How do you know if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person? There are many ways to know if you walk through this world with extra empathy, sensitivity, and intuition. There are a lot of similarities between how Highly Sensitive People, psychics, and intuitive people experience the world.
The lenses we see out of may vary in shade but they’re of the same hue: life is brighter, more intense. That intensity can also cast bold shadows if your boundaries are not secure. While I’ll be discussing how to identify if you’re a Highly Sensitive People specifically below, if you are intuitive, psychic, or an empath, you will resonate with a lot of the traits mentioned.
Coined by Elaine Aron, PhD, Highly Sensitive People refers to 15-20% of the population who experience life more intensely. This is a beautiful thing: the opera might make them cry, a perfect glass of cold lemon water might hit that spot in an exquisite way. In general they have increased empathy and more attunement to others’ energy. HSP make great therapists, healers, artists, nurses, and teachers. Highly Sensitive People are neurodivergent; it’s as if someone went and turned the volume of life all the way up, sometimes to an uncomfortable amount, with all of your senses. Sounds, light, smells, and even textural sensations are processed more deeply.
Highly Sensitive People are strong: it’s incredibly hard to live in this world and be functioning when you are highly sensitive. This world is not designed for us.
Below are some classic traits and common experiences of the Highly Sensitive Person:
How To Tell If You're A Highly Sensitive Person
You Get Overstimulated Easily and Feel Porous
Do you suffer from overstimulation? Is it hard for you to be in loud and crowded spaces, or witness violent imagery? Are you particularly sensitive to scents? When you feel everything more intensely than most, drowning out the noise and distractions can become its own preoccupation.
If you are highly sensitive and/or intuitive, you might be getting psychic or energetic information about someone else. Someone else’s energy might be affecting your energetic field, whether you know it or not. Many intuitives, sensitives, and empaths have learned to process the energy of a room to recalibrate it. Some of us have taken on the role of the emotional processor of others’ emotions. Maybe, you learned that was your role in your family of origin: to harmonize a space, to take on the pain of others.
If you often feel like you’re being influenced by the emotions of others, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person. We are relational beings and a lot of us sensitives, empaths, and caregiving types are very attuned to others’ emotions and energy and have internalized that caring is absorbing and mirroring back that energy even though it isn’t. This leads to hypervigilance, and a lot of energetic build up. Matching energy is normalized but it’s why a lot of people are exhausted.
You Need A Lot of Active Rest and Alone Time
While rest and adequate sleep are important for every person, for Highly Sensitive folks, it is imperative. Alone time is a regenerative time. Time spent with solo passions and hobbies—or simply just early bedtimes and naps—must be higher priorities for those who identify as HSP. Try for at least 9 hours a night, with at least 20 minutes of meditation or naps a day.
You Hate Being Observed
Highly sensitives hate being watched: it’s a level of discomfort akin to the sound of nails on a chalkboard. We do not want to be looked at, and often, that means that in-person work—or most work environments—are challenging; social environments can be too. My own creativity is virtually non-existent if other people are around. It’s taken me years to be ok with doing some of the public-facing work I do. Thanks to boundaries, I can now teach and share in front of thousands of people every year.
Want to know more about being a Highly Sensitive? Listen to my Moonbeaming episode about boundaries for Highly Sensitive People here and my episode about boundary basics: Intrinsic Boundaries here. As an HSP myself, all of my online courses and workshops are informed by this experience. Click here to learn about my next workshop series, Resourcing The Creative Self.
My thoughts and views on on this topic were informed by The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You and The Highly Sensitive Person's Workbook, both by Elaine N. Aron, PhD.