What does it mean when you are sensitive?
You may have been told at some point that you are ‘over-sensitive’ and indeed, you may even think this could be true, but you’re not really sure exactly what it means. You might have heard of the terms highly sensitive and empath and don’t know if they apply to you. Growing up you might have felt differently to everyone around you; if you’re a sensitive person you will have been more aware of your environment and the feelings of those around you. You will have also been much more aware and in touch with your own feelings, being very emotional. You could have possibly been told that your heightened awareness of your feelings was inappropriate and you were described as ‘too emotional’ or ‘over sensitive’. You could have felt rejected and to blame, thinking that there was something wrong with you, instead of being valued for your intuitive awareness and nurtured with love and understanding.
The terms empath and highly sensitive are sometimes used interchangeably and you might not be sure exactly what they mean. Although both empaths and highly sensitive people share several similar traits, being highly sensitive or an empath are indeed different things. The main difference is that empaths will literally take on board another person’s feelings as if they are their own, and physically experience the emotion. (read here for more information on being an empath: https://jonathanvitalliving.com/12-signs-you-are-an-empath/). The other person’s experience then becomes the empath’s experience with them deeply internalising it as if it were their own. The emotional boundaries between the empath and the other person have then ceased to be and they literally become absorbed in someone else’s experience. Whereas a highly sensitive person will still be deeply affected by someone else, it will be their own feelings that they intensely experience, not the other person’s.
Being a sensitive person however is not a bad thing, indeed it is a very special gift that the world needs more, not less, of. Highly sensitive people tend to be very caring, generous, kind, supportive, intuitive, compassionate and empathetic. If you are a sensitive person, learn to accept and even delight in this; without your kindness and empathy, the world would be a sorrower place and all of us benefit from these very special people. Learn to cherish your gifts and nuture them ensuring you take care of yourself. Read below for the 12 signs:
1 . You are very sensitive to your environment: Being sensitive means you are very sensitive to your surroundings and will have a very sensitive nervous system. This means you will react and withdraw from an excess of stimuli; in particular bright lights and loud noises will leave you feeling startled and drained. If your surroundings are busy and loud, for example if you live in a city, you will need to escape your environment and find somewhere quiet periodically so that you can recharge.
2. Prone to anxiety and depression: Because you are highly affected by your environment and have a very sensitive nervous system, you can easily become overwhelmed and drained. This every-day assault on your senses can in time begin to wear you down on a long term basis, very often resulting in anxiety and/or depression. You must take care to look after yourself and ensure that you don’t put yourself in environments or with people that drain you.
3. Like being on your own: Often, it is thought that people who are sensitive are introverts who like to be alone a lot of the time. Whilst this is certainly true, there are many extroverts who are sensitives, and require that alone time to recharge themselves. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you will most definitely need some time to yourself after being with a lot of people for a significant amount of time. Whether that’s after being at work all day, after socialising with friends or family members, or after being out in a busy public place, you will feel soothed and restored after spending some time alone. Sensitive people not only require time alone after being with others, but will actually like doing things by themselves sometimes. Very often a sensitive person will take themselves out somewhere for the day alone, maybe to eat something, go watch a movie or visit a museum.
4. Sensitive to energies: Being aware and affected by your environment also means you are very sensitive to picking up others’ energies. You will always know if there is something wrong with someone, even if they seem alright and tell you that they are. You will also be able to ‘read’ a room as soon as you walk in, you’ll be super aware of any tension and find yourself trying extra hard to make sure everyone is ok, feeling as if it is your personal responsibility to make sure everyone is alright. You will tend to do this with friends and family too, often going out of your way – sometimes to your own discomfort – to ensure they are comfortable. You will also worry if you have done enough and even give yourself a hard time if you feel you didn’t succeed.
5. Self-critical: Sensitive people hold themselves to a standard of perfection that is nigh on impossible to achieve, and when they fall short of their exacting standards, they are usually very hard on themselves allowing their inner critic full reign on their perceived faults. This is due to living in a world that doesn’t respect sensitivity, in fact sometimes forcefully opposing it and seeing sensitivity as a weakness, rather than the strength it really is. If they feel that they haven’t done enough to, or weren’t successful in their help of another, that inner critic will lash out at them in a way they would never dream of treating anyone else.
