SENSITIVITY IS NOT A BADGE OF HONOUR OR SPECIALNESS

Many people wear the label 'highly sensitive' as some sort of badge of honour. It is not. Read on if you are ready to swap your identification with 'sensitivity' for the authentic power that is you.

Go to the profile of Maiken Piil
Apr 28, 2018
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I have for years been fascinated by the trend in people who feel the need to wear ‘high sensitivity’ as a badge of honour or a declaration of why they are ‘different’ and have special needs. And it seems like there are no shortage of sensitive people. 

But very rarely do I hear someone claim their power in the world by saying ‘yes I’m highly sensitive – it’s no big deal, but it enables me to be a powerful kick-ass ninja’.

Instead, I so often hear people push the label in front of them as a sign of 'specialness', as an explanation for all that they can’t do or cope with, and why they struggle either to make life happen or get the external world to understand and meet them.  “I’m highly sensitive so therefore I can’t/ need…..”

SENSITIVITY IS NOT A BADGE OF HONOR
When someone uses their sensitivity as an explanation and/or justification it is to my mind always a sign of powerlessness. But it doesn't have to be like that. It is possible to swap the label and identity of a ‘sensitive soul’ for an identity of just being your powerful unique you. 

After all, at the foundation of the ‘label’ is just an explanation of how people processes information differently. To my mind that’s all it is – and it is just one little piece of everything that makes a person unique and powerful in her or his own way.

I’m one of those people who process information differently. I am what science defines a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ (HSP). I tick all the boxes and descriptions one will find in a check-list. And I do know the negative experiences of an overloaded nervous system, how absorption of people’s energy can rattle me, how emotional information can go deep, how it affects what I can put in, and on, my body etc. etc.

But I don’t see the need to carry around an advertisement of ‘sensitive person coming through’.

A LABEL FOR PROTECTION
Most times people carry the label of sensitivity with them to protect themselves from the external world. In my experience that comes from a feeling of sometimes experiencing, feeling and processing very intensely, which if you don't feel powerful and safe in yourself, can feels disempowering.

BUT

  • Sensitivity doesn't require one to protect oneself unless one is separated from one’s innate powerfulness.
  • Sensitivity is not an obstacle to doing or creating anything in life, unless one has not learned to effectively set energetic boundaries and master energy.
  • Nor is it an obstacle for interacting with all people unless one doesn’t know how to hold energetic boundaries, can't distinguish ‘me from you’ and carries around a need for external validation.

And the path to authentic power, and the principles that guide it, are in my eyes no different for a sensitive person than for any other person on this planet. For a HSP it does however require that one stops looking at the world and oneself through the lens of ‘being sensitive and therefore in some way special’.

There are at least 3 areas I experience that any HSP can reclaim their authentic power, which makes it obsolete to carry around a label of sensitivity or any other kinds of labels for that matter. And it is available for all HSP to understand and claim.

1. We are all ‘different’  and all special -  know who YOU are

Not one person on this planet is the same, so at the root we are all 'different'. Being sensitive is just one out of million ways we can feel ‘different’ from others. Even within the category of ‘HSP’, people are different and will be sensitive in different ways. So unless you are a scientist studying the differences in how people process information, so stop this sensitivity specialness.

Instead of being preoccupied with your sensitivity and make your ‘sensitivity’ an explanation or excuse for what you prefer in this world, be preoccupied with what your preferences are, what you like to do, what you need to feel in balance..... Just claim what you like, need and want in your life. Just like everyone else. No big deal. None of us need to justified who we are, how we operate and how we want to live our life.

2. Let go of external validation

No one needs to understand you, get you, accommodate or show particular consideration because of your sensitivity and emotional needs. You need what you need, you want what you want. Just give it to yourself and let go of needing something from other people. If they support you, understand you – that’s awesome. And if they don’t that’s great too - then they might not be for you. It might hurt to feel misunderstood, rejected or not listened too - but that is your arena and area of responsibility - not theirs. They just show you a place where you can take your power back. 

