For highly sensitive people: True stories of empowerment

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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