From Highly Sensitive Refuge: “Highly sensitive people (HSPs) have important perspectives to contribute to society. They must protect their process, especially when the world doesn’t.
HSPs are known to use our sensitivity to promote the well-being of others — we absorb their thoughts and feelings, and lend them an empathetic ear. Unfortunately, however, our modern-day grind culture of rush-rush-rush is particularly harsh toward sensitive types.
We need time and space to think and process in order to contribute as only we can. Since society today doesn’t tolerate our ‘different’ way of relating and communicating, we are often left out of the conversation. Make no mistake, the world suffers from this as much as we HSPs do.
So it’s time we demand our right to our way in the world, grind culture be damned. There are too many injustices, too many problems, and too much suffering to tolerate HSPs’ perspectives being left out of the solutions.
If you find yourself discouraged and dismayed by your inability to fit the mold the rest of the world insists upon, you’re not alone. If you feel like you have nothing to contribute because you cannot perform the way society expects you to, take heart. The status quo always requires disruption for real change to happen. And to do so, dear HSP, remember these things about your process and voice.
1. Trust the process and focus on the task at hand, one step at a time.
While I was in labor with my firstborn, my little highly sensitive child (HSC), the doctor came in and out of the delivery room to see how I was doing and make some small talk. I chose to labor unmedicated and I was totally in the zone, focusing on riding out each contraction, honing in every last bit of energy for the task at hand. Perhaps a non-HSP could have managed a conversation with the doctor at the same time. But talking was a bridge entirely too far beyond what my limited energies could allow. (I mean, there was enough overstimulation around me already — I was about to have a baby!)
So when the doctor popped in and asked how I was, I didn’t respond. I knew I should have. I could feel the expectations of everyone in the room to engage in this social formality. But in that moment, my need to preserve my energy for labor trumped the expectation of responding to his small talk. Rarely have I abandoned my extreme conscientiousness so completely, especially with all those eyes on me, but in that moment, I didn’t have a choice.
For HSPs, our process is crucial if we are to fulfill our mission of society better understanding us in the world. Sensitive people take in sensory intel others miss and often see crucial pieces to the puzzle others overlook. But, as HSPs know all too well, it all comes at a cost: We cannot move through the world like everyone else . . . our energies must be focused on the task at hand.
In essence, we are all laboring (no pun intended) . . .
2. Take your time — it doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time.
Because HSPs tend to be very pragmatic, our own process can feel inefficient. Don’t let that keep you from it, no matter how much society agrees. Not everything in life is efficient, and often the most important elements can be frustratingly inefficient.
. . . As frustrating as your process can feel, HSPs often have the gift of knowing that, contrary to the values of modern society, productivity and efficiency are not always top priorities . . .
In her workbook, The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Amanda Cassil compares the highly sensitive mind to a phone running multiple complex apps at once. It simply won’t produce the output at the same speed as a phone running only one or two.
It truly feels that way for me much of the time. I worry that my inability to keep up — even in conversation with friends (and especially in a group setting) — renders me irrelevant. I’m simply taking in too much information, including all the sensory elements others can filter out. I have to buffer through all of that, while they drift freely from one topic to the next, utterly unburdened by the sensory intel. But the buffering is critical — it’s rendering an important output . . .
3. Lean into your empathic roles, your birthright as an HSP.
Before I knew anything about my highly sensitive trait, I assumed my retreat to silence was a sign of weakness or even unintelligence. Of poor social skills. Of cowardice. I’d always envied those who could respond on a dime, never at a loss for words. Oftentimes, I’d also resent them for seeing their words as useful until proven otherwise, while I’d dissect every idea I had or every opinion I drummed up to ensure it’s fit for public consumption . . .
4. When in doubt, remember that your voice is crucial (even non-verbally).
Stake your claim. Voice your opinion — even when communicating may be difficult . . . Don’t count your voice irrelevant just because it’s taken time to form. Remember: Your process is worth trusting, and so is its result.
Best-selling author and highly sensitive superstar Glennon Doyle compares the sensitive in this world to canaries in a coal mine. Our job is to rouse the others, to make them understand that we can sense something they cannot.
Whether it’s about global events or an ignored local injustice, a workplace shortcoming or a family issue, we, as HSPs, need to trust our process and use our voices. So give yourself the time and space you need to process. When you’re ready, you’ll know. Trust yourself as the highly sensitive truth-teller you are.”
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