Every time we need external validation for being who we are, we have stepped out of our authentic power and come from a place of neediness where we have put our life in the hands of others. And we all do it – sensitive or not. And it’s no big deal - as long as we catch it, notice it, and take our power back to whoever we gave it to in that moment. I can still give my power to others all the time – but as soon as I notice that I have made others ‘responsible’ for what I can and can’t do or feel, I take my power back, stabilize myself and let them off the hook. 

Start by looking at where you seek external validation for what you want and how you see yourselves in life? Where do you ask for permission – consciously or subconsciously for being who you are and needing what you want? 

And where do you put judgment on others for not ‘getting you’? Where are you not letting other people have their experiences just because you ‘feel’ something. As soon as you stop needing people’s validation of you, you have the freedom to be who you are. 

3. No external sources have power over you
One of the most frequent things I hear is that people can’t do things, be somewhere or have special needs ‘because they are so sensitive to energies’.

I see this disability often as rooted in two things 1) the need to be special and/or 2) the lack of knowing one’s power. For years I could feel completely overwhelmed by a ‘negative’ energy in the room because I absorbed it and internalized it as my truth - I wasn't even aware I did it, it was just my way of being in the world.
So I get that being sensitive can feel disempowering. But it stems from simply not understanding and knowing one’s own power.

We are all powerful creators with our own free will, and no energies can invade our space unless we allow it. Sensitive or not. That's just how it is. No external source can ever have power over you unless you allow it. Period.

So if you think you can't be somewhere because of 'people's energy' (or spiritual energies), or that you can't heal or are too sensitive for something, you can't. If you think you need protection, you need protection. If you feel energies can disempower you, they can. But it is not the TRUTH.

You can be the most highly sensitive person in the world, who feels all the subtleties of energies around you – but that will NEVER interfere with your way of feeling, behaving, creating unless YOU allow it. 

Every time I’ve absorbed other people’s energy or spiritual energies is because I have handed over my power. Maybe I got triggered, maybe I was tired. It’s no big deal. I just notice it – notice why I did and what limited convictions compelled me to do that- let it go and take my power back. As a sensitive person, you are not subject to or victim to energies, buy you might have easer access to be a master of energy. Use it. 

IF YOU SEE YOURSELF AS POWERLESS, YOU ARE
It's important to let go of the label or clinginess to specialness, because it actually impairs the powers you have been given as a HSP. When the gift of sensitivity is experienced through the lens of powerlessness, it becomes distorted.

You can’t rely on your intuition. You can’t rely on the interpretation of the energy you pick up around you. You can’t rely on the guidance you are receiving from higher sources, if you work spiritually. Because the information you process so deeply is processed through the lens or filter of fear, the need to be validated, the need for protection, the need for being special. The distortion of not recognizing one’s true Self and power.

But the moment we can stop taking the world hostage by our ‘sensitivity’ and stop wearing it as some badge of honour, we can step into authentic power and create the life we want, which is fulfilling for us.

My sensitivity is not a specialty that needs explanation, justification or special attention. I see it as one little piece of the puzzle that makes me ME, and something which enables me to create a successful career because it makes me damn good at being in life and excellent at what I do. 

I do understand the convenience in pushing a label in front of oneself to explain why one feels different, things are not working or why you make different choices in life than other people. It slips out of my mouth sometimes too in moments of forgetting my true self. But it is in no way powerful and doing justice to the insanely powerful person that is within me – and within you.

For anything to be born something needs to die. If you feel too sensitive for the world, then let that disempowered sensitivity die and claim your authentic power, your strength and go be you.

I’m not saying it is easy, I’m saying it is possible. It’s a choice of who you want to be. 

Go to the profile of Maiken Piil

Maiken Piil

Executive coach, Conscious leadership expert and spiritual mentor, Connect To Purpose

I'm an international consultant and coach with expertise in Conscious leadership and Spiritual Intelligence among others. I bring together the power of business, leadership and spirituality, which to my mind is the most powerful triad in todays world. I help my clients to expand their level of mind and thinking in order to step into the power of their truth and become a creative force for good in the world.