6. Imaginative: Highly sensitive people tend to be very imaginative and will have a rich inner life that they can retreat into when the outside world becomes overwhelming. It’s not just a place that they will withdraw to periodically, but it will also run concurrently with whatever they are living; they can still be present but use the filter of their powerful imagination to soften what they are experiencing.
7. Creative: Along with being highly imaginative, sensitive people are usually very creative; you often find them in creative vocations such as the arts, dance, music etc. Whether they have pursued creativity as a formal career or not, they will at least have some creative hobbies or just live life in a very individual, creative way.
8. Emotional: if you are sensitive, it is likely that you are very emotional. You will feel your emotions deeply and be very familiar with them, yet not always understanding them. This is very different to an empath, while also being very familiar with their own feelings, will literally absorb the feelings of other people like a sponge, taking them on as their own (https://jonathanvitalliving.com/12-signs-you-are-an-empath/). Interacting with people will evoke your emotions. Very often, you will be very moved and be on the verge of tears, or cry very easily. Men who are highly sensitive will also experience this, but may suppress it due to societal and cultural expectations and pressures.
9. Fall in love easily: A sensitive person will fall in love easily, and when they do, they give it their all and invest everything they have into the relationship. They believe in love and happily ever after and are willing to make that happen. Being sensitive to the needs and wants of their partner, they can make themselves be what the other person needs, very often putting aside their own deeper needs and feelings to satisfy the other person and the relationship. This can easily lead to a co-dependent relationship (article coming soon on co-dependency). Eventually, this is unsustainable and the sensitive person will become emotionally and mentally drained. They will begin to see the truth of their partner and the relationship as the idealised view begins to fade. They will take this very hard and the relationship may not survive. A sensitive person will feel heart break deeply and it may take them a long time, longer than most people, to get over a lover and a relationship – they were in it for the long haul so it’s very difficult for them to give that up. A highly sensitive person must learn to have boundaries, see people for who they are rather than how they want them to be, and not give their heart away so easily.
10. People pleaser: You can’t say no. You want to always help, even to your own detriment sometimes. It’s not that you say yes all the time as a way to manipulate people and further your own cause, it’s because you genuinely want others to be happy and feel that it is your personal responsibility to make that happen. This can lead you to becoming emotionally and mentally drained, to not pursuing your own happiness and to being easily manipulated by less scrupulous people. Your boundaries in relationships can easily become blurred, especially in close and romantic relationships, and eventually you will feel used and taken advantage of – even though you have been a willing accomplice all along. It’s important that you learn when to say no, make yourself a priority and realise that it is not your role to make sure everyone is taken care of – that’s everyone’s individual role.
11. You are moved by art: It may be a song, a poem, a picture, but art has the potential to move you very deeply. A piece of music, very often classical (but not only classical music) will leave your body covered in goosebumps, hairs standing on end and you will be on the verge of tears. A piece of art in a gallery will resonate with you and you’ll innately feel what the artist intended. You may read a work of literature and feel the protagonist’s journey and relate it your own. All forms and expressions of art can become magical to you and you can derive great delight and joy from them. If you are sensitive, it is nourishing to your soul to experience some kind of art – in whatever form appeals to you.
12: Tired: Due to having a very sensitive nervous system and being highly aware of the world around you, sensing different energies and all the subtleties of life that the majority of people miss, you are likely to tire quickly. Busy and noisy environments especially will leave you feeling drained with a need to rest after experiencing them. But also, being around certain people on a one to one level can leave you feeling exhausted too. It is probable that because of this, you not only need your alone time, but will require more sleep than the average person. It is vitally important that you rest lots, meditate regularly and get a full night’s quality sleep.
So here are the 12 signs that you are a highly sensitive person; if you recognise yourself in most, if not all of them, you are undoubtedly a highly sensitive person and should take steps to celebrate that, whilst also taking care of yourself and your keen awareness. Read my post on empaths https://jonathanvitalliving.com/12-signs-you-are-an-empath/ to see if you recognise any of those signs about yourself – very often there is a cross over and you will experience elements of both.
As always, please let me know if this article has been beneficial.
Much love –