HSPs, listen up. It’s time to be honest about how you’re living your trait. By now you know that high sensitivity, or sensory processing sensitivity, has some very distinct characteristics that make you unique. You have predictable sensitivities that are predictable gifts and needs. But have you ever considered that you may also be using those gifts and needs to make HSP excuses?

I know,  it sounds harsh. And as a Highly Sensitive Person myself,  I detest conflict as much as the next Highly Sensitive.

But hear me out. And trust that my question is rooted in a desire  us all to magnifencely live our sensitivity.

Redefining Your Past in the Context of High Sensitivity

Many of us came understand our high sensitivity late-ish in the game. After all, Dr. Elaine Aron didn’t publish her first book on sensitivity until 1996. By that point, we were adolescents or adults, plunging off the high-dive into a new, enlightened understanding of ourselves.

A very different experience from those growing up or parenting with at least familiarity with the concept of high sensitivity.

If you were a late arrival, as I was, you know what I’m talking about. Your entire life up to that point came rushing to the fore with all sorts of emotions and “aha” moments. Your life suddenly made sense, whether joyfully, regretfully, or some combination of both. The dots suddenly connected!

And, from that moment on, you couldn’t pretend you didn’t know what was now so obvious. It was as if someone had pulled back the sheers on the window to your world. 

Finally you could experience life with clarity, confidence, choice…and hopefully absence of shame. (After all, you had most likely been reminded of your sensitivity in a negative, disapproving way all your life.)

It’s only natural that you’d want to absorb all you could about this unique innate trait. You may not have been aware of it, but it had defined you and your entire experience of the world.

This, however, is where the potential for HSP excuses sneaks in. They’re not malicious; they’re just “exaggerations”  of an enlightened awareness of yourself.

Think about the times you have learned a new word. Suddenly you hear (and want to use it) all the time, right?

Or the times you’ve learned or experienced something new. You can’t help talking about it whenever you find an inlet in a conversation.

It’s actually similar to the way a child practices newly learned words, concepts, skills, and behaviors. S/he can’t get enough of the new stuff, even when it’s not germane to the moment. There’s just so much joy and gratification in the self-development.

And so it is for the HSP who recognizes herself – at long last – in the context of this unique neurological trait. It’s as if there is lost time to make up for and memories to rewrite.

And that’s all while seeing her present and future in a new way, as well. There are new questions, new risks, new possibilities – all because of a new understanding.

And always there is the wish to have known about high sensitivity as a child.

5 HSP Excuses You May Be Making without Realizing

There can be a fine line between maximizing a quality and misusing it. And that goes for anyone and any quality, not just HSPs and their sensitivities.

Self-fulfillment is rooted in self-awareness, which is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence and emotional maturity. 

If we are going to be the no-excuses best of ourselves, we have to cultivate and nourish emotional intelligence. And then we have to put it into practice on an ongoing basis.

That means, highly sensitive or not, we have to maintain a fearless, objective awareness of our strengths, weaknesses, and emotions. And we have to be willing to stretch, albeit uncomfortably at times, into healthier, more emotionally mature choices.

Ironically, despite some of our HSP excuses, we Sensitives are especially poised to rise above them.

Here are 5 excuses that HSPs often make to avoid fully engaging with the world and maximizing their potential. Notice they’re all rooted in the typical life experience for HSPs, but exaggeration gives them a negative spin.

  • No one understands me.

    Now that you understand yourself in light of your high sensitivity, you become the “minority martyr.” The rest of the world is cold, unaffected, superficial, and unable to grasp why absolutely everything matters so much to you.

    While everyone else is content with high tide and low tide, you’re running the seas with your undercurrent of sensitivity. You and the moon, making it all happen, while those on the surface get all the credit. It’s maddening.

    And, of course, the responsibility always seems to be on you to make the  adjustments. It’s on you to fit into their world and ways, not the other way around.

    Truth be told, you may not be completely wrong. The 70-80% of the world that isn’t highly sensitive doesn’t always “get it”: the emotion, the deep thinking, the alone-time.

    And, no matter how hard you try, you can’t force others to understand or appreciate you and your sensitive temperament.

    You can, however, take ownership of your trait and its manifestation in your life. Remember, even you didn’t understand your trait until a person, book, or documentary made you aware of it.

    And, if you are an introvert like most HSPs are, you draw your energy and validation from within, not without.

    So dig deep into that processing vault and get real about boundaries and self-reliance.

    If you are owning your trait, the HSP excuse of feeling misunderstood won’t control your life and relationships.

    You will help others understand and respect your high sensitivity, while not being demanding or judgmental.

    And you will respect yourself by surrounding yourself with people who are open to mutual understanding and respect.

  • I just can’t deal.

    In case you missed it, I hate conflict as much as any other HSP. Absolutely loathe it. I’m even a specialist at predicting the potential for conflict because, you know, we HSPs are psychic. (Or so we would lead the world to believe.)

    Surprise, even experts aren’t perfect.

    I am guilty of wanting to turn and run from an argument because I can feel the flames rising from the kindling.

    I dread the thought of people I care about being unhappy with me precisely because I care so much. I want to please people, help them, ensure their happiness and well-being.

    I want them to like me, love me, approve of me, be pleased as punch with my performance. After all, I pour my heart into everything I do.

    And damn if I don’t feel like curdling milk inside when someone isn’t happy or in agreement with me. I can ruminate myself right into exile.

    And that’s just the inevitable conflict that comes up in any relationship. It doesn’t even touch on the things I dread doing: taxes, car-shopping, dealing with insurance companies.

    Sound familiar?

    We HSPs can ever-so conveniently use our propensity for overwhelm to excuse ourselves from addressing difficult situations. Cue the back-of-hand-to-forehead drama: “I just can’t deal with it! It’s all just too much!”

