In any field, including that of Highly Sensitive People (HSP), there are often misconceptions and myths. For instance, HSPs are frequently perceived as being weak, fragile, prone to tears, or emotionally unstable. Additionally, they are often linked to traits such as shyness, clumsiness, and introversion.
However, this has little to do with the truth. Of course, there may be people who behave like this, but firstly, it does not mean that they have a highly sensitive personality, and secondly, they may belong to the population of Highly Sensitive People, but it does not mean that all HSPs behave and react in this way.
It is also interesting that relatively often Highly Sensitive People do not realize their uniqueness and only taking a test for high sensitivity or reading one of Elaine N. Aron's books puts their own self-image in order. Up to this point, they themselves often feel misunderstood by the world and often think that there is something wrong with them.
Approximately 20% of the population is born with a unique nervous system that processes information differently. As a result, these individuals react differently to external stimuli and possess unique qualities in their internal lives, which can have both positive and negative aspects. Rather than seeking ways to stop being a highly sensitive person, it is important to strive for inner harmony, emotional management, and to utilize these qualities to their advantage, for personal growth and to make a positive impact on the world.
7 Myths about highly sensitive people
If you are not sure what a Highly Sensitive Personality is and what features it has, we invite you to a special column in which we have described the subject of high sensitivity as comprehensively and documented as possible. There you will also find links to free high-sensitivity tests - both for children and adults.
Here, however, we will deal with the myths about Highly Sensitive People. In other words, we will tell you about the most common misconceptions that concern these people. This information comes mainly from the books of psychologist Elaine N. Aron, who together with her husband created the concept of a Highly Sensitive Person and propagated this topic in the world.
Here are the 7 most common myths about Highly Sensitive People.
Myth #1 - High Sensitivity is a disorder and a cause for concern
It's not true. High sensitivity is neither a disorder nor a disease that needs to be treated. This is one of the many shades of human personality diversity. Highly Sensitive People process all information on a much deeper level than others. They have a highly developed empathy, thanks to which they are more sensitive to subtle signals in the world around them. Importantly, susceptible "individuals" occur not only among humans but also among many animal species. They play a very important role as guards and scouts there because they sense potential threats much faster than others.
Thanks to the depth of their processing, Highly Sensitive People also see the beauty that many others miss. They can admire art in every form, nature, and the beauty of human nature, and thanks to this they have the opportunity to experience many more beautiful moments than others.
In addition, because Highly Sensitive Personality is a relatively young concept and not yet sufficiently widespread, high sensitivity is often misdiagnosed in children as a selected spectrum of autism, e.g. Asperger's syndrome. Therefore, it is worth making efforts not to condemn the child to the undeserved "stigma" of a disorder that does not concern the child as a result of a lack of knowledge or a superficial diagnosis.
Moreover, it is often the Highly Sensitive Persons themselves who believe that something needs to be fixed in them. Constituting a maximum of 20% of the total population, they compare themselves with most of the people around them and on this basis conclude that they "do not fit in", and therefore something is wrong with them.
In fact, they carry deep gifts within them. And if they understand it, accept it, and learn to use these gifts and take care of themselves wisely - their lives change dramatically.
Highly Sensitive People Coaching or other forms of psychoeducation and professional support can be very helpful here. By getting to know themselves better and accepting their nature, Highly Sensitive People begin to flourish and fully use their deep potential. A good and wise coach, ideally himself/herself being a Highly Sensitive Person, can be invaluable support for WWO.
Myth #2 - Highly Sensitive People are weak and fragile
One of the most popular myths about Highly Sensitive People is that they are weak. However, this has little to do with the truth. Highly Sensitive People can be determined and consistent. They are usually hardworking and reliable.
Due to their empathy, many people who work in professions aimed at helping other people are Highly Sensitive People. And helping others takes strength. And take good care of yourself. Knowing themselves well enough and living in harmony with their nature and their needs, Highly Sensitive People can use their strength and freedom and enjoy achievements and successes as successfully as other non-highly sensitive people.
Myth #3 - Highly Sensitive People are shy and withdrawn
It is not true that shyness is at the root of high sensitivity. Let's put it another way: shyness is not a trait common to all people in this group. It is also not true that introversion is such a common feature (which we write about in a separate section below).
In fact, Highly Sensitive People can excel in the role of empathic leaders, guides for other people, in professions that require strategic thinking or creativity and setting new directions. In particular, Highly Sensitive People can become great coaches and provide professional support and help to other people.
In addition to high sensitivity, a lot depends on what history they have and in what environment they currently live. Often the most important obstacle in realizing their great potential is their own beliefs about themselves and the toxic (for them) environment from which they cannot free themselves.
Since they see and hear much more than others, they can think deeply and comprehensively - they can be exposed to the Tall Poppy Syndrome (which we write about in another dedicated column) and because of this, they withdraw and slowly wither.
Myth #4 - Only an introvert can be a Highly Sensitive Person
Due to the depth of their processing, Highly Sensitive People perceive various stimuli much more strongly than others. Therefore, they can be overstimulated much more often and more easily. Therefore, they need time and space to rest from stimuli. Silence and being alone are very important to them and necessary to regain balance. The difference between introverts and extroverts is how they regenerate. Introverts need silence and solitude for this. Extroverts - contacts with people.
