Dear highly sensitive person (HSP),
The advice you’ve been getting sucks.
The advice for HSPs reads like a self-help column for people with a pathology, affliction, or mental illness (not that there’s anything wrong with having one of those!). High sensitivity isn’t an illness—it’s a genetic trait.
The advice reads as lists of things you need to do in order to fit in with a non-sensitive world. It’s a list that adds on to the problematic patterns we learned as youth—things to do to make others comfortable with our sensitivity.
Avoid the news (so that you don’t make other people uncomfortable with your emotional responses about the traumatic events happening in the world).
Take more baths (because the self-help answer to everything is baths. I mean, I love a good bath, but me being in one doesn’t directly help me manage emotional overwhelm).
Put up boundaries with people (this isn’t bad advice, but it’s assumed that because it’s easy for non-HSPs it should be easy for us, too. It also assumes that a lack of boundaries is always our fault, when in fact our patriarchal culture has taught people it’s okay to be assholes).
Stop caring what other people think (as if this is just a switch you flip, rather than a process you undergo. The flippant nature of this advice is insulting and devaluing to our experience).
Avoid things that make you upset (so . . .life? I have to avoid life now? Again, this advice is often to make other people feel comfortable instead of having to watch us be emotional—oh the terror!).
The bulk of advice for HSPs falls short for a few reasons.
First, it’s often written by non-HSPs looking at HSPs as if we were a problem to be fixed. We’re not. Second, most of the information is written from the viewpoint that there’s nothing wrong with our society and our culture. They tell us that if we want relief, we’re the ones who need to change.
You are not broken, and there’s nothing wrong with your trait of high sensitivity. You are perfect, and perfectly made for the place and time and circumstances into which you were born. But you live in a system (a collapsed and failing system, I might add) that devalues the very traits that gift you your unique superpowers. You are not the problem. The system is the problem.
I’ll say that again for the HSPs hiding in the back:
YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. THE SYSTEM IS THE PROBLEM.
The advice you get from me on this website and in my book is different because it takes three very important things into account:
- You are not the problem. The system is the problem.
- In order to achieve lasting change, we have to change the system.
- Systems change is slow and awkward, so you have to find a way to manage in an imperfect and collapsed system while you slowly and surely change it.
My goal is to meet you where you’re at in terms of the challenges you want to solve. And I plan to do that by addressing the entire system you live in.
I’m not going to tell you to avoid all the outside influences that are real in your life. I’m not going to tell you that your mindset is everything, because it’s not. It’s part of the picture. Any self-care routine you engage in is also not everything, it’s just a piece of the puzzle.
My express intent is to help you feel balanced the way a highly sensitive system was meant to be balanced—even inside a world that is deeply troubled—so that you have the capacity and resiliency to be present in these challenging times. And when we’re done, you’ll have all the pieces you need.
My work and, more specifically, my book, help you be able to:
- Understand how to handle the amount of emotional information your sensitive system picks up. You will become a pro at understanding and managing every ounce of emotional information that comes your way.
- Discern between your emotions and other people’s.
- Clear other people’s emotions and process yours in a healthy way.
- Meet your own needs and handle disappointment like a pro.
- Know which problems are yours to solve and learn to feel good letting other people solve their own.
- Work with the root of your highly sensitive trait—your nervous system—and increase your capacity to be in the world.
- Understand what balance means for HSPs and create it easily.
- Put yourself out in the world while managing fear like a boss.
I’m ready to see you out in the world with a new capacity for being yourself, high sensitivity and all. Are you ready to start?