Ever had someone tell you you’re too sensitive? To get over it? To toughen up? Here’s your homework assignment for the day: Google the word “Sensitive.” You will find, as Elena Herdieckerhoff, Bavarian mentor for highly empathic entrepreneurs did, “images of toothache, irritated skin, wilted dandelions, and crying people.” She jokes, in her deeply moving TED Talk in Paris, that Sensitivity has a PR problem. And she’s not wrong.
Students who flock to personalized, online high schools are more likely to be sensitive and empathic. They are often the artists and musicians whose unique talents were underserved in a traditional institution. Herdieckerhoff tells us, “the common misconception about highly sensitive people is that we are somehow weak and fragile creatures who picked a losing ticket in the genetic lottery of life.” This is simply not so.
She explains that being a highly sensitive person means living with “all your senses on high alert.” It invokes a “vivid inner-world” where all “emotions are magnified… Imagine being in permanent osmosis with everything around you.” (Bet that’s one analogy they never taught you in science class!)
Dr. Elaine Aron describes HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) as having a “genetic trait of sensory processing sensitivity.” This means you deeply analyze everything, get quickly overwhelmed by overstimulation, empathize strongly, and pick up even the minutest subtle details. Does this sound like you? Even if it doesn’t, you’re likely not surprised by the description.
However, Herdieckerhoff reveals some fun facts that don’t fit in with the standard stereotype of sensitive people: “30% of HSPs are actually extroverts… 50% of HSPs are in fact, men… HSPs are like everyone else, except they experience the world in a more vivid way.”
Being an HSP can be intense, but it also has incredibly advantages not always recognized by society. You likely connect with others deeply and easily, due to your elevated ability to empathize. Your intuition is usually spot-on. You’re probably a creator, a dreamer, an innovator. These are tremendous gifts that should be revered and nourished. Herdieckerhoff explains that the worst thing teachers, parents, and friends can do to a HSP is try to get them to “toughen up.” This perpetuates the misnomer that being sensitive is a weakness, instead of what it truly is, a gift and responsibility to share their deeper experience of the world with others.
Herdieckerhoff says: “When HSPs try to hide their sensitivity to fit in, we all lose. For would a society not be poorer that lacks the beating heart of sensitive creation? That discredits imagination, intuition, and empathy?”
Today, we’d like to honor all our HSPs making the world a more innovative, creative place by inviting you to finish this sentence:
The gift of sensitivity is: ________________________
Feel free to comment below, or send us a message. Let’s change that negative PR by taking strides to shift how we approach, teach, and view sensitive people together.