3 Comments

Go to the profile of Simon Confino
Simon Confino 3 months ago

great kickass article. I roared with laughter at your insightful ‘take no prisoners’ tone. More please! 

Go to the profile of Simon Confino
Simon Confino 3 months ago

great kickass article. I roared with laughter at your insightful ‘take no prisoners’ tone. More please! 

Go to the profile of Maiken Piil
Maiken Piil 3 months ago

Thank you, that's great to know! 

Go to the profile of Georgia
Georgia 3 months ago

Although I agree with you that sensitivity is not a badge of honour or specialness, I do disagree with your article. I am essentially a very sensitive individual and, through the last four years, I have been finding ways to 'toughen up' only just a little. However, after the recent death of my dog (he was 13 years old and if he was human I would have had more empathy), I realised that not everyone was born with empathy and some people totally lack the ability to be sensitive. In fact, perhaps I SHOULD walk around with a badge "TREAT WITH CARE; EXTRA SENSITIVE!" and equally the individuals who lack the capacity to empathize or even the insight as to when to display a touch of sensitivity should walk around with a badge stating, "couldn't give a damn" or even "hard-nosed bitch", and this includes men.
Reading through this I sound like a very bitter person but, surprisingly, I'm not. Perhaps I just need to enroll in a writing course or 'how to be tactful' course. And me realising my reply may sound different to it's intentions is fully due to the fact that I am a sensitive individual. Of course, I continue to find ways to toughen up (only just a little) but will keep my sensitivity (maybe even as a badge) as I have realised it is something I can be proud of.  

Go to the profile of Maiken Piil
Maiken Piil 3 months ago

Dear Georgia, 
Thanks so much for sharing your experience and point of view. I really appreciate that.

Though I'm not sure I fully understand what exactly you are disagreeing with and what your intention is?

What I am hearing is that you have experienced not being met by your surroundings in the grieving of your dog, and that it was - and perhaps still is - painful for you? And if so, I can relate to that and how difficult that must be.


But I'm really curious why you would want to carry around a label of 'treat with care'? And why you feel you need to toughen up?

Personally I’m not a big fan of the ‘toughen up’ idea, and that is exactly what I’m NOT advocating. There is a big difference between 'toughen up’ and 'strengthening’.  When you say you have ‘toughened up’ I wonder what you have been doing and what that means to you? 

To me ‘toughen up’ includes negating our true feelings and make ourselves (and thus consequently others) wrong for how we are feeling, and then taking on a construct of “how we should feel/be” or fight to get the other person to be in a certain way. That doesn’t make us strong, that just gives others power over us.

I would feel more empowered by focusing on myself and my own inner experience and curiously wonder...Why do I need people to empathize with the loss of my dog?  What meaning am I making when I don’t receive that? What need am I wanting the other person to meet in me, that I’m not meeting myself?  What makes me so vulnerable to needing other people to be in a certain way in this or other situations?

If I'm so sensitive and empathic, can I extend that to why other people might not empathize with exactly what I'm going through or why they might not be able to give me what I need, and not judge them for it? 

I get it’s not always easy. It is painful to not be met and feel one’s feelings don’t matter to others. And of course it can be upsetting and causes anger when we feel people treat us badly. But in my experience the sooner we can pull back into our own space, focus on our own experience and creation, the more inner power and strength we build. And that sometimes means letting go of old beliefs that no longer serves us – and sometimes it means letting go of a person. It’s our choice. And the measure of success I think is how truly at peace and happy we are with our decision and our path. 

If my article has caused you to be proud of being sensitive, I think that is great!
You should be proud of who you are! And if you then feel it empowers you and makes your life easier, more fulfilled and happy to carry around a label of delicacy, by all means do that!!

Personally I just feel a lot more happy, empowered and free to create a fulfilling and meaningful life by taking the approach I describe in the article. You can get inspired by that or use it to reflect a different truth for you, there is no right or wrong  :-).