Being highly sensitive today in an insensitive world is not easy. Even more so in a world that is chronically infected with the higher-faster-further syndrome, which is in the Digitization and is in the process of hunting itself down. A thousand things are required of each of us every day. Smaller and larger tasks and duties that everyone has to work through and complete. In a society where performance counts, individuality is quickly lost.
But what does it look like for people who are highly sensitive and who often already have enough to do with themselves? Can they also succeed in reconciling job and family without losing themselves or even burning out from the things that life in our society demands of us?
Highly sensitive people often live at their limits, if only because of their special nature of high sensitivity. Your Perception filters work differently than those of most other people. With them, the range of stimuli of all kinds that they receive is much higher, because the filters are weaker. They have a far finer perception and that doesn't mean the function of their sense organs per se.
Highly sensitive people do not hear, see and feel better than all other people, but have a significantly more sensitive nervous systemThis is because the brain receives stimuli in a much finer and more detailed way and passes them on to the organism, which then has to process all this information. This ensures that people with high sensitivity reach the limits of their endurance much sooner than people who have "normal" perception filters. They are exhausted more quickly, need more frequent breaks and also a longer than average time to regenerate.
Uniquely highly sensitive, but still not alone
Every highly sensitive person is highly sensitive in their own way. None of them can compare with another highly sensitive person. Also not in what their resulting special retreat needs or downtime. But we are not talking here about a few people who have this predisposition in them. Overall 15 - 20% of all mankind affected by it. In our country alone, that's an average of 14,000,000 people. That means that in about one in five to one in six of us is highly sensitive. That doesn't sound like a small number. You can count it the next time you are in a public place with a lot of people.
And it gets even more fascinating: every culture is equally affected. Nor is there any difference between the sexes. There are just as many highly sensitive men as women. Researchers have even been able to demonstrate the gift of high sensitivity in animals, such as dogs, cats and horses. Some species of fish and rodents also exhibit this phenomenon, in exactly the same percentage as in us humans.
Research assumes that it is important for the survival of a species that there are precisely this number of highly sensitive beings who perceive more and know more about finer senses to sense danger sooner. These are the creatures that sound the alarm early when the group is eating, resting, or caring for offspring in peace. They take over their distinct intuition and fine antennae perceive when something approaches that can become a danger. They probably also have more of a sense of what can be eaten, for example, or whether water is drinkable, without a creature having to sacrifice itself every time in order to find out.
Why, however, man as a species still has highly sensitive conspecifics, although he is no longer so close to nature that this predisposition would still be of use to him, remains questionable so far. Most highly sensitive people certainly feel the condition of high sensitivity rather as a disadvantage. Especially because our society demands a lot from us in our lives. Things that the highly sensitive people so can not afford or only under significant stress.
But maybe that's why they still exist: because at some point they open our society's eyes. Because they with their extremely empathetic nature, a strong sense of social justice and their much lower resilience, show humanity its limits and at some point lead it back to livable structures that are compatible with all of us.
Like all the others, only different
But despite all the high sensitivity, the people in this country who are predisposed to it, in contrast to many indigenous and nature-loving peoples, no longer have a special position. Quite the contrary. No matter how sensitive a person is, we all have to perform the same. Emotional giftedness is not taken into account or sparing. Therefore, the challenge to get family and job under one's hat is especially great for highly sensitive people, which to a large extent even brings non-highly sensitive people to their limits.
High sensitivity, it should be said at the outset, is neither an illness nor a psychological disorder. Therefore, it is more commonly referred to as a phenomenon and somehow it actually is. It is a gift that most of those predisposed to it cannot appreciate as such because they live in a society that does not consider or appreciate such peculiarities.
Just as it is constantly suggested to us on the outside that we all have to be as slim, tall, dapper and with a flawless complexion as possible in order to be successful, we are also led to believe through the mass media that we have to have everything under control at all times, that we are always doing something and that, in addition to our job and family, we have countless hobbies that we regularly pursue with passion and dedication.
There is no room for weakness. Nor for the weaknesses that can actually be strengths if the right conditions prevail. But optimal conditions have not been the issue for a long time. At least not for the individual.
Sensitivity as an unwanted gift
I also feel this every day. Although I have known about my high sensitivity for many years now, I still continued as before for some time, simply because I thought that it was enough to know that I am highly sensitive and therefore function differently than most people around me. And because I believed I could not allow myself to be myself with all the aspects that belong to me. Far too often highly sensitive people experience Lack of understanding and disapproval because of their nature to be different.
