You’ve been working on that presentation for your boss all week, and you really poured your heart and soul into it. When she sends it back to you with a few suggestions, you must fight the urge to completely melt down. You feel the tears welling up. Your colleague looks over and tries to comfort you by saying “It is no big deal. She is picky, and she does that to everyone.” But it doesn’t comfort you. In fact, you begin to wonder if your career may be over.
You wonder what is wrong with you. Why do you feel pain that others seem to never feel? Why do you experience feelings that most never do? Why do you cry more tears in one year than the average person does in a lifetime?
Why doesn’t anyone get you? You wish the people around you understood the impact they have on the way you think, feel, and act. But they never do. They isolate you as if you are a misbehaving child, and you don’t think it is fair.
You are a highly sensitive person.
The World Doesn’t Understand You
People tell you that you overreact, but you just process things on a deep level. You are intuitive, and you like to dig deep down to figure things out. You live inside your own head. Because of this, you feel things on an entirely different level than your less sensitive peers. And those deep feelings make you more emotionally reactive. But you aren’t over reacting, you simply react more in certain situations because you feel more. It makes sense that you’d react differently. You feel more empathy and concern for problems that you or people you care about are experiencing. That is a good thing, right?
So why doesn’t everyone understand you? Why do they say things like: “Don’t take everything so personally” or “Why are you always so sensitive?” People tend to view your sensitivity as a bad thing and tease you for it, which causes you to become more sensitive, and the cycle continues.
Hypersensitivity To Criticism and Evaluation
Sure, negative feedback is your worst nightmare. This is why you often go out of your way to avoid being criticized, even if it means working all night and sacrificing your own life in order to please others. You are a stickler for detail because you are extremely perceptive. You sometimes wish you didn’t redo work so many times in an attempt to get things just right. You wish you could just take feedback at face value, but instead, it sends you into a lengthy period of self doubt and criticism.
You feel as though you are constantly under a microscope and everyone is judging you for everything you do. You wonder why everyone is always looking at you. You’re obsessed with others’ evaluation of you, and it is difficult to focus on anything else. It is almost impossible for you to just be in the moment and enjoy life.
Tiny annoyances aren’t so tiny to you. That person sitting across from you tapping their foot incessantly makes you want to crawl into a hole. How do others not notice the chaos brought on by needless noise, flickering lights, and the bad habits of others? Why doesn’t it bother everyone else that the air conditioner rattles when it turns on and off? Doesn’t it drive anyone else bonkers that the boss wears a tie with a stain on it?
Sometimes it drives you crazy how attuned you are to the details. You hate that you know the habits of everyone from your best friend to the barista at the local coffee shop. You know what clothes they wore last week and can tell how much sleep they got the night before by the difference in their eyes. You can spot a missing comma a mile away.
The Vicious Cycle
You realize that sometimes your thoughts and actions don’t make rational sense – at least as defined by the “accepted definition,” but you feel doomed to think and act on them anyway. You don’t know any other way to handle the situations in your life. It seems impossible to change even on days you want to live a “normal” life. Your options are limited. You feel unable to engage in everyday activities, and you feel trapped and helpless. You feel caught in a vicious cycle that you are powerless to stop. This is your life and your everyday Hell.
You feel alienated and isolated from the people around you, including your peers and families. You don’t fit in because, as we’ve already established, no one truly understands you. Leaving the house induces that feeling of microscopic scrutiny and judgment described above. You worry about what you say, how you look and even how you move. So rather than deal with the anxiety, you choose to stay home by yourself. You are a loner.
You Hold Yourself Back In Life
You have goals and dreams too, just like anyone else. You want a big and beautiful life. But you know they will never come true because you hold yourself back from even trying. You know that life has a lot more to offer, but you avoid the world as much as you can. The fear of failure and general disapproval is so strong that you don’t let yourself experience life. Time ticks by and you feel as though life is passing you by. You are certain you will leave this world with regret and remorse for not living up to your true potential.
But You Aren’t All bad, Right?
There are a lot of things you wish you could change about yourself, but you aren’t all bad, right? After all, you know being highly sensitive isn’t always a bad thing. You have lots of positive characteristics and great things to share. You care about others in a way that few people do. Your attention to detail ensures that every “t” is crossed. You are a meticulous planner. You are highly imaginative and creative. These are good things, right?
People have accused you of being demanding and attention hungry. They have said you are unpredictable and unstable. But none of these things are true. In fact, it is quite the opposite. You are quite predictable. You are extremely compassionate and understanding. You just sometimes struggle to handle your high sensitivity level.
You just wish that people could read your mind for a few moments so that they could see why you act the way you do. Maybe then they would understand and accept you for who you are.
Are you a highly sensitive person? What do you relate to above, and what do you not relate to? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts and experiences.
Melissa Ricker is a nuclear engineer and a professional freelance writer specializing in career growth, technical writing and online entrepreneurship. She writes a blog, Engineered Motherhood, for working mothers who need help balancing career growth and time management.