4 Secret Strengths of Sensitivity


Sensitive people have gotten a bum rap. We live in a world that doesn't embrace the values of sensitivity, so we get told that we are weak, unusual, touchy, and hard to please. The sad truth is that we hear these messages in many ways throughout our lives. Even if it is from a well-meaning teacher or parent who tries to "toughen us up," the crux of these messages is that there is something wrong with being sensitive.

When we hear these messages over and over through our lives, we can't help but internalize them as our own identity. Therefore, most sensitive people truly do believe that there is something wrong with them and that they are at fault for being "too sensitive."

It's no wonder then that sensitive people don't know how to respond when someone derails a discussion or argument by saying, "You're just being too sensitive." How can we have a rebuttal to that statement, when a part of us believes it is true? Deep down inside, most sensitive people believe that their sensitivity is a weakness, and they dislike being that way. It's an inequitable way to live to not appreciate or even like an important part of ourselves, especially when the ideas are based in misunderstanding.

Would you believe it if I told you that your sensitivity is actually composed of many different strengths? Here are four of the secret strengths of sensitivity.

  1. You're Highly Perceptive.
    Think for a moment about the word "sensitive." How does that word make you feel? What associations do you have with the word? Now think about the word "perceptive." How does that word make you feel? For most people, the word "sensitive" is an emotionally laden word with some negative connotations. On the other hand, the word "perceptive" is neutral. So what would happen if you replaced the word sensitive and started defining and describing yourself instead as highly perceptive? Feel the shift that happens?

    This is not to say that "sensitive" is a negative word. It's an emotionally charged word due to our past experiences. It's freeing to take a little time off from that misunderstood term. "Perceptive" is a synonym that still has its pure, straightforward meaning: having keen awareness, understanding, and intuition.

    So the next time you begin to think to yourself, "I wish I wasn't so sensitive," stop and instead say, "I wish I wasn't so perceptive." You'll find yourself replying, "Why would I do that? Being perceptive is a good thing!"

  2. Your Brain is More Active.
    According to studies by Doctors Elaine and Arthur Aron and colleagues at Stony Brook University, the brains of sensitive people brains have higher activity in response to stimuli. In one particular study, participants' brain activity was monitored by functional magnetic resonance imaging while viewing a series of photos of people exhibiting varied emotions. The participants identified as highly sensitive had much greater blood flow in their brains than the other participants, indicating higher brain activity. Similar results have been demonstrated with other stimuli as well. What this means is that the physiology of sensitive people physiology is indeed more active and responsive.

    Sensitivity isn't solely an emotional or mental experience; our entire physiology is wired to react swiftly, keenly, and thoroughly to stimuli. This is the reason we sometimes perceive things that others don't seem to notice. This is an explanation for why we may feel bombarded by loud or discordant stimuli. Our bodies are doing more work to perceive accurately and keenly. In other words, we are more finely tuned instruments.

  3. You Have Great Intuition.
    Intuition is that gut feeling or still, small voice within that we can trust to know the best course of action. Our intuition is our inner guidance system that helps things run much more smoothly in our lives, as long as we listen to it. As a sensitive person, you already have very strong intuition. The problem is that most of us were never taught to value it nor how to listen to it. We're taught to dismiss it.

    Our society praises actions that are taken after much analysis and thought. It's generally not accepted that someone may be sensitive enough to perceive subtle information from multiple sources beyond the thoughts in the mind and then just "know" what to do. That is a big part of what makes our sensitivity so baffling, yet makes it a huge strength. We are sensitive not only to what we can easily see and understand, but also to that which is extrasensory—just beyond what our five physical senses can perceive. This includes things such as EMF, radiation, magnetic fields, and many additional energies from devices, nature, animals, and people.

    Our sensitive intuition picks up on all this extrasensory information, compiles it, and does its best to tell us what we need to know. Since it is already working all the time, practice listening to your intuition and try following it, even for simple things like what time to choose for an appointment. Many people are better able to sense their intuition when they tune into their bodies, especially the solar plexus area, rather than focusing all attention up in their heads. Give yourself permission to listen to your gut feelings and instincts for a while, and you'll find your intuition is a fabulous resource and strength you naturally have as a sensitive person.

  4. You're Empathic.
    People use the word "empathic" to mean compassionate understanding of another person's emotional situation. But the term "empathic" has an even deeper meaning for sensitive people. This is an extension of the discussion about intuition in number two. Empathic ability can be viewed as a specific type of intuition, or extrasensory awareness.

    Empathic ability is the experience of sensing and feeling emotional energy, even if it hasn't been openly communicated in any way. This emotional energy may be lingering in a place, or it may come from animals or pets, but it impacts us most strongly when it is from other people. This is one of the confusing aspects of sensitivity that we often define as painful or as a weakness. When we don't realize we are empathic, then the emotions we sense from others become jumbled up with our own.

    But when we do know that empathic ability exists, and that as sensitive people we are empathic, then we can begin to discern the energy we are sensing. As we learn to use and appreciate our empathic abilities, eventually we are able to use that emotional information just like our intuition—as useful information that benefits us.

    Wondering if you can trust your new babysitter? Is your boss in the right mood today to ask for that raise? Will you get along with the neighbors at the new apartment you are considering? These are questions your empathic sensitivity can answer. It adds another layer of information to your intuition. It's like having a psychic feeling superpower.

    Just as with intuition, it works best to tune into your empathic ability by bringing your awareness to the solar plexus area of your body, between your chest and belly. Ask a question, and then trust the immediate feeling that comes to you. It takes practice and sometimes healing of old wounds or blockages so that you can clearly perceive what your empathic sensitivity is trying to tell you. But you can get there.

Wouldn't you agree that it's time for these strengths of sensitivity to no longer be secrets? The idea that sensitivity is a weakness really is backwards. Sensitivity is a great example of "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts." Our keen perception, strong physiological responsiveness, and compassionate nature give us the ability to hear more, feel more, and sense more, even beyond the limitations of our five physical senses.

It's time for us to recognize these strengths and begin respecting ourselves as sensitive people. So the next time someone says, "You're being too sensitive," you can honestly reply, "Thank you. What a nice compliment."

About Kyra Mesich PsyD

Kyra Mesich, PsyD (St Paul, MN) earned a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1995. A quest to understand sensitivity from a truly holistic perspective led her to study extensively in the field of integrative health. ...

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