In an eatery tucked away in the corner of town, David and I sat at a table for two. It was a noisy, crowded restaurant, one composed of several small rooms with tables and chairs squeezed in like some kind of furniture Tetris. Old photos and mementos covered every square inch of the walls. I looked around from our tiny table and began to feel anxious and twitchy. I mentioned this to David, and he nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, not much empty space in here, is there?”
I smiled and shook my head back and forth.
A bit later David excused himself to use the restroom, and I took out my phone to check email. I saw an article attached in an email about a new-to-me thing: “highly sensitive people.” I’m not sure why I clicked on the article as I’ve never heard of this thing called “highly sensitive people.” As the article loaded on my phone, I thought to myself, “Oh, this must be about people who get their feelings hurt easily.” But as I read the article, I discovered this isn’t what being a highly sensitive person means at all. Rather, a highly sensitive person is someone whose nervous system and sensory levels are easily overwhelmed, and this can manifest itself in several ways.
I looked up and saw my husband talking with someone he knew from work, so I clicked over to the online test referenced in the email, and out of twenty-seven total questions that describe characteristics of highly sensitive people, I discovered twenty-six of them were true for me.
David came back and as he sat down, I blurted out, “Baby! Okay, you know the way that I am?”
He looked at me and quipped, “Uhhh, you’ll have to be more specific.”
I replied, “Like how I just mentioned the crowded tables and decor in here make me twitchy. And how I always turn off the overhead lighting in a room and use lamp light instead. And how you often say I startle easily and have a nose like a bloodhound that smells every little thing.”
“Oh that. Yep, those things about you are all true.”
I practically jumped out of my chair. “Well, being that way is a legit thing! I’m an HSP — a highly sensitive person!”
We talked a bit more about what that means before David took the test himself. Not surprising to either one of us, he found only two of the twenty-seven true for him. We’re opposites like that.
Still, it was delightful to discover I’m not out of my ever-lovin’ mind because I am easily overwhelmed by my environment. I’m just a highly sensitive person. It’s a real thing, y’all!
(And all the HSPs said Amen!)
I wish I’d learned this sooner about myself. It would have saved me from beating myself up and apologizing for being what I thought was crazy sensitive. Now I clearly see I’m wired that way. And while this makes me more susceptible to certain pitfalls in our busy, blaring world, it also makes me a more compassionate individual who senses and sees things, things that are helpful rather than handicaps to a good life.
Ten short days into the New Year, some of us are still shaking confetti out of our hair and holding both good and difficult memories from 2019 in our hands. In time, however, our thoughts will turn to what we hope to see in 2020. As I begin to pray on this to the God of heaven, I want to put into practice the words of Flannery O’Conner,
“Please help me to get down under things and find where You are.”
A Prayer Journal
For me, part of getting down under things is taking the time to get to know myself. At first glance, that sentence sounds mighty indulgent. But then again, the better I get to know myself, the better I give to others around me, the more effectively I use my talents and gifts to affectionately love on others in my circles, the more assured I am that I belong where I am, as I am — where Christ has me today.
The same fingers that flung the stars in the heavens wove your DNA into being. You were made on purpose for a purpose. God’s hands purposely designed you as you so you could best complete the hand-picked purpose He’s designed for you.
I’m praying you give yourself the gift of joyfully discovering how these two things beautifully relate. And when you discover this, may you joyfully discover Him.
The same fingers that flung the stars in the heavens wove your DNA into being. -@Kristen_Strong: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Oh, I how I loved reading this. Thanks so much for sharing, Kristen! I had never heard of the term “highly sensitive person” prior to this – I am intrigued and I would love to find out more! After reading your post, I did a quick google search to see if I could find the 27 question survey you talked about, and I am excited to say I think I found it !:) I have it bookmarked, and I hope to take the quiz later today! 🙂
“The better I get to know myself, the better I give to others around me, the more effectively I use my talents and gifts to affectionately love on others in my circles….” – love love love this! AMEN. Discovering ourselves enables us to discover our purpose, and to continually joyfully discover God! Hmm! AMEN.
Thanks again for sharing, Kristen! May we all continually joyfully discover ourselves, our purpose, and our God! Amen!
Keep sharing! Keep smiling! Blessings to you and all of yours!:)
Kristen Strong says
I hope you were able to take it, Bomi! What were the results?!
Also, I wanted to mention the book Sensitive & Strong by Denise Hughes and Cheri Gregory as a resource for helping folks navigate the HSP journey. I haven’t read it myself, but I have heard good things about it!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
More proof we are kindred spirits…I, too, am a “highly sensitive person”. My husband asked me why I don’t take my laptop to a coffee shop to work on my writing. I tried, but between the startling roar of the coffee grinder, utensils clanging and banging, orders being called out, I quickly found myself on sensory overload and had to leave. Denise Hughes and Cheri Gregory recently released a wonderful book called “Sensitive and Strong” in which they explore this subject from a Christian perspective. It’s an excellent read! You are so right in saying that God designed us this way for a special purpose. The world could use a few more highly sensitive people in this callous society. Celebrating YOU! Just as you are!