I would love to work 40 hours a week at my job and come home every afternoon in a good mood and full of energy to enjoy my free time with my family. Cooking together, getting involved with homework, attending appointments, enjoying nature, meeting up with friends. Which is what a lot of people seem to do in their lives. But what is still not possible for me, as much as I wanted it and tried to do it.
It's not unusual for me to come home... exhausted and overwrought from the day. Getting up early doesn't fit into my organic rhythm. In addition to taking care of myself, there is also my child to take care of and send into the day. On the way to work, the crowded public transport alone is pure stress for me, and that's already in the morning. I then get to my office and have to take a step back to get back to myself.
My job means I'm surrounded by a lot of people every day. I like my job, and at the same time, the many social contacts throughout the day suck me dry like putting a cell phone in the cold at -20°C and watching the battery lose power. In a world where everyone wants to be special today, heightened sensitivity, of all things, is not one of the desired outstanding characteristics.
How a book opened my eyes
So I continued as before, tortured myself through life, tried to keep up and to orientate myself to the people around me, what one has to achieve if one is "normal" in order to reconcile family and job. But the price was high: I paid with my soul and with all my satisfaction, my joy of life. The eye-to-eye principle has not proved successful. It can't stand the test of time at all because it requires you to completely block yourself out and just function like a puppet.
The crazy thing is that in this situation you feel helpless and a victim of circumstances. You are drained, broken, tired and have needs that you don't allow yourself to hear. Like a Duracell bunny on which someone is permanently replacing the flagging batteries, one drums on and on and on. But you create this world and this view of your own life yourself. Through one's own thinking and feeling. And all only by cutting yourself off from yourself. Breaking contact with one's being.
At that time, a book about high sensitivity fell into my hands, as the books that are really important for us always seem to do: they find us instead of us finding them. It was one of the standard works on the subject of high sensitivity. The depth psychologist and author Elaine N. Aron wrote the following paragraph in it, which opened my eyes:
For an HSP (stands for highly sensitive person), it can be frustratingly difficult to live an appropriate, healthy and happy life. We have to cope with a lot of pressure, whereas 80% of all the people around us are not HSPs and can live differently. But if we conform to their style and rebel against our sensibilities, it's back to square one: We suffer when we don't consider our sensitive nature.
Let there be light
And suddenly it became bright. Since that day the saying "a light has come on" has a completely new meaning for me. Far away from the whole positive-thinking-movement and all the texts about recognizing your high sensitivity as a special talent, finally someone who knew about the topic spoke out that it can also be difficult to be highly sensitive. That it is no pleasure to be confronted with one's own limits so quickly and so often within a day. And that it will always be a balancing act between what you want to achieve and what you can achieve. And that privately as well as professionally.
Highly sensitive people do not choose to be highly sensitive. They are sensitive because they are born with it. There is no way to discard high sensitivity or train the perceptual filters to function differently. Unfortunately, the percentage of those who would like to give up this gift, at least in industrialized countries and meritocracies, is certainly relatively high. But of course this is not possible either.
Highly sensitive people then have only two options in their lives: To ignore the specialness nature has endowed them with and try to be as if they were not highly sensitive, so as not to stand out and meet all the demands that daily life places on all of us. Or they can learn to accept, that they are who they are with all the aspects that come with a highly sensitive life.
6 tips for balancing family, career and high sensitivity and not losing yourself
If you choose the second option and want to get closer to yourself and your high sensitivity, I have a few tips for you, which should help you in everyday life between family, work and your own highly sensitive being, to regulate yourself a little and to become more mindful in dealing with yourself.
1. do not compare yourself with others
The biggest mistake you can make is to compare yourself to other people around you. This makes no sense for anyone, but it makes even less sense for highly sensitive people, because they don't work like most of the people around them. A non-highly sensitive person cannot be a benchmark for a highly sensitive person. It frustrates unnecessarilywithout changing the aspect of high sensitivity and its consequences for each individual predisposed to it.
Comparisons break you down and constantly give you a feeling of not being able, of not being right, of not being good enough. Orient yourself to only youby pursuing your own goals and breaking them down into manageable small subgoals. This applies to both your professional and personal life.
