Why You, Sensitive Soul, Are More Resilient Than You Think

May 2, 2019

In late January this year my sister told me about an article in the Sunday paper that she thought I might be interested in.

The article was called ‘How To Build Emotional Resilience’.

Under this headline it said:

Do you often feel overwhelmed by your emotions and want to hide away from the world? Being highly sensitive has its challenges, but you can start building emotional strength today.

I hadn’t bought the paper so my sister gave it to me – and the article itself has sat on my desk ever since.

Not because I’m a hoarder of newspapers (far from it!) but because I had been waiting for the right time to share my thoughts on it – and what I really think.

Because I actually think the article is flawed.

Very flawed.

Let me back this up by saying I know high sensitivity. And chances are you do too, if you’re reading this article and connecting with my work. Because I AM highly sensitive – and proud of it! Yes it’s taken me quite a while to accept, own and sit proudly with this Super Power of mine, but the more I accept it the more my anger rises at articles like this one.

Because it’s in these articles that highly sensitive people are seen, in my opinion, as less than.

Here are some quotes from the article:

  • “While it sounds like a dramatic diagnosis, HSP is a personality trait that can make it harder to manage every day emotions and can affect up to 20 percent of the population.” This sentence alone makes it sound like HSPs can’t go to the letterbox without falling apart.
  • “To be clear, HSP is not an illness, medical disorder or condition; it’s simply a characteristic that affects women and men equally. But if it’s that common, why don’t we ever hear about it? Australians are generally regarded as being very easygoing and HSPs can be much more intense, so it goes against the larger culture to talk about it.” Well I’m going against the larger culture and am talking about it peeps – and so are plenty of others! Why aren’t you listening?
  • “Highly sensitive types are more likely to go on instincts rather than reason and, despite their vivid feelings, can struggle to put their emotions into words. Sometimes this comes across as being withdrawn or socially awkward. That’s not to say high sensitivity is always associated with shyness or introversion … But even the most outgoing of HSPs can struggle with criticism.” Doesn’t everyone??
  • “Highly sensitive people experience highs as being higher and lows as being lower.” Doesn’t this mean I’m actually connected to how I feel about what’s happening in the world? And how others feel about it too? I may cry at the news – at both happy and sad events – why aren’t you? Doesn’t it worry you that you’re not affected by what you’re seeing out there?

There’s even a highlighted section in the article, in its own little box, with the heading ‘3 Ways To Function Better …’ – I’ll let you dive into that one as I can’t even go there …


Perhaps now you can see why I’ve sat on this article for so long?

Because the HSP in me needed to process my feelings about it before sharing my thoughts publicly.

As I sat with my feelings and thoughts I took time to decide on the best way to respond to this article. And what I decided was this.

To share ways that I – as an out and proud HSP – have been resilient in my own life when others had absolutely no idea.

You know what I mean.

Those times when I’ve turned up, gone to work, been with my family, spent time with colleagues ALL THE WHILE falling apart.

Isn’t that what resilience is?

Turning up – doing what society tells me I should be doing – even when I’m being judged and told to ‘stop being so sensitive’ and ‘to stop feeling things so deeply Helen – just get over yourself’?

Maybe you see yourself in this too.

Maybe you’ve seen yourself – as a HSP – show up when all you feel like doing is rocking in a corner.

And maybe you’ve seen the children in your life express their feelings to such an extent that you, someone close to you, a teacher, a family member, a random stranger – has judged that child’s behaviour and told them to man up or get over themselves and be more resilient?

We’ve all heard it – even the non-HSPs in the room.

But does anyone actually stop and consider how resilient HSPs actually are?

Here, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the times I’ve been resilient in my own life – when absolutely no-one around me knew how hard my life was at the time, or how difficult these situations were for me.

This list is by no means exhaustive – it’s simply representative of a few ‘big’ life events that tested my sensitivities in a public way.

{In no particular order and with names removed to protect the guilty.}

  • On one stunning, quiet weekend morning I had the emotional carpet pulled out from under me – and showed up the next day to a family celebration like nothing had happened.
  • Following this same carpet pulling event, I turned up each and every day to my teaching job, doing the work I was being paid for, while trying to put the broken puzzle pieces inside of me back together. Eighteen months later when I resigned to move interstate I was sharing with one of the senior staff how hard the last 18 months had been, that I’d had one of those life blows that knocks you for six. His words? “Wow I would never have known. You kept turning up like nothing was wrong”.
  • When I was teaching I had a colleague steal groundbreaking work I was doing in the classroom with my students, submit it to an international competition, and win an award claiming it was his. After sharing this experience with my Principal I was ‘encouraged’ to let it go and move on with my life.
  • When I miscarried I had family members tell me to buck up and move on – that this kind of thing happens all the time and to get over it. And then when we fell pregnant and had our son, following complications that could have killed me, I was continually asked “When are you having another child?” – when the reality was that we couldn’t.

Resilient much?

Like all of us, these situations don’t even scratch the surface of the resilience I’ve had to build as a Highly Sensitive Person.

I know every single person that walks and has walked this earth – HSPs and non-HSPs alike – have faced hard times, but geez people! Give me and all the other HSPs out there a little slack. If we DO feel things more deeply at least give us a chance to feel those feelings, process them, and work out what our new looks like.

And perhaps assume that I’ve done a little work on myself – studying, reading, reflecting – on what it’s like to be a HSP in a not-so-sensitive world. Because, just in case you missed it, I AM a HSP and I am TOTALLY aware of that fact!

Life is hard for all of us. And when, as a HSP, you feel things as deeply as I do, the last thing we need is a stupid article in the Sunday paper telling us how to do things better.

Because we as HSPs ARE doing things as best we know how.

Just because it doesn’t fit a non-HSPs way of doing things doesn’t make it wrong. In fact it makes it better – because it’s through HSPs this world will change and grow and become a much more compassionate place.

So if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person I invite you today to take time to reflect on just how resilient you are.

And if you’re not a Highly Sensitive Person I invite you to take time to reflect on just how resilient the HSPs in your life are. Because they are more resilient than you know – perhaps you’re just not looking at them in the right way?

And if you have highly sensitive children in your life I offer you one simple strategy.

Show them love. At all times. Because they’re still stepping into their sensitivities and don’t have the capacity to manage them in the same way an adult does. Show them that it’s OK to be who they are all the while observing just how resilient they are. Because they are, perhaps more than you could ever know.

With much love,

Helen xx

PS If you’d like to connect with my approach to Highly Sensitive People I invite you to join the Sanctuary Inner Circle for fortnightly updates (it’s free).

PPS If you’d like to dive deep into the articles I’ve written on HSPs I invite you to bookmark this page as articles are being added all the time.

Helen Joy Butler - Sanctuary Creator, Elemental Space Clearing® practitioner and #HSP Warrior


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