Why Being an HSP/Empath and Learning of Your Trait is Actually a Huge Advantage
Updated: Feb 1, 2019
This is a pretty radical idea, so bare with me here. Just see this as an opportunity to open your mind a little bit, and try just to entertain the idea, you certainly don’t have to accept it.
A main struggle for us as HSPs and Empaths is that we are often misunderstood by those who are not like us. I am not negating this truth, in fact I can agree that I feel this way more often than I don’t (and am actually writing a book about it). But I had a thought the other day that completely flipped this idea on its head...
"It almost now feels as though being an HSP/Empath in the venture of life-improvement is (dare-I-say) a luxury, because its so easy to understand now why I’ve struggled..." -Tiara Ariel
For along time I felt alone, like an odd-ball, confused as to why I was struggling so much in life, in my career, in my relationships, all of it. Then I learned about my trait. I read Dr. Elaine Aron's book, I looked up articles online, I watched informational videos, I eventually joined Facebook support groups. The first day that I hung out in one of the FB groups, I was just in constant tears of validation. "Oh my god, I’m not alone. Other people feel this way too. Other people have weird health issues that go unexplained, struggle not to feel overwhelmed by life and emotions, and feel so extremely different than most that its hard to feel genuinely connected to others." But upon being accepted into the group, we suddenly become connected and understood by each other. We are no longer alone. We are validated. We have a new sense of understanding about how to approach our lives because now we can better understand ourselves with the new knowledge and support.
At first I was overwhelmed by the idea that there was even one other person in the world who had similar life experiences to me. Then I became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people that there were that could relate to me, even though we are still in a minority group. But interestingly enough, almost as soon as my overwhelming validation rush came in, I became underwhelmed and accustomed to feeling as though I was part of a group, and no longer a total nutcase. I no longer felt wildly strange, I felt completely normal. I started to get a much better understanding of myself, and therefore a much more clear idea as to how to better address my needs and wants as a person - because there was a category that already existed for me. And it had lots of information: there were other cases of similar experiences, and thousands of people to talk to for ideas.
We as a group are used to feeling like we have a disadvantage, being so much more sensitive to everything around us than the average person, making surviving and thriving in this world that much more difficult. But in some ways, having this trait is actually an advantage... if you have the realization and self-discovery that comes along with it. The “average” person doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into a category with a ton of information, support, and details already laid out for them that they can use to better understand themselves. It almost now feels as though being an HSP/Empath in the venture of life-improvement is (dare-I-say) a luxury, because its so easy to understand now why I’ve struggled, and how to change the landscape of my personal life satisfaction. I'm not saying that its now suddenly easy, but at least I know now what to work toward.
With that said, think of the “average”, non-HSP person who is struggling to be happy or healthy, and doesn’t fit into a smaller more specific category. Maybe they “fit” into the general world more easily, but wouldn’t they just feel lost in the sea of all the people who fit into the norm? Maybe their direction in life isn't obvious and they don't know where to start. I know lots of HSPs and Empaths struggle and may not wish to be how they are sometimes, but I’d almost rather be on this end of the spectrum in a small percentile because with a more narrowed focus, you can dive deeper into learning and understanding.
This makes me think that maybe in a way we actually need to be more compassionate to those who are non-HSPs, less sensitive or empathic. I find it easier to understand what my needs are in each category of life because the needs of an HSP/Empath are so specific. Maybe instead of feeling so misunderstood, we should feel incredibly grateful for our small community of people that deeply understand us. Having the self-awareness and self-discovery is what frees us from the frustration of feeling misunderstood and out of place.
I have struggled with “mysterious” health issues for nearly half my life now, going from doctor to doctor with test results coming back normal, not necessarily living a terrible life, but not really thriving or feeling great, either. Its like this suboptimal coasting of physical health. It has been infuriating. And while I would never wish a disease on myself or anybody else, or say that any disease itself is a blessing, I have thought many times that in a way a diagnosis would be blessing. I have a friend with a similar life experience who would attest to this desire, too. A diagnosis would mean some relief and even freedom because with a concrete circumstance, you are better able to address and understand the problem, and move forward to either accommodate the problem, or ideally find a solution. You’d at least be able to stop asking that one single question over and over again, "What is going on and how can I make progress?". Maybe your diagnosis would bring up new problems, new dead ends, or more struggle - but you would at least have been able to move forward at least one step, and cease the perpetual circling around the same issue over and over again indefinitely.
In a way, this is how I am viewing life as an HSP now. I no longer feel that I am at a disadvantage, I feel as though I am at an advantage, that I have some “diagnosis” as to why I have struggled to do well in mainstream environments. It makes me wonder if people who don’t neatly fit into a minority category feel lost and struggle that much more to figure out which direction or choice is right for them, as similar to those who live with health issues with no concrete diagnosis. Its like grasping for straws; its just trial and error. You have no clear roadmap to work with. Discovering that I was an HSP/Empath took majority of the guesswork out of a huge portion of my life.
Maybe what we as HSPs and Empaths can do to feel more understood is actually to help others understand themselves better. Because when you can understand yourself, you can find clarity. And when you can find the words to say, you can express yourself. And speaking of your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences is what brings more clarity, community, and connection, which encourages education and acceptance. Knowing what to do to help yourself is motivating.
I can’t help but wonder if now HSPs and Empaths actually have the upper hand when it comes to living a happy life, and those who still are unsure of what would help them feel more at ease and live happier or healthier, will have to spend more years of their life guessing. Everyone is unique though, and each HSP and Empath will not all be the same. But once we learn about our trait, we are equipped with a much better “starting point” than someone still searching for a community, for answers, for validation.
So I guess my point here is, experiment with being more grateful for your self-knowledge, prideful of the trait, and compassionate for others who are still finding their way. Its okay if you are not understood by all if you are understood by some. Know that there are thousands of others like you having similar experiences, even if you can’t see or hear them. Reorient your view on non-HSPs if you have any resentment towards them: show some compassion for them because while they may fit into the “norm” category, their category may be so ambiguous and so large that they don’t really feel they belong anywhere. At least not yet, not until they find their niche, define their values, and understand themselves better.
Just a thought that I wanted to share! Maybe we can help others find their inner guide to themselves, validation, and acceptance, as we’ve been fortunate enough to find in our own HSP and Empath communities. (And if you are an HSP/Empath and you haven't joined a support group yet, go do that right now! You'll thank me later.)