How I Learned to Love Myself as a Highly Sensitive Person

love myself highly sensitive person

As a highly sensitive person, sitting in the car in traffic with my husband can be excruciating. Suddenly the radio is just the slightest bit too loud and the air is blowing too hard. Oh wait, now it’s hot. I’m hot and I must get out of this inferno, stat. I’m simultaneously about to cuss and get super nauseated, so I stick my head out the window.

While I’m shaking my head out the window like a mannerless dog, I remember the fight I witnessed earlier in the day—and I feel so sad. I stop talking to my spouse and just think. Think, think, think about how sad it was to see the couple fighting and how I would have felt if I were them. Suddenly my husband says something to me and I snap.


That’s when I  realize: I’m overstimulated. I breathe. Occasionally I squeeze my arms like I’m giving myself tiny hugs, because my therapist told me it would help me calm down. Eventually I start feeling sane again.

I Thought I Had a Stress Problem

I spent the majority of my 27 years thinking I had a stress problem. I get stressed more easily than other people, and I viewed it as a character flaw. If only I could learn how to not get stressed, I would be better. Then my marriage would be what I hoped. I would be good enough for myself. Maybe others would truly love me.

Simultaneously, I spent the majority of my life feeling different from others. I’ve always felt slightly peculiar, not quite like my peers, friends, and family. At my best, I feel like I am tapped into a stream of reality and meaning of which others are not aware. At my worst, I feel isolated, too odd to be fully accepted by most people. Over the years I came to the place of being able to appreciate myself—the quirks, intuition, and mesmerizing array of feelings that make up Katie Jo. But I still felt secretly strange. I didn’t know anyone else who seemed like me.

Anne Lamott, in her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, writes, “I suffer from what a psychiatrist friend calls clinical sensitivity; she recommends that I avoid too much stimulation.” But I don’t call my sensitivity “clinical,” because I firmly believe—along with leading sensitivity researcher and author Dr. Elaine Aron—that sensitivity like mine is not a diagnosis. Rather, it’s a fixed personality trait, heritable, not inherently bad, and worth valuing in this aggressive, fast-paced world.

I spent the majority of my life internalizing the message that I am too sensitive.

Now I am daily trying to inject a new message into my soul: I am beautifully sensitive. I am not “too much.” My sensitivity is a gift. The fact that I get overstimulated easily is worth paying attention to and making space for. I am not the only one who is this sensitive. I am okay. I am loved and appreciated for who I am—by God, myself, and my husband.

My Sensitivity Revolution

I like to call what has happened in my soul a revolution. Embracing my sensitivity has transformed everyday moments of stress into opportunities to believe and enjoy the fact that I am unique.

I first learned about being highly sensitive from my therapist, Lauren Currans. I came to her super overwhelmed. I had just had a pulmonary embolism after spending 1.5 months in the hospital with my little sister after she had a heart attack that almost killed her. That’s right…my then twenty-year-old sister almost died from a heart attack from her autoimmune disease, Lupus. And, yeah, having a pulmonary embolism felt small in comparison.

Sensitive revolution

Here I am getting an infusion at the hospital for my autoimmune disease.

I’m pretty sure my whole family is traumatized from the horrors of what we experienced in the hospital. I was having flashbacks to my dying sister. When she asked me if she was dying, I lied to her so she would believe she could make it. (I don’t regret the lie. We both needed to believe it.) Thankfully, I had just started seeing a counselor because I was required to for my Masters in Counseling program. I really, really needed to see a counselor—so that graduation requirement was a win.


After I told Lauren I thought I had a stress problem and that I was committed to learning how to cope with it better, she gently asked, “Have you ever heard of the term highly sensitive person?”

Immediately a tiny detonator in my heart was pressed. “Shit, she thinks you’re too sensitive too,” I thought. But something in me keyed into her affirming tone, and, thankfully, the wires in that little bomb proved faulty.

“Highly sensitive people process just about everything more deeply than the rest of the population,” she shared. “From sensations like hearing noises and feeling temperature, to feeling emotions deeply—both positive and negative. Highly sensitive people are wired in a way that makes them constantly process stimulation deeply. As such, we get overstimulated easily.”

