Once I was ‘diagnosed’ as an HSP, it provided me with answers for physical problems that the medical community shrugged at and went “you’re just unlucky”. Even doctors used the term ‘sensitive’ to describe my iffy immune system and intolerance to medication, totally unaware of the concept of an HSP. I never doubted that this was who I was, but when I started talking about it to friends and family I came up against a huge stumbling block. ”Sensitive.” While the word ‘sensitive’ is great as a technical description, there is a lot of stigma attached to it.
‘Sensitive’ is often associated with discomfort and pain – sensitive teeth, sensitive stomach and sensitive skin. Looking at definitions online, ‘sensitive’ conjures up images of someone taking offence easily, being too serious, overly emotional, readily affected, neurotic, highly strung, difficult, over dramatic; in essence, someone weak and irritating. Do a search on Google images and the prevailing image is someone looking pained or wan, with their arms shielding their head.
Even those closest to me would often say ‘but you aren’t really sensitive’, clearly with a definite picture mind. It seems that sensitive people aren’t allowed to be sarcastic or snarky or like loud music! I also have quite a few friends who are HSP’s but it’s the label that puts them off from exploring it. If I hadn’t had such concrete, medical proof of being an HSP, I’d be like that too.
The term ‘sensitive’ doesn’t empower the people who need it most, the people like me who don’t naturally fit into the expected role of a ‘sensitive’ person. In fact, I am the product of a world where sensitivity was seen as weakness or failure; where pre-HSP, I had to cultivate a shell to protect myself from a world that was too harsh for me to cope with, even though I didn’t know why.
Some people seem to find peace with their sensitivity and are able to grow and evolve regardless of the negative connotations, but I am not really that kind of person … and there are others out there like me too. How can I live life openly as an HSP when the term ‘sensitive’ is so restrictive?
In the past, HSP’s were the shamans; the people who created the plans of action, whose instincts and insight protected the community. Our sensitivity was regarded not only as beneficial for society, but essential for its existence. Now, the world is harsh and aggressive; it’s a vicious cycle where people are becoming more desensitized to it, continually requiring more stimulation which doesn’t bode well for HSPs!
However, whether you are an ‘open’ sensitive who is comfortable with who you are or like me, sensitivity doesn’t mean weakness. HSP’s have an inner strength and continue to be intuitive and compassionate regardless of the harshness of the world.
So, do we reclaim the word ‘sensitive’ forcing the world to see us in a new light? Or do we find a better term, if so… what is it?