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Highly Sensitive

by Marissa on April 26, 2017

highly sensitive person | Marissa Vicario

A few weeks ago I posted on Instagram about being highly sensitive and I couldn’t believe that so many people could relate. According to Psychology Today, studies show that 15-20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. It’s more common than I realized but most people are unaware of this often hidden and frequently misnomered personality trait. A highly sensitive person has a heightened awareness to certain stimuli. While it’s related to introversion, it’s not the same. 

Until I read about the highly sensitive person on a blog a few years ago, I too, was unaware of it. Reading about how highly sensitive people experience the world felt like a giant light bulb had come on for me. I couldn’t believe that I finally understood what for so long had made me feel so different from everyone else! Having this new insight about who I am and what makes me “tick” felt empowering and invaluable.  

Before realizing that I’m highly sensitive, I often felt misunderstood or that there was something about me I had to change. Why did I get overwhelmed so easily by too many meetings and emails? Cry uncontrollably at sad or touching movies? Why did loud noises like sirens make me want to crawl under a rock when other people didn’t even seem to care or notice? My entire life people had always told me that I’m too sensitive like I had to fix it – only I couldn’t. 

In case you’re wondering, some of the personality traits of highly sensitive people, include (and by the way, every single one of these describes me perfectly): 

  • Strong intuition
  • A sense of overwhelm in crowds
  • Low tolerance for pain or discomfort – like getting shots or feeling nauseated
  • More sensitive to stimulants like caffeine
  • Heightened sensitivity to loud noise
  • A tendency to be creative
  • Good listener 
  • Days of the weeks and certain seasons have a specific “feel” to them
  • Especially affected by the start of the week 
  • Too much going on at once causes overwhelm 
  • Choke under pressure
  • Get angry when hungry 
  • Avoid violent media like movies or video games

It’s true that being a highly sensitive person in a world that is most definitely not programmed to you can pose some challenges, but I assure you that there’s nothing wrong with you and you can make it work for you. 

These are some helpful coping mechanisms that have worked for me: 

One // Own it. Be proud of who you are and what makes you unique. The minute I got honest with myself about being highly sensitive, the better I could accept myself as a complete person with gifts I could share.

Two // Talk about it. Don’t hide behind it or be ashamed. Because people often think highly sensitive people are “too sensitive,” this personality trait can cause misunderstandings in relationships. People who aren’t highly sensitive simply don’t get it. I started explaining to family, close friends and my husband about why certain situations cause me to react differently than they might. Now that they know, they’re more sensitive to my perspective. 

Three // Feed your soul. Highly sensitive people need to prioritize self-care. Give yourself permission to retreat when you need to or skip the crazy concert at Madison Square Garden. Schedule downtime and make time to nurture your creativity. 

Four // Design your life accordingly. When you know you’re highly sensitive, it’s a beautiful thing because you can choose your city, living situation, career, hobbies and how you spend your time to support who you are. 

Five // Find what gives you energy. Sometimes you can’t completely design your life around it, but you can learn how to protect your energy and from where to draw it. For example, had I known my highly sensitive tendencies 13 years ago, I may not have chosen New York City as a place to live. But, I’m here now and my husband’s job is here so we’re probably not going anywhere too soon. While living here poses its challenges, instead of resisting it, I look for what I appreciate. The sights and sounds of the farmers setting up the green market in Union Square on a mild fall or spring morning before the city wakes up is the kind of energy I love and makes me feel grateful I can experience it. 

If you’d like to share about your experience as a highly sensitive person or have questions, you’re welcome to in the comments. This blog is always a safe space to share!





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