(OMTimes | Nicole Taffs) Though nobody is immune to struggle in this world, there are certain struggles that highly sensitive people have in common. The process of evolving as a highly sensitive person tends to follow a pattern.
In the beginning, we struggle to feel normal in a non-sensitive and often abrasive world. We struggle with feeling different and separate from everyone else. We paddle through these murky waters until our desire to improve our situation becomes big enough to seek help.
If we are successful in this, we enter the discovery phase. This hopeful phase fills us with empowering knowledge about our traits. We are relieved to discover why we are the way we are. Once this resonates, we then move towards accepting ourselves and our highly sensitive label.
Highly sensitive “victims” of an insensitive world.
During all of these phases, there are times when we may find ourselves “victims” of an insensitive world. We feel harmed by people, environments, situations and the world in general. As a result, we have to learn how to put self-care first because this doesn’t come naturally to us. And though we like to think our sensitivities always include being sensitive to others, it’s not always the case.
We may make unfair demands on those around us in an attempt to get our needs met. We may use our “highly sensitive” label as an excuse to control our surroundings, or withdraw from them. This can sometimes become a habit for highly sensitive people. We may forget to consider other people’s needs or preferences while trying to take care of ourselves.
The following are ways that highly sensitive people may unintentionally focus on their needs, before others.
1. Needing to control the type of music and volume level played in the house/car, while with others.
2. Not willing to go to certain locations with friends or family (i.e. concerts, sporting events, trips).
3. Not attending family functions or holiday gatherings.
4. Withdrawing into ourselves, not being physically or mentally present for those we live with.
5. Needing to dictate what restaurant to go to when eating out with others.
6. Not giving physical affection to others (spouse, children).
7. Refusing or avoiding specific duties/tasks at the work place.
8. Judging others based on their lack of sensitivity, compartmentalizing people.
9. Not supporting a loved one during a difficult time because it affects us too negatively.
10. Ignoring difficult friends or family, neglecting to communicate with them.
We need to be completely honest with ourselves if we want to adopt healthy boundaries where our needs get met, but also stay sensitive to the needs of our loved ones. We can learn how to be mindful of everyone involved by incorporating the following five strategies into our lives.
5 Strategies for the highly sensitive
1. Be willing to try new things and venture outside of our labeled box.
This is one of the best things we can do to move past any self-imposed limitations in our lives. When we try something new, either by ourselves or with others, we may discover we actually enjoy it. If our friends and family have been trying to get us to join them, then not only have we made them happy, but we have discovered that we can handle the situation after all. It becomes an opportunity to increase our self-esteem and self-confidence. Trying a new hobby/sport, going to a concert/class, taking a vacation, meeting new people, are all healthy activities for everyone to try. We must not assume it’s not a possibility for us until we try it first.
2. Increase our tolerance for unpleasant emotions and sensations.
Building our tolerance for uncomfortable feelings is a powerful coping technique for situations or people we can’t avoid in life. We can learn how to protect ourselves from absorbing other people’s energy as well as practice gentle breath work when we are overwhelmed with emotions. Increasing this tolerance starts with accepting what is and not resisting what our bodies or minds are doing. With practice, this technique of observing and accepting what is will increase our confidence in effectively handling the situation. We can also take comfort in knowing that no feeling is final.