I arrived a few minutes early. As I walked into the meeting room I could immediately sense the energy in the space – it was tenuous and uninviting, it overwhelmed my senses similar to how the smell of pungent perfume does when you walk into a department store – except it was a body feeling not a fragrance. Bad lighting, and the frantic energy of the event planners immediately accosted me as they clumsily prepared for the business-networking event they were hosting. I scanned the room to find a vacant and comfortable seat that met all of my requirements. As the attendees began filing into the room, the expansive empty space suddenly became claustrophobic and constrictive. I noticed the subtleties of individual interactions and was acutely aware of the mood of the host. The cacophony of talking voices and laughter morphed into a loud mess – I could barely hear my thoughts. I remember thinking this is really uncomfortable. Why am I being so sensitive? I thought there was something wrong with me.
In fact, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. There is something very right!
Having a sensitive nervous system is normal. It occurs in about 15-20 percent of the population. It means you are aware of the subtleties in your environment, which is a great advantage depending on the circumstances. I believe that being a highly sensitive person is a business superpower. As with every great superpower it has both a light and a dark side. It means that you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted from processing all of that stimuli.
If you’re like me, some of the phrases you may have heard as a child are ones like: “What’s the matter with you?” “Why are you so scared all the time,” “cry baby,” “I can’t say anything to you,” “worry wart,” “you are so sensitive.”
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
In our culture, possessing the ‘sensitivity’ trait is not considered ideal and is in fact terribly misunderstood by most people (including well meaning parents, teachers, colleagues and friends) as something that is bad and needs to be overcome rather than something to be nurtured and refined. It’s a special skill.
Your special sensitivity skill really does make you extraordinary. Let’s unpack some of the special skills that come naturally to you. (Not all of these may apply to everyone.)
10 Sensitivity Superpowers
- You are better at spotting errors and avoiding making errors
- You are highly conscientious (hardworking, thorough and diligent)
- You are able to concentrate deeply (good focus)
- You are especially good at tasks requiring vigilance, accuracy and speed
- You are able to process material to deeper levels of semantic memory
- You are often thinking about your own thinking (reflection)
- You are able to learn without being aware you have learned (unconscious competence)
- You are deeply affected by other people’s moods and emotions
- You are good at holding still (staying centered and being grounded)
- You are more right-brained (less linear, more creative)
The next time you are judging yourself (or being judged by others) about being too sensitive, I invite you to consider how to use your sensitivity superpowers for good. Developing an increased awareness of who you are and what superpowers are uniquely yours is a requirement to developing a healthy sense of identity and self-esteem.
If you are struggling to value your worth or suffer from giving too much away in your coaching or consulting practice, reach out to me. I have helped many people like you find their authentic voice and come from a place of confidence and strength while building a business aligned to who they truly are, not who they think they need to be.
Source: The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine N. Aron Ph.D.