    Let’s give ourselves a little credit here: High sensitivity is, after all, about “too-muchness.”

    But, if we’re being honest, we know it’s easy to slide into the HSP excuse of not being able to deal.

    It’s as if we know how rattled we can become when overwhelm and disappointment kick in. And we will, consciously or unconsciously, do anything to avoid them. In its own way, it’s a form of self-preservation.

    So what’s the solution to this procrastination of the inevitable that only worsens with time?

    Recognize and identify the feeling of discomfort you have when you are in or facing a conflict or unpleasant situation. Give it permission to be present while you get on with the business of “parenting” your emotions.

    Use your sensitive skills to discern the difference between feeling uncomfortable and actually being in an unhealthy situation that should be avoided.

    Know that it’s OK to say, “I need to collect my thoughts so we can resolve this with clarity and kindness. Can we come back to this in a couple hours?”

    It’s not OK to simply ignore text messages, phone calls, conversations, engagements — or taxes — as a form of indefinite avoidance.

    And, when you’ve come through the other side of the challenge, reward yourself. Perhaps a nice, long HSP nap with a Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob will do the trick.

  • This world is just too much. It’s easier to be alone.

    Oh, if I only had a Benjamin for every time I’ve wanted to stay home alone instead of being social!

    Introverts naturally draw within for their energy, while their extrovert counterparts feed off external stimulation and connection. (Note, however, that introverts and HSPs are not the same thing. Although most HSPs are introverts, as well, high sensitivity is broader in scope than introversion.)

    But we HSPs can take the introversion to another level by avoiding social connection altogether. We can so easily come up with a plethora of HSP excuses. The overstimulation from lights and noise; the discomfort with crowds; the need to leave before the party even gets started.

    We know our comfort zone, and too often we opt for it without considering what we’re missing.

    I would never tell an HSP to be untrue to herself or dismissive of her sensitive needs.

    At the same time, we Sensitives don’t come with preferential treatment when it comes to taking chances in life. Just because we’re highly sensitive doesn’t mean we should miss out on opportunities to engage with the world.

    We just need to learn how to manage our trait, choose our connections thoughtfully, and strike a healthy balance.

  • I’m miserable with my life, but changing it is more than I can handle.

    This is up there with “I just can’t deal.” And it also touches on the HSP excuse (below) of resisting any job that isn’t soul-stirring.

    For all the amazing qualities that come with the high-sensitivity package, we HSPs sure have a penchant for getting stuck.

    This is a good place to bring up differential susceptibility, as it plays a role in how we live our trait.

    If you grew up with compassionate acceptance and support of your high sensitivity, you will likely thrive and accept change. You will have the self-confidence necessary to change your circumstances for the better when warranted.

    However, if you didn’t grow up with that acknowledgement and support, you will likely struggle more in your adult years. Change will be more frightening than it is for non-HSPs with similar upbringings, especially if it involves risk and unknowns.

    Add to this the fact that HSPs are inclined toward perfectionism. When you know this about yourself, drumming up the motivation for major change can be difficult. Why even start if you don’t have the assurance that the results will be perfect?

    But, sensitive or not, you are still the sole proprietor of your destiny. When the choice is staying stuck or creating movement, you are the one responsible for taking action.

    Perhaps that starts with talking with a therapist or coach who specializes in high sensitivity. After all, no one said you have to figure it all out on your own.

    You simply have to make the choice to welcome and create change for your higher good and happiness.

  • I can’t bear the thought of doing a job that doesn’t stir my soul.

    This is one of the HSP excuses that can be especially difficult to remedy with a healthy balance.

    On the one hand, HSPs are notable for their commitment to authenticity. Triviality doesn’t run in their blood, whether in conversation or vocation. They exude meaning, feeling, and world-changing intention; and those qualities can’t fall on indifference or superficiality.

    HSPs are also esteemed for their creativity – a gift that flows naturally from their deep perception, intuition, and mental processing. They perceive the world without filters, so everything flows in and onto their mental and emotional canvas.

    Add to this their aptitude for empathy and their non-negotiable need for downtime, and certain careers just make sense for HSPs.

    At the same time, however, part of adulting is doing what’s necessary to pay the bills and feed the children.

    If you are an HSP, you may not always be in a position to follow your heart on the career-front. And that can create an understandable challenge to both your motivation and income.

    On the one hand, some environments can be so antithetical to the HSP spirit as to be deadening. The pace, the expectations, the competition, the uniform blandness of the setting: They’re enough to make you scream and run.

    On the other hand, there can be those opportunities that may not be dream-fulfilling, but can be tolerable while paying the bills.

    Does that mean you have to sell your soul to the banality of a 9-5 job? No, of course not.

    But it may mean striking a balance in the interest of responsibility and independence (which HSPs crave). At least for the time being.

    How can you use your sensitive gifts to bring empathy, conscientiousness, and creative problem-solving to your current work environment? And how can you use your “for-now” to learn and prepare for your future?

    As with everything else in life, Grasshopper, it’s about balance.

Embracing High Sensitivity without it Becoming an Excuse

As an HSP, you’re going to live with all the feels and the frustrations and quandaries that go along with them. That’s just life with high sensitivity: no different than the life of anyone else with unique qualities, gifts, and challenges.

And, while we’re all entitled to an occasional pity party – solo or in the company of like minds – let’s not overstay our welcome.

But then, that shouldn’t be too difficult to master. We HSPs aren’t big on parties, anyway.

Dr. Elayne Daniels is a psychologist, consultant, and international coach in the Boston area whose passion is to help people celebrate their High Sensitivity…and shine their light.

To read more about High Sensitivity, check out some blogs here.