We. She said we. She felt like a safe person, like a kindred spirit, and I started seeing why. Suddenly my soul forgot about the detonator and instead felt safe.

Lauren told me about Dr. Aron’s research about sensitivity. I learned that about 15 to 20 percent of the population are born with a nervous system genetically designed to be more sensitive to subtleties. Highly sensitive people (HSPs) are more prone to deep reflection and therefore they are more easily overwhelmed by outer events. The research-nerd in me lauded how Dr. Aron’s work is scientifically valid. But I would have believed it even without her copious amounts of qualitative data, because my heart told me this was the truth about myself. My counselor had just nailed my quirks, the things about myself I felt I had to hide from the world.




Thus began a new season in my revolution: the Sensitive Revolution. Over the following months, I continued therapy with Lauren and read everything I could about sensitivity. I even made an independent study course out of it for my graduate program. I reflected, journaled, and had countless conversations with my husband, friends, and God using this new language of “sensitivity” and “overstimulation.” Over time, my attitude about myself changed. I started really believing what Dr. Aron and my counselor say about sensitivity: that it is a gifting. She writes, “It’s not that our eyes and ears are better, but that we sort what comes in more carefully. We like to inspect, reflect, and ponder…We are very intuitive, meaning that we tend to know how things came to be the way they are, and how they will turn out, but without knowing how we know all that.”

I also kept owning the fact that I will continue to be prone to overstimulation.


Brenda screenshot from video with logo

Are your emotions keeping you from moving forward? I can help you live a more empowered, fulfilling life—in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Learn more about personal coaching from our partner Brenda Knowles.


I started getting a whole lot better at taking care of myself in light of my sensitivity. My marriage improved. I finally stopped feeling perpetually isolated. And I started being kinder to myself.

The story of my Sensitive Revolution is not over, but it is growing more beautiful every day. If some of what I shared resonated with your experience or sounds like your spouse, best friend, or child, will you join the Sensitive Revolution by taking Dr. Aron’s self-test? Find out if you are a highly sensitive person like me by taking the test here. And then read, pray, and talk your sensitive, beautiful heart out with some safe friends or a counselor.

Your own Sensitive Revolution may be coming—and you’ll be happy it did.  retina_favicon1

Read this: 12 Things a Highly Sensitive Person Needs



10 Comments

  • johnniehsp says:

    I couldn’t have said this better. Thank you for articulating what I also live.
    As I sit here, small stuff is overstimulating me because I did not sleep well last night.
    I work hard to get a good night sleep so that small stuff doesn’t bother me. I think the fireworks last night stirred up my senses.
    Note to self, next 4th of July see if earplugs work;)

  • nisheink says:

    That’s amazing ! It felt like another person was in my head, writing every single thing I thought or experienced !
    I’m still in that phase “don’t think it’s a gift, hide it to everyone”, but I hope one day I’ll succeed and accept myself a little bit more 😉
    For the moment, I use art & music making as a way to escape and express my own brain flood.
    Wishing everyone to find their own way to escape too !

    • Man, I am honored that my words resonated with you so much. Thank you so much for sharing that feedback! And, be encouraged, the fact that you are making space in your life to express your sensitivity in art and music shows that you value your sensitive self. Accepting our sensitivity as a gift really does take time, and it’s something we have to keep doing each time the challenges of being sensitive overwhelm us. Keep sharing and learning! We are in this together.

  • Chloe says:

    That’s a very nice piece. Thank you for sharing it.

  • ecofriendlygirl24 says:

    this is lovely and resonates deeply with me.

  • MaryAnn Sharp says:

    Great blog Katie Jo…..I think you’re fabulous…

  • WONDERFUL! I have some insights… but will spare you for the moment…

  • Amanda says:

    Loved reading this so much, Katie. Thank you for sharing your heart. It’s comforting to know I am not alone, though it feels that way a lot. I am also highly sensitive, an INFJ, and I have autoimmune issues. Kindred spirits! Jesus is my refuge everyday..and especially on the days when pain, whether it’s physical or emotional, overwhelms me. I’m going to go check out your blog now! 😊

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply