To All My Fellow HSPs: An Open Letter

Oct 10, 2016

Personal Growth Personal Development Identity Self-Acceptance
woman sitting on rock watching body of water at sunset

Photo by Julia Caesar

[For those unfamiliar with HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), you can learn more about it here or watch this TED talk]

If there is one thing I would want you to know for sure about yourself, it is that you are exquisitely made. There is a river inside of you that runs so deep, you will spend many years thinking it is a void that you need to fill with the things of this world. But my dear, it is actually a space created to collect and hold the pain of your fellow beings tenderly. There is a spaciousness in that river that can bear the weight of broken hearts all around you, including your own, if you learn how to harness it.

There will undoubtedly come a time where you will resent this trait of yours you were born with, for it sets you apart from others and creates so much misunderstanding; so much judgment. Some of you may wonder if God made a mistake. You will question how you can exist in this cruel, loud world with your sensitivity intact. There is no shame in your questioning. This phase is a part of acceptance, so be gentle with yourself. Do not turn the anger inward, my sweet friend. It only turns into self-hatred. And this isn’t a place from which any of us can do any good.

Your hypersensitivity to external stimuli, your greater depth of cognitive processing, and your high emotional reactivity are all a gift, no matter what else you may have been told. If you should feel the need to look away from a violent scene in a movie because you feel the piercing sound of bones breaking so intensely, it makes you want to vomit — so be it, look away. If the scene of a sunset or father playing with his newborn son should bring you to tears, cry away child, cry away. Your tears are always welcome in my world. Many a soul have perished leaving behind oceans of tears not shed in time.

Let your body react how it needs to react. Do not shame it or judge it for its peculiarity. There are enough people already doing that. The nature of your central nervous system is such that it needs more time to process situations and sensory data. That is just a scientific way of saying that you feel EVERYTHING more intensely, my dear. So be patient and go at the pace of your body. Learn its rhythms and care for it deeply. Let the rest of the world catch up with you, not the other way around.

The world will tell you to go faster, think smarter, cry less, work harder, stay busier, speak louder, be more extroverted. For it does not speak your language. It will want you to stop feeling so much. It will call you weak, too sensitive, and fragile. It will measure your worth by your external accomplishments, not by your rich and complex inner life or your beautiful gifts of compassion and empathy. Let them think what they will. Let them say what they want. Believe me when I tell you this — the world will try its hardest to change you and conform you to the way it wants you to be. I urge you, please don’t conform. Don’t let it take away the gifts you were born with.

One of the hardest battles you will ever fight while you’re here is the fight to keep the core of who you are alive. To keep the flame of your essence burning and not let the darkness of this world blow it out. You and I are here to be lighthouses in the twilight of life’s storms. There are depths we can go where others are afraid to enter. There are silences we welcome that others try to fill.

So fight, kindred spirit, with every fiber of your sensitive being and lay claim to your presence among us. Embrace your delicate aesthetic; find the melody echoing in your bones and let it elevate the noise of this world to a sweeter chorus. Your feelings are your compass; trust them to steer you in the right direction. You were born with the ability to tune in and perceive things that others miss. Use this to find the corners of the earth that need mending. Never before have we needed so much attentiveness as now.

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

~Blaise Pascal

I’ll be honest — it will often be lonely. Not the kind of lonely where you want to retreat from the world and be alone to process or reflect. But the kind of lonely that tears apart your heartstrings. The kind of lonely that pulls in every dark cloud from the heavens and wraps them around you until you feel invisible. It will make your longing for connection become the very air you breathe. You will want to build a sanctuary and hide. You will search desperately for places to belong… places to call home, where you are seen and valued. I want you to know — I see you and I value you.

Let loneliness become your teacher, for it is the pathway into the core of your sensitivity, from which your brilliance will shine through. There are enough people running around trying to find treasures outside themselves. Let us be the ones who sit quietly in a room alone, finding the treasure within.

You and I are here to be the heartbeat of the earth. To feel our way into the center of things and hold on to the essential. We were made to find the delicate beauty hidden in life’s messes and magnify it for others to see. There is an inherent knowing we carry within us that shatters illusions. We come bearing a harvest of healing, for your sensitivity and mine is a lens into that which lies beyond pain and suffering. Let us leave behind footsteps that point to a gentler way of being.

We tread lightly not because we don’t want to leave a mark, but because we know the power of tenderness.

We speak the language of subtlety. In a world that drowns voices in a cacophony of sounds, we whisper a softer prose. Let the music of your heart serve as the soundtrack of your life.

You will meet other kindred spirits along the way, other sensitive souls trying to find meaning off the beaten path. Tell them your stories, all the ways you have embraced who you are and all the ways you have failed. They will relate and thank you for it, I’m sure.

I leave you with an appeal — as poet Dylan Thomas says in his poem:

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

My sweet HSP soul, do not live out your days wishing you were anything other than what you are. And most importantly — do not deny yourself, and us, the gifts that come from your sensitivity. Rage, rage against the dying of your light whenever the world tries to dim it. And know this, I am right there, fighting the same battle, asking the same questions, looking for a place to belong and share my gifts. Should we ever cross paths, I will make sure to tell you how beautiful I think you are. But I warn you, I might cry.