2. accept yourself as you are
You can only be yourself. All others already exist. Set out on the path, begin the journey of your life, namely to your true self. Find yourself by finding out what you need and how you want to live. Be who you really are. Set your own standards for your lifeYou can take responsibility for your own life again.
Don't leave it up to other people to decide how you feel, because that leads nowhere and makes our souls sick. Only you yourself decide how or with what you feel comfortable or uncomfortable. No one can take that from you
3. be mindful and loving with yourself
Be careful and loving with yourself at all times. And above all, do not expect others to do this part for you. Be grateful when someone does and encourages and supports you, but don't rely on it. Only you know what you need and only you can give it to yourself.
Be mindful and always stay with yourself. Be present in your body, attentive in the here and now. A little trick can help you: Ask yourself as often as you can during the day "What is this doing to me right now?". This way you put awareness into your doing and being. In this way you regularly check where you are at the moment with your stress level, in order to avoid falling into a state of overstimulation and emotional overload. That's what we need to practice a little bit. Mindfulness works like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
4. the mental emergency pack
Find out what relaxes you and put together a small mental emergency package that you can use at any time. This can be for example Breathing exercises be. Breathing deeply into your belly has an incredibly relaxing effect within a few seconds. Perhaps it is also a mudra that influences you positively, a scent from a bottle with an essential oil or even a certain music.
Go a lot and regularly get out into the fresh air and nature. Allow yourself times in which you can look at consciously renounce medial influences. Set aside a specific time each day just for yourself, where you pursue something that has to do only with you and that you really love: Painting, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, Yoga, Meditation or a bath. Even if it's only 20 - 30 minutes that you claim for yourself.
Perhaps, however, a morning or evening routine tailored to your needs will do you good. Evening Routine good. Try yourself out. That alone will give you fun and joy. None of this is ever set in stone. You are allowed to feel free, experiment a little, and if necessary, always adapt it to yourself and your needs.
5. set limits
Set healthy and balanced boundaries, which are especially meet your needs. Don't be shy, to say "no" to something once in a whileDon't get caught up in what you're not comfortable with or what you can't do right now without getting stressed out. Do not fall into Perfectionismbut remain realistic with set goals. Often we highly sensitive people think we are not good enough and tend to perform 130%, while no one would notice if we only give 80%, because even then we are still good.
This applies professionally as well as privately. Less is often more here. Look closely at the places in your life where you often do more than necessary. Things that you can safely leave out, in order to more space for yourself in order to be able to act more relaxed in your job and to be able to spend time with your family without it becoming a pure duty.
6. accept support
You don't have to do everything on your own either. Highly sensitive people tend to want to prove that they are just as good as everyone else and then often refuse support or do not even indicate that they need help. This is a great pity, because most of the time there is more than meets the eye.
Get support from family members or even from your children - all age-appropriate, of course. But if you live together, everyone should of course have their share. Children can also take on small tasks in the household. This helps at the same time to reduce one's own perfectionism a little bit.which so often stands in the way of highly sensitive people, and still do something together. Especially since children show us what pace life can also have. They know no clock, no performance, no pressure.
Or ask colleagues for support when you realize you just need some time off. Dare to ask for it. This also has something to do with self-responsibility and self-competence, which are incredibly important on the path to yourself.
You are right
And never forget: You're good the way you are. You don't need more or less of anything. Everything about you is right the way it is. You are perfect, no matter what anyone has ever said about you. Don't hold on to old experiences and old wounds any longer. Let bygones be bygones and look forward. You are an adult and are responsible for your own life in all aspects. Nobody can take that away from you. However, you alone have the choice between a happy and fulfilling life and an unhappy one.
So how will you decide?
That's not to say it will always be easy, but it always will be. That much is certain. It's just you decide how it's gonna be. Only you. So believe in yourself and take good care of yourself.
This article is a guest contribution from Jana Kolbusa
I am Jana, a highly sensitive person and mother myself. In my work as a qualified social pedagogue/social worker, relaxation pedagogue as well as meditation and mindfulness teacher, I teach at a school for social work and train young people, among other things within the framework of the lessons, to encounter themselves mindfully in order to approach a professional life armed with this, which will most likely demand a lot from them.
On the side, I write on my blog on loud silence.com on the topics of mindfulness, meditation, high sensitivity, self-efficacy, self-compassion and natural body care without chemicals, to offer people an alternative and inspiration to accept themselves and live in harmony with their own being.