Inside the Mind of an HSP

Ashley Zhao, Staff Writer

Are you easily overwhelmed by bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, or coarse fabrics? Do you prioritize your life in order to avoid upsetting or embarrassing situations? Were you ever called “sensitive” as a child? If any of these criteria apply to you, you just might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Most people have a hard time understanding HSPs, who make up 15 to 20% of the population, and the trait is easily misunderstood as being shy, fearful, or neurotic. In order to avoid this kind of misinterpretation, here’s a list describing some of the ups and downs of being a HSP.

As indicated in their name, HSPs have a tendency to be quite sensitive about a number of things. For instance, they are sensitive about themselves. They have difficulties letting go of negative emotions or thoughts and often “beat themselves up when they fall short of their own expectations,” according to Psychology Today. Furthermore, HSPs compare themselves with others, which can lead to unhappiness if they are compared negatively. These comparisons can be physical, relational, social, relating to work, other situations.

HSPs may also be fearful of rejection, even if it’s for something small. These people are also sensitive about others. For example, Psychology Today also states that these people often “worry about what other people are thinking” quite often and always feel like they are being judged. They also tend to keep their negative emotions inside, and believe that they are too embarrassing, shocking, or vulnerable to share with others. When given constructive criticism, HSPs have a hard time taking it well, even if it is given in a reasonable and helpful way.

They can also be sensitive about their own environments. In large crowds where a lot of people are talking, an HSP might feel uncomfortable. This experience can also transpire when too many things are occurring at the same time. They may also avoid “shock” entertainment or pieces of media that encourage negative emotion. Examples of this include negative news in the media in addition to intensely scary or violent shows. An HSP is also easily startled by sudden noises, fast traffic, or other unexpected surprises.

It’s difficult to imagine being an HSP can be a good thing, but there are many benefits HSPs have that other people might not. For example, HSPs are able to concentrate deeply, especially when there aren’t any distractions. They are also able to easily notice small subtleties that others may miss. This is because they process sensory information more carefully, which is a result of us using parts of our brain that are associated with complex processing. This kind of trait can help with learning languages, as HSPs are more sensitive to new information and can remember small details better.

In addition, they are more aware of themselves and know what they need to improve on in the future by reflecting on past mistakes. Being highly conscientious—which means having good manners—is another trait that HSPs have. They also know when other people don’t show good manners. HSPs are also more empathetic and are moved by the emotions of others. Some may also be able to feel the emotions of others, which results in a feeling of wanting to help the other person.

Being an HSP has its ups and downs, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Use your abilities to make yourself happy, and don’t be hurt if you’re told not to be so “sensitive”.