Kristen Strong says
I totally get that, Bev. If I’m working at a coffee shop and can’t sit outside, then I have to have earbuds in to drown out the noise. #kindreds
I’ve heard that book is a great resource! I have yet to read it, but I’m very interested in doing so!
I can definitely relate, being an HSP myself. A neurologist once told me, “We need more sensitive people in this world. Don’t ever apologize for being sensitive”. Though we’re often misunderstood, especially by gregarious family and friends, God can use our compassion and quiet caring to serve others. I loved seeing this post this morning, as a confirmation that we’re not alone! (There is a book titled “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron)
Kristen Strong says
Yes–I need to add that one to my book queue as well as Sensitive & Strong by Denise Hughes and Cheri Gregory.
Love your words here, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for sharing!
Niki Hardy says
I love this Kristen. It’s taken me getting into my 50’s to be happy to get to know myself. I think before now I’ve always been afraid of what I’d find!!
Kristen Strong says
Ha! Yes–I’m sure that’s part of why I hesitated for so long, too. Well, that and getting over my inner enneagram 2 voice that likes to tell me it’s selfish to take the time to work on these kinds of things. God bless the wisdom that comes with age! Love you, Niki!
I think sensitive people have more open hearts. often we go around feeling awkward or apologizing for things tho..i do know that God definetely moves in those whose hearts are more responsive. I think king David was one of these receptive hearts..we know he worshipped alot and loved God alot.
while I don’t like being labelled by the world’s terms of things I do realize God works in some people easier then others.. others know God but stumble with on and off faith their whole lives..but us who are more sensitive often feel the spirit of God closer. Rejoice in how God made your soul , there’s a reason for everything
Kristen Strong says
“Rejoice in how God made your soul, there’s a reason for everything.” Love that. Thank you so much for sharing this here, Krissy!
Amen from another HSP. As my other HSP friends and I say it is mostly a blessing —to me as well as to others, but occasionally feels like a curse -(I am not denigrating how God made me, here, just saying how it feels when I am oversensitized, overwhelmed or burdened by others’ needs)…..I, too,was happy to see I was just a different “normal” not abnormal, grins.
Kristen Strong says
Here’s to all us different normals! *grins right back* xo
Jennifer Waddle says
Thank you for sharing Kristen! So interesting.
I wonder if this sensitivity can build over time? I’ve noticed in the last few years I’m more edgy at group gatherings and anxious to be the first one to leave. I’ve also noticed that too much noise or chatter makes me feel tense. Something I’ll look into!
By the way, were there any tips on handling family events calmly? Our Christmas and New Year celebrations were wonderful, but I noticed I felt anxious a lot, which is very unlike me!
Thank you for your encouragement,
P.S. I’m a Colorado girl too!
Bethany D says
As an HSP, I’ve found three things help a lot. The 1st is to stay rested, hydrated, and well-nourished with protein & veggies at my regular mealtimes not just sugary treats and snacks. Because just like a toddler, I have far less emotional resiliency when I am tired, thirsty, or hungry. The 2nd is to intentionally seek little oasises of calm in the midst of the chaos, and look for opportunities to engage with just one or a few people at a time. Going to another room to play a game, volunteering to wash dishes, stepping outside to get something from the car, or even just a few extra minutes in the bathroom can all help me manage the overwhelm. The 3rd might not matter to all HSPs but personally I’m less anxious when I have some control of the situation: driving instead of carpooling (so I can leave early if I need to), planning the activities (so I can suggest some quieter ones), doing the meal potluck style (so I can bring food I know I like), etc.
Sometimes “HSP”-ness is actually thyroid imbalance, so that may be something to get checked on.
Not saying anything negative about the positives of awareness of one’s immediate environment, but 1. sometimes a medical condition is responsible for over-heightened awareness/anxiety/edginess, and 2. if that’s the case and if the over-awareness is getting in the way of your life, then by all means see if it’s fixable!
(personally, I landed an autoimmune disorder and that has turned me into a “HSP” by the numbers, although we haven’t figured out how to fix the negatives of it yet [oversensitivity to environment being near the least of my worries right now!]. I wasn’t anywhere near as much of a “HSP” before, though; my introversion skyrocketed, my ability to be easily overwhelmed by crowds, smells, noises, etc. came into existence; so it’s not *always* just the way we are.)
