Have you been told you’re too sensitive? That you cry too much? That you need to grow thicker skin?  Actually, being sensitive is a gift, not a flaw.


photo credit: shelby sheene photography

It started like any other morning. I checked my work emails, sipped my coffee, and ended up on social media. Bored, I decided to watch a shared clip of a medium performing a reading. The video only lasted three minutes but by the end of it my face streaked with tears. The person being ‘read’ experienced an array of emotions; from deep sadness to profound relief about her deceased father. Her emotional response affected me on a deep level and for those three minutes, I was the one experiencing the grief and relief.   I thought of my own journey, the people in my life, the concept of life and death, and suddenly a floodgate of emotions washed over me.

I wiped my face and thought “Really? You’re ridiculous. It’s just a video!”

But then it hit me. Why was I scolding myself for crying over something that touched me emotionally? Why is it a weakness to feel and show emotion, to be sensitive, to allow myself to be charged by a random event?

We live in a world where we hear it all the time: Suck it up and deal with it. You’re too sensitive! What are you going to do, cry about it?

Sure, there are people who use their ‘sensitive status’ to obtain what they want. Or maybe they’ve been catered to most of their life and associate crying and being overly sensitive with self-entitlement. But this isn’t true for everyone. Turns out that sensitive people are very complex. They are more intuitive, better sympathizers, and exceptionally in tune with the world around them.

There have been several studies showing that individuals who tend to suppress their tears don’t always have healthy connections. A study from Tilburg University found that people with “dismissive” attachment styles, as well as those who avoided getting close to other people, were less likely to cry.

Dr. Elaine Aron, a leading scientist in Mill Valley California, has been researching and writing about high sensitivity since 1991. Her research shows that high sensitivity is found in 15% to 20% of the population. Her book The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) highlights how sensitive people have the unusual ability to sense subtleties, spot or avoid errors, concentrate deeply, and delve deeply. The book provides a self-assessment and tools to cope with high sensitivity.

People who are highly sensitive may regard themselves as too delicate or even flawed. The truth is that their sensitivity can be a great attribute.

Dr. Aron writes, “If you are an HSP, however, it is hard to grasp that you have some remarkable ability. How do you compare inner experiences? Not easily. Mostly you notice that you seem unable to tolerate as much as other people. You forget that you belong to a group that has often demonstrated great creativity, insight, passion, and caring—all highly valued by society.”

photo credit: shelby sheene photography

photo credit: shelby sheene photography

HSP’s include individuals with great creativity, another reason why creative people are more complex than we think. Dr. Aron explains that although measuring creativity in HSP’s isn’t easy and not necessarily a main trait, it makes sense that they’d be more imaginative due to their depth of processing.

In her article Advantages of Being Highly Sensitive, Andrea Wachter, a licensed marriage and family therapist, writes that sensitive people are more empathetic, more aware of their surroundings, better creative minds, and exceptionally perceptive.

Unfortunately, our culture regards high sensitivity as a weakness or negative trait, which can lead to sensitive people shutting down this important aspect of who they are.

Sensitivity is also essential for spiritual growth; in fact many HSP’s are more connected to their spirituality.

Carolyn Coleridge, MSW, a spiritual intuitive counselor and healer, says, “ Intuition, I believe, is God’s voice. To hear it you must be sensitive. Spirit speaks to us daily in quiet synchronistic whispers. Sensitives have the ability to perceive the subtle nuances of truth in the physical plane.”

She believes that sensitives must protect themselves from the harshness around them. While sensitivity may be regarded as a flaw, they need to trust their feelings and intuitions, meditate regularly, connect to God, and speak their truth.

Dealing with high sensitivity can be hard, but in her article Heightened Sensitivity, written for Spirituality and Health, Jane Ganahl writes, “Get creative. Channel those emotions into painting, writing, sculpting, filmmaking—anything that pops the cork on that nervous anxiety and puts it to good use.”

Embracing high sensitivity can open the door to enjoying a much more vivid, detailed, and emotion filled life. This trait not only helps navigate the storms of life, but also leads to a richer and more satisfying journey to loving ourselves and the people around us.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? Find out by taking this test.  For more resources on HSP check out The Highly Sensitive Person, and The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.


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