Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) doesn’t mean you’re weak.
Actually, it means the opposite!
HSPs process and feel 10x what the average person does, and as such they behave in ways which can seem more than a little strange to the rest of us.
But they also pick up on many details, subtleties and breakthroughs than less sensitive people often miss…
Here’s an explainer on some HSP behaviors that may have you scratching your head.
1) Being overwhelmed by beauty
The HSP can become overwhelmed by beauty and even sometimes want a break or pause from too much beauty.
That could be natural beauty on a walk or the beauty of a symphony playing music so exquisite that it overwhelms them.
Whereas a less sensitive person may appreciate beauty, they can find it hard to understand why a highly sensitive individual seems to sometimes back out from too much of something good.
It’s not because they don’t like it, it’s because they like it so much it can almost scare them at times.
2) Crying from happiness and joyous moments
We’ve all heard the term “tears of joy,” but the idea that somebody might actually be sobbing out of euphoria is hard for many to understand.
For HSPs this is a normal experience:
Rather than crying at the sad part of a movie they tend to be even more deeply touched by the arc of redemption, overcoming and victory.
3) Noticing many details of their surroundings
HSPs are extremely perceptive and tend to notice more than the average person.
This Is part of the reason why they need more time to sleep and recharge and
“Imagine looking at a painting and noticing six different shades of blue, whereas a less sensitive person would only notice one shade.
“Now apply that ability to the workplace, home, or classroom, and you can see how sensitive people feel more stress and fatigue than others…”
This ties directly into the next point…
4) Needing more time out and rest
Very sensitive folks need more time out and rest than other people.
This may be misinterpreted sometimes as them being antisocial or not liking you.
But it’s usually nothing to do with that.
The HSP is just like a unique type of plant that needs more water or shade than some other plants, which in this case means more sleep and time away from social activities.
5) Speaking a bit more quietly and slowly than average
HSPs often speak a bit more quietly and slowly than the average.
It’s not that they don’t know what to say or are shy, necessarily.
It’s just that they find very loud noises and talking rapidly disconcerting, whether it’s from their side or those around them.
Which brings me to the next point…
6) Blocking out loud and obtrusive noises
None of us like the loud sounds of traffic, honking and construction around us.
But for HSPs this crosses the line into actively disrupting their day.
They may even physically cringe or be unable to continue talking or doing what they’re doing when a very loud bus passes the cafe or there are loud fireworks set off nearby.
7) Extreme difficulty multitasking or responding to competing demands
Some of us are better than others at multitasking…
HSPs do not tend to be among those who respond well to multitasking and being asked many things at once.
They generally need to carefully prioritize what needs to be done first and get overwhelmed if hit with ten demands at once.
8) Preoccupation, excitement or disgust over strong smells
Strong smells might seem like a minor nuisance or pleasure to most of us.
But to the HSP a strong smell can ruin or make their day.
This isn’t necessarily some allergy or particular fixation on smell, it’s just that the HSP reacts strongly to smell whether it’s the pleasant waft of cinnamon reminding them of Christmas or the stench of sewage in a city making them feel sick to the stomach.
9) Intense imaginations that can strike others as downright bizarre
HSP individuals tend to have very intense imaginations.
Their ideas and the type of stories and fantasies they think up can come across as downright crazy to less sensitive people.
Then again, the HSP isn’t asking for permission or trying to change who they are.
In fact quite often they’re coming up with the ideas and stories that shape our world, art and vision.
10) Falling in love incredibly intensely and fully
Very sensitive people tend to fall in love very intensely, fully and, often, very fast.
This can be hard for others to understand, and observers may see this as hasty or impulsive.
That’s not how it is from the perspective of an HSP, however, who experiences love as fairly black and white:
They’re either potentially falling in love and very into someone or they’re just not.
It’s really that simple.
And if they are falling in love they will devote their whole life, energy and passion to that person in a way that makes for the most epic love stories but which can also lead to the greatest disappointments and letdowns.
11) Difficulty in navigating intense emotions in relationships
The HSP falls in love deeply and commits their whole heart.
This is why it can be even harder for them due to the fact that really intense emotional tensions and confusion in relationships are hard to navigate.
This is true for all of us, but for the HSP it’s even more so…
A big part of the reason is blurriness between the lines between the two partners as the HSP finds it difficult not to suffer or become happy based on how their partner is doing and how they’re feeling about the relationship.
12) Taking breakups much harder than most
If and when they do experience a breakup, the highly sensitive individual doesn’t just sulk for a couple days and snap out of it.
They internalize a breakup and take it much harder than most, even the termination of a short relationship.
If they cared for someone deeply, losing that person wounds them to the core much more than it might somebody else who isn’t quite as sensitive.
Listen to HSP Scott Avett sing about the difficulty of being disappointed in love and loving someone who makes you feel doubtful of your own self-worth.
“Feel like a thief when I am with you…
Feel like a beggar when I’m not.”
13) Pursuing meaning and purpose even to the exclusion of practical matters
The HSP is like a meaning-seeking-missile.
They’re just not satisfied with half answers or half measures.
They want a life that matters to them even if that means neglecting other practical considerations that might seem obvious like having a good salary or stable home life.
Sometimes the HSP just needs to follow that gypsy highway.
Is it good to be a highly sensitive person?
The short answer is yes.
It’s definitely good to be an HSP, even if it’s sometimes confusing or difficult for others or overwhelming for the highly sensitive individual.
In fact, as Granneman and co-author Andre Solo note in their recent book Sensitive, psychological and social researchers have come to see heightened sensitivity as an evolutionary trait that has been crucial in the survival of humanity.
With around 30% of the adult population being HSP, if you’re HSP you’re not alone even if you sometimes may feel that way.
You have a valuable and powerful contribution to make to society and in the lives of everyone around you, including in your own.