I’m sure it can build over time. I’m 45 and honestly nothing bothered me in my 20s. I could handle the rush of a busy life..now in my 40s I crave silence and slower times.i don’t want to be in noisy coffee shops for tea with friends.. I prefer visiting in a place we can actually hear eachother. I think it builds over time as we mature and are aware of life around us daily..loud and distracting .
Beth Williams says
The better we know ourselves we can more effectively use the talents He has gifted us with. I tend to be somewhat highly sensitive. A lot of noise & to many bright lights get on my nerves. This world needs more sensitive people like us & less aggressive. distrustful & hatred ones. We would do well to model as Jesus did & love others-showering them with kindness & compassion. That is what makes us Highly sensitive people who we are. My prayer for 2020 is finding God & getting to know Him better. More of a prayer life. Then I want to show this world His love & kindness. I don’t apologize for who I am. My phrase I use is “God made me this way. Talk to Him about it”. He is the one who wove my DNA.
Kristen Strong says
I’m so glad God made you just as He did, Beth! xo
Gail H says
Love this, Kristen! I haven’t taken a test, but I can definitely relate to what you’ve described. This is my favorite:
“The same fingers that flung the stars in the heavens wove your DNA into being. You were made on purpose for a purpose. God’s hands purposely designed you as you so you could best complete the hand-picked purpose He’s designed for you.“
I so need to remember this.
Jennifer, I do find that I am becoming more sensitive as I get older. Maybe the world is just getting noisier. We can’t even go to a movie theater anymore. The volume drives us out.
Kristen Strong says
Thank you so much for the kind words, Gail. (And, yep, I’m with you and Jennifer. I find that the world is noisier and I’m more sensitive to it!)
Thank you for writing this, Kristen! My daughter is a HSP and when I learned that it became a game changer for me! Turns out after we discovered that about her, my husband is a HSP also. I now know how to help her with things like scratchy clothes, crowds of people, and unfamiliar situations.
Hi Melissa! I would love to know some of your techniques you use to help your daughter. My son changes clothes it seems like 100 times because he says they are “itchy”. At first I thought maybe he was being a little dramatic, but now I’m wondering if he may be a HSP too.
Cathy Lloyd says
Thank you. I needed to read this today and I almost deleted it! My highly sensitive personality is even more amped up in recent years and as a musician, this has caused me to stop enjoying and making music which was once my life! Too much noise, too much loud talking, even the smaller sounds that, I believe Bev referred to in the comments, are overwhelming when I’m trying to write, even at the library. I pray that the positives outweigh the negatives of my sensitivity in 2020 for me and all of you too. (My word of the year is “free “.)
I am also a highly sensitive musician and have found I am more and more overwhelmed by the extraneous noise than I ever used to be. Trying to learn the new balance for my career.
TAMMIE BRAY says
I’M SAYING AMEN!!!!
Linda Shukri says
Wow! It was only in the past week that I came across HSP information! I took the test that you linked and I scored a 23! Just this past Wednesday I watched an audio cast about an HSE (Highly Sensitive Entrepreneur) program. It’s too expensive for me right now to justify spending over $1000 for a 7-month course. I really wanted to do it as it sounded awesome. The woman who provides/sells these courses has consulted with Dr. Elaine Aron and over the years created this special course for HSPs who are having difficulty getting their businesses up and running successfully. Like me. Struggling to get noticed. Still struggling. (I recently launched my new re-vamped blog and Etsy shop). This post here was very timely! Wow! And I checked out Dr. Aron’s books to see if reading them (instead of spending $$$ on a course) would be just as helpful. I don’t know yet, but I will also check out the “Sensitive and Strong” book from a Christian perspective. All my life I’ve struggled with trying to fit in as an introvert. And I’m not apologizing for being an introvert. 🙂 And I’m 64, almost 65 when I discover I’m an HSP! It took most of my married life (44 yrs) to get used to a loud and extroverted in-law family. And a husband who is very talkative, loud, and gets angry easily. Thank you SO MUCH for posting about this subject today. It has given me more confidence to be the woman God made me.
I’ve known for a long time I was different than most people. It wasn’t until I was in Christian Counseling that my counselor addressed this issue with me. Actually I thought I might be crazy but once he explained it to me ,I felt so much peace that this is how God made me.
Thanks you for sharing your thoughts and perspective on this.
Michelle Howard says
Definitely an HSP here!!!! Thank you for this article!!! Going to research this now!!!
De Ann says
Hi Kristen, my heart jumped as I read your mention of the Highly Sensitive Person. Yes and Amen. It’s so good to know we are not alone! Cheri Gregory has a great website/blog about being Highly Sensitive with many great and helpful/encouraging articles. I highly recommend this! https://sensitiveandstrong.com/ https://sensitiveandstrong.com/start-here/
And, here’s a link to the Sensitive and Strong book site that includes another HSP Quiz — https://sensitiveandstrongbook.com/quiz/