For highly sensitive people: True stories of empowerment

Mirko Stoedter

When you’re a highly sensitive person, the world at times can be too much, too fast, too loud, and too harsh. Yet a new book, The Power of Sensitivity: Success Stories of Highly Sensitive People Thriving in a Non-sensitive World, written by Ted Zeff, Ph.D., with a foreword by Elaine Aron, Ph.D., tells 44 uplifting success stories, submitted by sensitive people from around the world.

“This book provides what every HSP needs: a full understanding of our trait through a diversity of stories that will empower sensitive people,” writes Aron in a review of the book.

Read this powerful excerpt from the book:

I surmised at a young age that the path to happiness for me lay in being someone completely other than who I was, so I became very good at pretending, especially in a professional context. While adopting a faux persona during difficult times may be a valid choice, it is also exhausting. I simply couldn’t keep faking it all the time, so I had to limit many new opportunities in my life.

I have worked in organizational development in various educational, media, and corporate industries. In my jobs, I wouldn’t speak up, even to share my thoughts and ideas, or state my unhappiness with certain situations. I also wouldn’t volunteer for new opportunities for fear that I would not be able to cope. In our age of high-powered networking, I would fabricate stories (actually lie) to avoid situations where I would have to meet new people. One strategy I employed was to arrive at networking functions late enough to avoid having to talk to anyone since the speaker had already begun speaking.

Sometimes, after a long day of pretending to be someone else, I could barely make it home. I would lie down in the peace and silence of my own home and wonder what was wrong with me. However, one day I was researching the trait of sensitivity on the Internet and found the work of Elaine Aron. I finally learned, at the age of forty-four, that there is nothing wrong with me! I am a highly sensitive person, and I can be myself and still thrive in my work environment.

Since learning about the trait of high sensitivity, I have integrated several key practices into my work life that have resulted in amazingly successful results. I have learned how to network in a way that works for me. I pick one person to talk to when I arrive at an event, and then include other people who I see standing alone. I also choose to listen more than I talk, thereby lessening expectations as to how I should behave. If I meet one interesting person at an event, I feel that I have been successful, and I make sure to later email them to let them know how much I enjoyed meeting them. I find emailing is far less stressful for me than calling someone, since I can prepare carefully in advance what I would like to say.

After one year of my new and improved networking, I was elected president of my local human resources group. A colleague recommended me because I am “so good with people.” I’m now feeling so confident that I regularly speak at many industry groups and university classes. Although I still become nervous before a speaking engagement, I’m able to follow through. I would never have agreed to give speeches before I learned how to approach my job from an HSP-friendly perspective.

I have also made many changes in my work life. I now work part-time, so I’m better able to balance the stimulation of the workplace with my less-stimulating home life. In the past I felt like I had little respite from the emotional storms my sensitivity created, but armed with my new HSP knowledge, I have ensured that I have clear boundaries in my working relationships and have effectively negotiated my way through office politics. I also now hold a senior position as manager of staff operations within a new warm and supportive work environment.

Finally, I am always honest with others about my need for time by myself and now live in a peaceful, natural setting on an island here in New Zealand. I feel restored by living in a natural and tranquil environment and I have actually introduced some elements of my peaceful home environment into my office setting. I am able to respectfully and honestly decline invitations if I am feeling overstimulated or tired and have gratefully found that most people are accepting and understanding of my HSP-friendly lifestyle. My friends know that when I spend time with them, I really want to see them.

I’ve gone from feeling like a victim to becoming an empowered highly sensitive person.

Image credit: Mirko Stoedter

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Jenn Granneman is the founder of IntrovertDear.com and the author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. She also cohosts The Introvert, Dear Podcast and blogs for Psychology Today. For most of her life, Jenn felt weird, different, and out of place because of her quiet ways. She writes about introversion because she doesn’t want other introverts to feel the way she did.