Being a highly sensitive individual is not something you have much control over. It can make friendships and relationships hard to find and maintain, and can make social situations almost unbearable.
It can also make us more in-tune with things at times, and can be helpful in some ways.
In general, it poses a lot of problems in modern society and can really affect our daily lives. If your family member, friend, or partner is a highly sensitive person, bear these things in mind and try to make life a little easier for them…
We’re Major Overthinkers
Any sensitive souls in your life will remember something small that you said and will hold onto it, even if it was months ago. You may not even recall it, but it may be the thing that keeps them up at night.
Being very sensitive means that seemingly small things can feel huge, and can have a bigger impact than you can possibly imagine. You might not be able to understand why they’re still upset or embarrassed about something so tiny, but try and empathize.
We often know that we’re overthinking everything and getting completely worked up over nothing, but that doesn’t mean that we can just stop. Don’t get angry at us, as this just makes it all worse. Gently encourage us to talk about it – sometimes this will help, but be prepared for us to shut ourselves away for a while as we process it all.
We overthink a lot and often jump to negative conclusions. Please bear this in mind when we’re in a new situation or going through life changes, as these can be the hardest times of all.
Social Situations Can Be A Nightmare
Being highly sensitive can make meeting new people, and even being around those close to us, horrible. Not only is the anticipation of a social event sometimes painful and emotional, the actual situation can open up many issues.
We tend to feel very judged, even if we’re with close family and friends. Don’t take this personally – deep down, we know you love us and find us interesting/attractive/fun to be around, but it’s hard to remember sometimes.
Trying to meet new people can be very hard at times, as our self-confidence suddenly disappears. We don’t feel comfortable saying anything, just in case it comes across wrong or we make a mistake. All of a sudden, we’re panicking about the fact that we’ve said nothing and we’re now convinced that everyone thinks we’re really weird. Great.
Some Days, Everything Feels Like An Insult
Being sensitive can make it hard to be around people, as small comments can feel like personal attacks. One person bringing up a specific, random conversation topic can make it feel like we’re being totally ganged up on. We start thinking, “Is this everyone’s way of indirectly admitting that they hate me?!”
Even compliments can feel like an insult, as we become convinced that people are only being nice because they feel so sorry for us. Everything is too much, and we know we’re reading into it all, but still can’t stop our minds from racing to negative conclusions.
We might know that you mean well, but even helpful suggestions feel like your way of pointing out just how inadequate and useless we are. We know that this can make things hard for you, as nothing feels like a ‘safe’ conversation topic. Please remember that it’s also pretty horrible for us too! We’d love to be able to just accept what you say at face-value, but some days it’ll all just blur into a sea of negativity.
Every situation presents a new thing to worry about. We manage to see the negative possibilities in everything, and then we worry about them. Endlessly.
Traveling is no longer something fun to look forward to; it’s full of danger. Meeting up with friends somehow becomes a new way to humiliate ourselves in front of people whose opinions we really care about.
Small suggestions from friends about clothes that will suit us have us believing that they don’t like how we currently look and are embarrassed to be seen with us. Our boss gives us five compliments and one suggestion on something to improve. That’s it – we’re being fired and we’ll never find another job. Ever.
We tend to worry quite a lot, about tiny things, huge, unlikely events and everything in the middle. Yep, sometimes worrying is futile and a total waste of energy. We know this because it’s what we’d tell you if you were panicking about being hit by a car every time you leave the house.
Being highly sensitive makes us almost hyper-aware of all possible outcomes, scenarios, and horrendous things that might happen. If there’s an outside chance that something could go wrong, you can guarantee that we’ve spent the last week not sleeping because we’re worrying so much. It’s exhausting, so please be patient with us.
We (Sometimes!) Know We’re Being Irrational, But Can’t Stop
This links in with all of the worrying – sometimes we spiral so much that we can’t take a step back from it all. And sometimes, we know that we’re being irrational and getting wound up over nothing, or at least something small.
Either way, saying “it’s not a big deal,” or telling us that we need to calm down, will not help. You might think that a little ‘reality check’ will help us realize that we’re being irrational. It won’t, and we’ll probably just get even more worked up. Now we’re panicking about the original issue and the fact that you’re bored and angry and never want to talk to us again. Yep, it really does get that bad that quickly.
Please try and be compassionate. Most of the time, we can hear ourselves endlessly analyzing an off-hand comment that a friend made, but we need to talk it out. We know we’re saying the same thing over and over again, but we need to get it out. It might be tricky for you to have to hear, but it’s even worse to have it all trapped inside our heads. Let us talk and cry and gently offer advice. We know it’s frustrating, but we just need some support and someone to listen to us sometimes.
We Give Great Advice
Despite having some struggles when it comes to our social lives, our friendships, relationships, and jobs (so, everything, really!), we’re great at helping with other people’s problems. If we’ve not been in the same situation, we’ve probably imagined it three hundred times anyway.
Part of having a mind that jumps to conclusions is thinking about how you’d handle things in unlikely scenarios. Knowing how hard it can be to be trapped in an overactive mind helps us be compassionate to anyone else who’s having a difficult time.
We know that we can be hard work sometimes, so really value those who are close to us – thanks for putting up with us and repeatedly reassuring us that you do truly care. This makes us want to help you even more. Not because we feel as though we ‘owe’ you, but because we appreciate you so much and want to be there for you.
Being highly sensitive can make a lot of things very hard, but we’ll always do our best to help you. Please don’t think that we don’t need anything else to worry about! Helping friends and family is actually a nice break, and it’s good to focus on something other than our own struggles. Sure, we might analyze everything we said to you for a few weeks after, but we love you and we’re always here for you.
Being highly sensitive has its ups and downs, which is why stable friendships and relationships mean so much to us. If you’re reading this and somebody in your life came to mind, hopefully this will serve as a reminder to be gentle and patient with them.
We might need a little bit of extra attention and care sometimes, but we also have a lot to offer in return. Remember that you never truly know what anyone else is going through. Be open-minded and compassionate with everyone you meet, we’re all fighting our own battles.
Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.