to my well-being.
Dr. Elaine Aaron is the psychotherapist and researcher who coined the term Highly Sensitive Person, also know as Sensory-Processing Sensitivity. She identifies Sensory Processing Sensitivity as a normal temperament trait, not a disorder, found in approximately 20% of the population.
In a nutshell, you have a more sensitive nervous system and process things more deeply.
According to her research, biologists have found this trait in over 100 species from birds, to dogs and cats, to horses.
The world has stereotyped sensitive souls to be weak and broken, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It is often the sensitive souls who are the ones striving to create a more fair, humane and just world. And there are far more of us than you might think.
Some names you might recognize of people who are believed to have had (or have admitted to having) highly sensitive characteristics include:
Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, Princess Diana, Jane Goodall, Scarlette Johansson, Nicole Kidman, Taye Diggs, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Elton Jon, Alanis Morissette, Jim Morrison, Jewel, Jack Johnson, Dolly Parton, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, E.E. Cummings, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, and so many more.
If you’re wondering if you too might be an HSP, here are 25 signs (the good & the bad) that you might be a highly sensitive person:
25 Signs of a Highly Sensitive Person
1. You feel it all
You’ve likely been labeled as too sensitive or too emotional throughout your life.
Your emotions get triggered easily. Whether watching a movie, listening to music or seeing a beautiful piece of art, the feelings being conveyed captivate you and quickly send you into an emotional realm.
You are deeply empathetic to the pain of others. Their hurt is your hurt. You are a bleeding heart for world issues and often take on social causes, always wishing you could do more to help those in need.
When you’re in a safe environment where you don’t have to keep your guard up, you cry often. Your emotions are right there at the surface.
You simply feel it all and wish the world was kinder and more sympathetic to the struggles of others than it is.
2. You read between the lines
You seem to notice the invisible and unspoken. You pick up on the energies around you quickly. The mood of a person, the vibe of a conversation you walk into, the words that are left unspoken, you feel them instantly.You can see people’s eagerness or withdrawal, their insecurities or ego, whether they’re being authentic or putting on an act.
You know if something feels off with someone or within a relationship. You can often even tell if someone is lying or holding things back.
3. You were labeled as a shy or timid child
You likely always felt a little different as a child. And if you weren’t in an environment that supported or understood your sensitivity, you may have withdrawn. The more you withdrew, the more you were perceived as “different,” and the more isolated you felt.
If the world around you didn’t support your sensitive strengths and allow them to flourish, you likely grew up with a sense of shame inside your heart.
4. You need time alone, often
You need alone time like you need oxygen. Without it you completely deplete your energy reserves and unravel. Because you process things so deeply, interactions with others and the outside world take a lot out of you. You need time completely alone to recover and recharge.
If you are often exhausted without understanding why, it’s likely that you’re not carving out enough time alone.
5. You feel a special connection to animals
You feel a deeper connection to animals than most. In some ways, it feels almost spiritual. You cannot stand to see them hurt. You treat them with as much kindness and respect as you would treat a person.
And animals sense this in you. They are drawn to you, even if they are timid. They know they are safe in your presence.
6. You are a nurturer
Nurturing others comes naturally to you.
You give your all to take care of those who are counting on you. A comforting embrace, food on the table, your devoted time and attention. You go the extra mile to give your love. This is a strength but you’re prone to giving too much of yourself.
If you don’t prioritize your needs your energy will deplete quickly making it very hard for you to show up at your best.
7. You are deeply intuitive
You get gut feelings about things and those feelings usually prove to be true. You can sense things about people’s characters that others don’t see and can predict things before they happen based on those senses.
Your intuition leads you in the right direction even when you don’t fully understand why. Sometimes it strongly contradicts what others are telling you but you later realize just how right it was.
And every time you don’t listen to it, you regret it.