Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

Updated: Aug 31

Are you a highly sensitive person who feels in a minority of just one? Do you feel as if daily life is simply too much and end the day feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Up to 20% of the population could be classed as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). You may think that being an HSP is a flaw or weakness. Yet many consider being an HSP is an extremely valuable boon.


Definition of a Highly Sensitive Person


Dr Elaine Aron defines the highly sensitive person as someone: ‘Who has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.’


Highly sensitive people tend to be the thinkers, the creatives, the innovators, and are highly intelligent. They can make great partners, able to intuit their partner’s needs. You have a lot to offer if you’re highly sensitive. And there are several characteristics that suggest you might be a highly sensitive person:


Your feelings are easily hurt


Are your feelings fragile? Do you feel hurt more easily than most people?

Negative thoughts and emotions consume a lot of your time


Do you waste hours trying to cope with negative thoughts and emotions?

Difficulty accepting criticism even if it’s accurate and constructive


Does criticism make you want to quit? Criticism, particularly if it isn’t constructive, can be difficult to take on board, but do you find that you’re overly sensitive to any actual or implied criticism?

Overreaction to perceived slights or mild insults


Do you assume the worst when someone slights you or makes a questionable comment? If someone fails to say ‘hi’ to you, do you presume something’s wrong? Or that they don’t like you?

Easily overstimulated and overwhelmed


Do you feel overwhelmed by crowds, too much activity, bright lights, loud noises, or strong aromas?


Do you avoid places that are busy? Do strong smells disturb you? Are you easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation in general?

Easily troubled by negative news media


When you watch or read about negative news stories, are you bothered more than most others you know?

You relish spending time alone


Do you need to chill out by yourself more than most people? When you’re alone, do you like to keep things simple and quiet? Do you spend your time in a busy office craving total silence or mediation cocooned at home?


Do scratchy fabrics drive you nuts?


Would feeling a tiny stone in your shoe feel intolerable to you? Are you hypersensitive to how your clothing feels? These are all telltale indicators that you might be highly sensitive.


‘Even a moderate and familiar stimulation, like a day at work, can cause an HSP to need quiet by evening.’ – Dr Elaine Aron


With all this being ‘too peopled out’ and subject to overwhelm, you’d think that being a highly sensitive person would be a distinct disadvantage. But, it isn’t necessarily so…

Consider these advantages of being highly sensitive:


More empathetic


If you’re highly sensitive, you can relate more easily to the emotions of others. It’s almost like you know what everyone is thinking and feeling, sometimes even before they do.

More aware of social cues


Highly sensitive people are very aware of social cues like body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and subtext of expression, and how to use and interpret personal space.

More alert to changes in environment


You know when something has changed, or items are out of place. Or, immediately that you walk into a room, you sense in a nanosecond that the mood of the place has changed.

Able to enjoy subtle things


You can notice small things and appreciate them. You’re more likely to enjoy looking at art, a butterfly, or the clouds, than the average person. Seeing beauty in detail with just a glance enables you to feel the aliveness of the world around you. You see and sense what is lost on the average bod. This is one of your superpowers!


It’s easy to see how these characteristics would be useful in art, writing, any form of creativity, or any field where the ability to ‘join-the-dots’ mentally and emotionally is needed, such as in negotiating, or working as a counsellor or psychologist. There are many ways to use these abilities to your advantage.


There are also fields that you should probably avoid if you want to feel happy in your work. Working 9 to 5 in a fast-paced office environment or a call centre is probably anathema to your mindset. And a hard sell culture, where the only thing that matters is closing the deal, probably isn’t your cup of tea either.


Lean in to Your Strengths


As a highly sensitive person, it’s good to be aware of your natural strengths and weaknesses. When you learn that it’s a waste of time trying to improve your weak points, and that the way to go is to lean in to your strengths, you’ll naturally be drawn to environments that support your innate gifts and talents.


When you wonder whether a certain person, situation or job is right for you, all you need to do is go inside and connect with how you feel. Because your heightened sense of intuition is second-to-none, and will guide you like an instinctive sat-nav to your own north star. You just have to trust in it.


In time, you’ll learn to cope with being a highly sensitive person, and you’ll be able to control the energy within you, to detach yourself more from unwanted stimulus, and to know when to cut off from others, rest and recuperate. Don’t ever feel guilty for needing time alone; it’s how you recharge your battery and is essential to your wellbeing. It’s also the font of your originality, because it’s in this inner silence that you create your visionary masterpieces.


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And there’s more…


The Highly Sensitive Person's Guide to Dealing with Anxiety - The Natural Way: If being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) leaves you feeling stressed and anxious, then this course is for you. Click on the link below to find out more:

HSP Anxiety Course | Release HSP Anxiety the Natural Way (ruthybaker.com)


If you suspect that you, your partner or loved one is a Highly Sensitive Person, then this book will prove to be essential reading and a valuable guide to understanding yourself or loved one more: The Highly Sensitive Person – Elaine N Aron PhD:


Do you process your environment more deeply than others? Are you easily overstimulated? Do you have a higher level of emotional intensity? You may be a highly sensitive person (HSP). Functioning in a world not made for your sensibilities can be overwhelming. The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person is a comprehensive workbook that contains the latest research on the HSP trait, as well as useful exercises that help the highly sensitive person reflect on the past, assess the present, and plan for the future: The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person: A Workbook to Harness Your Strengths in Every Part of Life – Amanda Cassil PhD:



I love this Ted Talk: The gentle power of highly sensitive people -Elena Herdieckerhoff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pi4JOlMSWjo


As an HSP myself, I find that keeping a daily journal invaluable for clarifying what helps me to achieve my best life. Take a look at my blog Why You Need a Journal: Why You Need a Journal (ruthybaker.com)


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