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Being Highly Sensitive is an Asset

Being Highly Sensitive is an Asset

In a recent conversation with a friend, I found myself discussing the potential benefits of being a “highly sensitive person.” Both my friend and I have taken the HSP test and found that we are, indeed, highly sensitive.  The term was coined by Dr. Elaine N. Aron in 1996.  Highly sensitive people, Aron asserts, process sensory information more thoroughly than others due to a biological difference in the nervous system.

This kind of sensitivity can manifest as apparent shyness.  Therefore, it is often viewed as a liability.  Highly sensitive people tend to process information and ideas internally, rather than through discussions with groups of people.  While they are often thoughtful and detail oriented, they frequently experience stress when being watched and may therefore be overlooked in the workplace, for example.

In addition, as my friend and I discussed, being highly sensitive means that information received has a more dramatic impact than it does for others.  Highly sensitive people are more likely to prefer small gatherings with a few friends to large parties.  As this relates to the workplace, it may be more difficult for highly sensitive people to compartmentalize their work life.  When highly sensitive people are stuck in jobs they dislike, it is harder for them to leave the office behind at the end of the day and go about their lives.

For highly sensitive people who simply need to find work to make ends meet, this trait may be considered a liability.  But over the long term, being highly sensitive means being aware of the subtleties of a job – or a relationship, a city, a medical suggestion, or what have you.  And this allows for a heightened sense of intuition that is likely to ultimately lead a highly sensitive person toward a life path that is genuine and authentic.


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Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.


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5:18AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

This short article mentions twice that high sensitivity is considered a liability. I fully agree. I will make the modest suggestion that assertiveness training might enable you to turn your life around. At least give it some consideration.

5:06AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

I still struggle with sensitivity today, as it is often undervalued and condemned.

4:17PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

worth considering

11:52AM PST on Dec 22, 2012


2:49AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

I don't know, I'd like to be less sensitive. I look around and it seems that people who aren't easily affected by the world are much more relaxed and tend to do better professionally. "highly sensitive person [has] a life path that is genuine and authentic" : but don't we spend too much time trying to please others, do what's right? Don't less sensitive people pretty much do what THEY want to do and therefore stay true to themselves ?

6:53PM PDT on Jun 12, 2012

yay im extremely sensetive.

9:24PM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

Thanks for the post.

3:15AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

Took the test thx :)

1:34AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

I checked all but three of the boxes on that HSP test.

2:17PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

I've never heard of or taken the test, but I would like to.

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