I’ve heard this all my life. Growing up, I always felt that I was a bit different. Of course, I was the only girl with a house full of boys, which probably contributed to my self-doubt and self worth. I believe that a few of my family members are “sensitive” as well but it didn’t stop them from criticizing me when my feelings were hurt or I cried. Unfortunately society tells us the being emotional is a bad thing.
It’s said that 25% of the population are “HSP's”. By this I mean Highly Sensitive People. So if my math is right, (I am an artist after all) then 75% of the population is not! We are dominated by less feeling, don’t get it kind of people.
Let me share a story. After a traumatic experience where I felt that I had lost all semblance of who I was, my daughter and I were in Park City Utah. I grew up in Utah and am represented by a gallery there so I’ve been to Park City too many times to count. We are walking down the street and I said to my daughter, “Let’s go in this book store” Now the bookstore has been there for years. Never once have I wanted to go into the bookstore but for some reason on this day, I was pulled into it. We walked around and browsed. “Perused” as my mother would say and then I looked across the room. There about 20 feet from me was a bookshelf with hundreds of books. I couldn’t read any of the titles as I’m near sighted and haven’t worn my glasses in years. There was one book that seemed to me to pull at my spirit. Honestly you’re probably reading this right now and think I’m a bit kooky but I felt as if a magnate was pulling me towards this book. As I got closer I could see the title. “The Highly Sensitive Person” I pulled it out from the shelf and began to read the cover. I felt like the book was describing me to a “T”. We went home and I read the book cover to cover that night.
What a revelation! I realized at that moment that being “sensitive” doesn’t mean that I get my feelings hurt easily or that I can’t handle criticism. What it meant was that I see the world completely different than 75% of the people. What the world sees as a handicap is actually a gift! As an HSP we see all the beauty there is in a fallen log, we marvel at a sunset, we can sit on the porch and just stare off into the distance taking in all the sounds of the night and be content to do so. Music fills us with joy. But with this gift always comes a price. We also see and feel the ugliness that surrounds us. We feel other’s emotions so if they are sad, we are sad. We feel their pain. Negative energy is a very powerful thing and can sometimes overwhelm us to the point that we can easily become incapable of daily tasks.
Being “sensitive” allows us to create the art that inspires. “Sensitives have given us Mozart, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Shakespeare, and today we are the ones that give the world beauty and inspiration to make the world a better place.
John Hafen said:
"The influence of art is so powerful in shaping our lives for a higher appreciation of the creations of our God that we cannot afford to neglect an acquaintance with it. We should be as eager for it's companionship in our homes as we are eager for chairs to sit upon, or for food to sustain our lives; for it has as important a mission in sharing our character and conducing to our happiness as anything we term necessities. Life is incomplete without Art. A religious life is not an ideal religious life without it.’
Can you imagine a life with art? Can you imagine a life without “sensitives”
Here are some important things that I have learned that keep me grounded and keep me from going crazy at times.
1. Time to yourself!
Sensitives need time to be alone. We are so bombarded by stimuli that our brains can easily overload. Time to yourself will help you “decompress” as I call it and helps you reboot your brain so you can be ready for the next moment of inspiration when it strikes. I’ve never had a problem being alone. I actually crave the times that I can sit with no one else around and be able to let my mind relax. Find something that helps your mind relax. For me, it’s watching Sci Fi. When I’m completely overloaded, you’ll find me snuggled in bed watching a Star Trek marathon. I know that sounds crazy but for me, watching Sci Fi is an alternate universe where my daily tasks and overwhelming schedule seem to disappear.
2. Limit time with crowds and loud noises.
I enjoy going to a party or an art reception but after too long I can feel my anxiety level begin to rise. Loud music makes me very uncomfortable. When I was a teenager I couldn’t understand why I didn’t really like going to concerts. All my friends went and loved it. I did not. I now realize that the loud noise was too much for me to handle. Bright lights also give me headaches. I wear extremely dark sunglasses during the day to help eliminate the glare of the sun. I schedule my travel to avoid rush hour traffic.
3. Avoid negative people.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Negative energy is a very powerful thing. It can easily drown out positive energy if you let it. When I am confronted with a negative energy person I envision a “force field” around myself. (Remember I’m a Trekkie) By envisioning that force field I’m blocking their negative energy so it can’t affect mine. I love being around positive people because their energy is so uplifting that you can open your aura and let them in.
4. Get plenty of sleep!
I have ALWAYS needed at least 8-9 hours of sleep to be able to have a productive day. If you are with someone who only needs 4 hours sleep they might not understand why you sleep twice as long as they do. They could easily criticize you for being lazy. Here’s the important thing: Your body replenishes its cortisol levels while you sleep. Cortisol is the hormone that lets your body deal with stress. As Sensitive’s, we are pretty much always under stress because of the amount of stimuli that bombards our brains. If you do not get an adequate amount of sleep then your body is depleted of cortisol, which then can’t deal with all the stress you are under. So get a good night sleep!
5. A Space of your own
Sensitives need their own little world that they can organize or as is the case with many artists unorganized as they see fit. For many of us it’s our studio. It’s our world that brings us calm and inspiration.
6. Put yourself first
Most Sensitives are also empathic. We feel the pain or joy of other people. We are people pleasers. Often when in a relationship, we tend to make sure that the other person is happy and all their needs are fulfilled. This is wonderful if you are with a partner that reciprocates but if you are not then you will suffer. Make sure that you take care of your needs. If you have a partner that wants to go to a movie but you know that the movie will send you into anxiety, don’t be afraid to say NO! If you are the person that always gets asked to do something because you never say no, then at some point you are going to crash. Saying “no” to something isn’t a weakness. It’s protected yourself.
7. Set Boundaries
Another lesson I learned late in live. I used to have no boundaries what so ever. Life was always one drama filmed tragedy after another. Life always seemed almost unbearable until I learned that boundaries are healthy. Learning what is good for you and learning what will be toxic in your life and setting boundaries will help you avoid meltdowns.
Don’t ever apologize for being “sensitive”. Don’t ever let anybody criticize you for being “too sensitive”. You are what makes this world a better place. You are what bring beauty into an otherwise ugly world. It is this gift that helps us create the art that we do. Embrace it!
To learn more about Elizabeth and her work, visit her website.