The last time someone said to me, "God you're so sensitive," I responded, "I know, I'm so lucky."
I haven't always been excited about my constitution. For most of my life I've been apologizing for it and trying to get over this fundamental flaw of extreme sensitivity. I've tried to toughen up, push on through, and be like everyone else.
Can you relate?
If you're a highly sensitive person, you're part of a select squadron of individuals who are wired differently than the rest. Our nervous systems and brain structures are highly attuned to take in far more information than other people. Every sight, sound, and experience is brilliantly rich. It's like we're living in high definition.
According to Stony Brook University psychologists Arthur and Elaine Aron we inhabit about 20 percent of the population. That's about 4.5 million of us in my home country of Australia alone.
Think you might be part of the sensitive squad?
- You need lots of quiet, alone time.
- Caffeine and alcohol have a strong and often negative effect on you.
- You have skin rashes or allergies to foods and the environment.
- You're easily overwhelmed and often exhausted.
- You're prone to anxiety, depression or swing between both.
- Loud noises and bright lights often startle and overstimulate you.
- Violence in real life or on TV is intolerable to you.
- You can feel the emotions of others and often "take them on" yourself.
- You have strong intuition and a rich inner life.
- You're very compassionate.
As a member of the sensitive squad, you've probably had your fair share of drama. Many struggle with addictions, end up in abusive relationships, and suffer other traumatic events which only exacerbate things.
In traditional cultures you would be seen as a shaman or knower. You would be identified at a young age and given a mentor to help you hone your gift and fulfill your role in the community.
Often you've gone through some kind of accident, illness, or psycho-spiritual crisis, which initiated you into your role. This is the "dark night of the soul," which can ultimately lead you to your calling. Because you've personally been to hell and back, you now have a map of the territory and can light the way for others. You might be an artist, poet, healer or some other form of wayshower.
Our Western culture has no framework for understanding and utilizing the gifts of extremely sensitive people. Instead, you're told to toughen up, get over it, and be like everyone else.
So, how can you turn your curse into a blessing and wield your sensitivity as a superpower?
1. Own it.
Face up to the fact that you're not going to change your constitution, and instead learn how to thrive with it. Trying to change or feeling like a victim of fate will not get you anywhere. Ironically, once you start to discover and use the gifts of your sensitivity, you will become stronger, and dare I say it... less sensitive.
2. Become acutely aware of your needs.
Identify which foods, activities, people and environments nourish and support you and which ones don't. Try this: Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. On one side write: "Things that make me feel great," and on the other side write: "Things that make me feel bad." Then write free-form on both sides. Eliminate the bads from your life and make the greats non-negotiable. Period.
3. Connect with your squadron.
I once took my man to a shamanic conference and he was amazed to discover so many other people just like me. It can be a huge relief to know you're not weird or alone. You don't have to hang out with them all the time, but regular connection will really help you. Look locally or search for an online forum. Take classes, go places, and meet your people.
4. Find a mentor.
You need someone to help you navigate through and out of your struggles. Find someone who's been through what you're going through and can teach you how to claim your gifts and thrive. All cultures and traditions have sensitives; often they're spiritual teachers. Follow whatever you're drawn to. Read books, educate yourself, and learn what it takes to break free from difficulties and fully step into your power.
5. Identify your soul's calling and follow it.
The Native Americans say we are all born with a unique gift. They call it your Original Medicine. If you do not express it, it will be lost to the world forever. Not to put any pressure on you, but this can give you a new motivation to know your calling and deliver it. The world needs that special gift that only you have. That thing that absolutely lights you up, the thing that you can't stop doing even if you tried. Do that thing. That's your soul's calling. That's your unique superpower.
You're not alone, I'm on your squad along with 4,499,999 Aussies and a few billion others around the globe. You're pretty damn awesome. Don't forget that. Unique yes. Gifted absolutely. Now, go rock your superpower.