However, despite this common feature that connects highly sensitive people with introverts, it does not mean that all introverts are highly sensitive people and vice versa. Psychologist Elaine Aron writes in her book that about 30% of highly sensitive people are extroverts.
Extroverted HSPs face a special challenge and must learn to listen to themselves well. In particular, they must take care of the balance between the time spent with others and the time necessary for regeneration. So, on the one hand, it satisfies the need for interpersonal contacts and draws positive energy from them, and on the other hand, avoids overstimulation.
For example, it may mean that a meeting with a small group of friends in a quiet, atmospheric cafe will be pleasant, but a meeting in a crowded club with loud music will be a torment.
Myth #5 - Highly Sensitive People are mostly women
If we look at the still valid stereotypes - sensitivity is considered the domain of women. Boys don't cry, a man has to be strong, you have to be tough - not soft... etc., etc. First of all, it's worth reminding again that being vulnerable is not the same as being weak. Secondly, and most importantly, in this case, high sensitivity is not gender-specific. Both women and men can have Highly Sensitive Personalities.
So far, there are no known studies that show that high sensitivity is more common in women. However, for cultural reasons, highly sensitive men may negate themselves and even try to hide their traits. Or drown it out with strong stimulants. Statistics clearly show that women still constitute the majority of clients seeking help from psychotherapists, psychologists, coaches, or other forms of non-pharmacological support. But this is not because women need this support more, but because they are more likely to admit to themselves that they need such support.
Myth #6 - Highly Sensitive People have a hard time building a successful relationship
Each relationship is a relationship between two people with a unique personality, history, value system, beliefs, needs, and level of self-awareness. In addition, in the case of relationships between people of different nationalities, the culture and national mentality in which they grew up is also an important factor.
Relationships can be a challenge for both highly sensitive and non-highly sensitive people. The main problem in creating a successful relationship is not so much whether we are a Highly Sensitive Person, but whether we know and fully accept ourselves and whether we can accept the other person as they are.
An extremely important element is also mature communication, in particular the ability to listen, communicate one's needs and boundaries, and resolve conflicts that will undoubtedly arise. Moreover, it is one thing to create a successful relationship, and another to maintain and develop it. Each of us changes, and external circumstances change, which we often have no influence on. Therefore, the ability and willingness to work on yourself and your relationship is also important.
What may be an obstacle in creating a successful relationship by a Highly Sensitive Person is the lack of understanding and acceptance of oneself and the inability to meet the needs resulting from the characteristics of one's personality (in the case of Highly Sensitive People, e.g. related to avoiding overstimulation). But the same obstacles apply to non-highly sensitive people. So, high sensitivity in itself is not an obstacle to creating a successful relationship.
Myth #7 - Psychotherapy is a must for Highly Sensitive People
High sensitivity is an innate feature associated with the specificity of the nervous system. And once again, it should be emphasized - it is not a disorder that needs to be treated. Moreover, cultural differences play an important role in the perception of high sensitivity. Highly Sensitive People are highly valued in societies that prefer restrained, measured behavior, such as China, Japan, and Sweden. On the other hand, competitive cultures, such as Anglo-American countries, are a challenge for them.
The key element, however, is how the highly sensitive child was treated in his childhood and what beliefs about himself he "bought" as a result. Often, the lack of awareness of parents or teachers causes the child to be imbued with a sense of low value and enter the adult world with the belief that it is defective or useless.
Therefore, psychotherapy can be useful to all those Highly Sensitive People who do not understand and do not accept themselves. Such support is aimed not so much at curing them of high sensitivity, but at realizing their uniqueness, getting rid of limiting beliefs, learning "self-service" and self-regulation, and starting to live by their truth. This makes Highly Sensitive People begin to fully use their potential and the deep gifts they have been endowed with.
Highly Sensitive People Coaching can also be a very good solution. Especially for people who have already worked through possible traumas from their past. The coach's wise and empathic support will be a highly valued method of personal development for WWO. Not only in the professional field. Due to the depth of their processing, Highly Sensitive People are naturally interested in exploring human nature, searching for the meaning of life or spiritual topics. The possibility of talking to a coach in a safe, non-judgmental, even intimate atmosphere is a very attractive alternative for Highly Sensitive People.
What is worth remembering about Highly Sensitive People
Being a Highly Sensitive Person is a package deal. The depth of processing and having an increased sensitivity to sensory processing (heightened senses) can transform simple joy into delight, and momentary sadness into melancholy.
The key for Highly Sensitive People is to fully recognize and accept themselves, and then wisely self-regulate and avoid overexcitation. Highly Sensitive People can shine in any group due to their combined high intuition caution and ability to analyze deeply. This makes them excellent strategists, advisors, healers, and researchers of all kinds. Highly Sensitive People are also extremely loyal, trustworthy, selfless, and supportive friends, for whom the relationship with another person has value in itself.
Highly Sensitive People may be more prone to burnout due to chronic tension caused on the one hand by overstimulation, on the other hand, related to the tendency to perfectionism and deep empathy for the suffering of others.
Rest and regeneration are necessary to fully exploit the strengths of Highly Sensitive People and derive real satisfaction from these features. Surrounding yourself with beauty and being in beauty (e.g. of nature) is equally important. Setting boundaries and learning to say no is key to getting the most out of the whole package while minimizing your vulnerability.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that research on the WWO feature as a form of neurodiversity is constantly evolving and as time goes by, we can expect more valuable tips and insights.