For a long time I didn’t realize it, or perhaps denied it, but now it comes to me as no surprise that I think I’m one of them: A Highly Sensitive Person (an HSP). The highly sensitive personality trait affects about 15 to 20 percent of the general population, according to psychologist and researcher Elaine N. Aron, who broke new ground with research on the subject in her book The Highly Sensitive Person.
A former girlfriend, an HSP herself, once eloquently pointed out to me that the reason I seem to get overwhelmed with everything from romance to work and want nothing more than to simply go into hiding to recharge my batteries, is because I was an HSP. I disagreed. Nonsense, I thought. It sounded taboo.
I may be sensitive, sure, I’ve been told that all my life, even if I can take a joke or two at my own expense. But I’m not going to be classified under some silly pseudo-psychological label with just as silly an acronym to match.
I knew she was one, but I thought I was much different. Then she explained the personality type a little better and handed me a book titled Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person. I briefly flipped through its contents later and saw many comparisons to myself. The regular overstimulation, both physically and emotionally, to my social surroundings, as if I was too highly-tuned to external stimuli, over-sensitivity to noise, other people’s moods, time pressures, etc.
It started to click, but I still didn’t want to think of myself having to face all those challenges; at least not until I realized the strengths behind HSPs. HSP’s have amazing creative and emotional skills that they can use to their advantage in a career choice that naturally allows these strengths to bloom. They just have to find the ones and the companies that are going to view them for the talented, unique strengths they have to offer.
Let’s take a quick peek at four key areas of strength that can be translated into a happy, healthy life and career for all you fellow HSPs out there.
HSP’s are known for high levels of creativity. Highly sensitive people are vividly aware of their surroundings. They process information more slowly but more thoroughly than the average person. Combined, these two characteristics often make them deeply creative. Writers, artists, interior designers, actors and musicians all draw on their senses to create their work, and then make their work as complete and expressive as possible by fixing their attention on the subtle details.
An intuitive awareness of the feelings of others closely around them gives HSPs an innate talent for careers in counseling, spiritual leadership, therapy, interpreting and infant care. They tend to communicate carefully and gently, making them good at diplomacy, mental healthcare and educating special needs children.
HSPs are often well-suited to jobs that require data analysis, memorization or slow, careful work due to the nature of how they process information. In contrast to the skills that make them good artists, these skills involving precision and care can easily match HSPs to work in programming, market analysis, accounting or personal assistance.
Micro management and busy environments can get more quickly overwhelming for highly sensitive people. They tend to be very meticulous and methodical, and they have a difficult time receiving criticism without getting upset. Because of these traits, highly sensitive people are often happy working at home, working individually or being self-employed. These career paths allow them to choose their own schedule, take their time processing information, be their own critics and structure their own environments.
With strengths like these, it’s not hard to see how much good highly sensitive people are capable of doing in the world and the workplace.
Article penned by Bret Hoveskeland
Writer/Editor with Education Career Services
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