I’m a highly sensitive person, or HSP, “someone who responds more intensely to experiences than the average individual. Experts say HSPs process both positive and negative information more thoroughly, and so they can easily become overwhelmed by stimuli… they are particularly sensitive to emotions—their own and those of others.” Yes, there’s a real term for being a big baby. But in all seriousness, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal.
My mom sent me and my sisters this, and though initially I thought it was pretty silly, I must admit that I cry all the time. The four of us - my mom, me, and my two sisters - are all pretty emotional people. Beyond our genetics, it’s present in 20% of the population, equally among men and women.
One of the first times I realized something was wrong with me was when, as a 12-year-old, I bawled in Finding Nemo. From there, I started to notice that I cry in most everything - book, movie, song - that’s trying to elicit a strong emotional reaction. To this day, it confuses me when people say something is sappy or unbelievable because usually, I’ve already been moved to tears. I remember so many tiny moments when a stranger did something genuinely kind to another stranger, or someone looked at me with a touch of respect, and it was so overwhelmingly beautiful that my eyes watered.
Other signs indicate a highly sensitive person beyond just crying. I visibly shake when performing a task in front of other people, the bane of my music career and every piano teacher I've had. I'm really distracted by loud noises/bright lights/bad smells, and I can't listen to music when I'm trying to get work done because it draws all my attention. I also get seriously angry, sad, and absent when I'm hungry—like the worst case of hangry you've seen. Even though I drink it every day, coffee still makes me jittery and cloudy-brained if I drink too much or too fast. The sensitivity is supposed to affect all senses, so it follows that I'm disgusted by the office coffee and recently spit out someone's almond milk because I could taste their lipstick in it. And with everything to process, I’m also really slow in making decisions.
HSPs are also supposed to be much like introverts, in that they have rich interior lives and like to withdraw after a busy day into a dark hole of warm solitude. I've always tended toward the introversion end of the spectrum, as well as Zen meditation practices, in which you clear the mind and try to think about nothing. It's the only thing I've found to help quiet the constant narrative running through my head.
But the thing that resonates with me most is the intuition for and congruence with others’ emotions and energy. If someone I care about is in a bad mood, or mad or nervous, I can tell almost instantly, and more than that, I’m so influenced by their feelings that I start to match them. And with that territory comes the sensitivity to tone and connotation, where two words said out of mere frustration can hurt me so deeply that I cry.
Sounds like it’s for you? Click here to sign up (or rather, take the quiz to see if you're an HSP too).