So you already know that you’re an emotional person. You feel things deeply and tend to have an intuitive knowledge of how others feel, too. If you’ve heard the terms “empath” and “highly sensitive person,” you might be wondering if either of these apply to you.
Although highly sensitive people—or HSPs, for short—share some traits with empaths, empaths and HSPs are very different things. Empaths draw other people’s feelings inward, to the point where they feel like they’re physically experiencing them, too. HSPs, on the other hand, don’t internalize others’ feelings as much as they intensely experience their own.
Being sensitive isn’t just all in your head—in fact, brain scans suggest that it’s the result of a having a highly sensitive nervous system, which is why you might be easily overwhelmed by bright lights and loud noises, too.
If you relate to these seven signs, then there’s a good chance that you’re a highly sensitive person. And that’s good news! Because despite what others might say, being the sensitive type is actually pretty awesome.
1. You have So. Many. Feelings.
Sometimes you feel so much at once, it can be hard to parse out exactly what you’re feeling. Happy? Sad? Anxious? Hungry? All of the above? While sometimes it can be a little too intense, it’s also kind of awesome, because it’s not just the negative emotions that you feel so intensely. Contentment, gratitude, joy—you feel these on a level other people just don’t understand.
2. You cry. A lot.
Movies. Commercials. Fluffy animals. Being really, really happy. All of these things have the potential to make you burst into tears. Other people might be alarmed, but what they don’t understand is that your tears come from your deep connection with the world. A lot of the time, you probably don’t even mind crying, even when you’re sad. Chances are, if you’re a highly sensitive person you’d rather cry than feel nothing at all.
3. You grew up being told you’re being "too sensitive."
Being called “too sensitive” hurts. This accusation can even make you feel like your emotions aren’t real or valid, which is never true. What is true is that being sensitive is a strength, not a weakness. Thanks to your sensitivity, your emotional intelligence is probably off the charts.
Being sensitive makes you kinder, more reflective, and more self-aware, which can make it easier to help others and change your own bad habits. Being highly sensitive is like having a superpower—you just need to learn to use it for good.
4. You’re prone to anxiety, especially in social situations.
While HSPs don’t physically feel other people’s emotions the way empaths do, you’re naturally aware of what other people might think or feel. Highly sensitive people tend to assume others are sensitive too, so you might spend a lot of time worrying that you said the wrong thing or hurt someone’s feelings.
This can lead to some serious social anxiety. But just remember, it’s all too easy to jump to the worst conclusion, and in reality, things are almost never as bad as they seem.
5. You’re probably an introvert—but not necessarily!
Being highly sensitive often means that excessive stimuli—loud music, crowded rooms, intense conversations—affects you more than other people. HSPs tend towards introversion, since it’s easier to recharge without the hard work of tuning out external distractions.
But extroverted HSPs are definitely out there! For some, spending time with others provides a way to get out of your head and break negative thought cycles. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, the key for HSPs is to find a balance of social situations that makes you most comfortable.
6. You internalize criticism and conflict, and sometimes that really sucks.
You have a deep understanding of other people’s feelings—so it can be hard to just dismiss it when someone feels negatively toward you. Conflict and criticism can get so deeply under your skin that it can make you doubt yourself, or even cause you to believe that everything is your fault.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who will sense this about you and try to take advantage of it. That’s why it’s so important to use your sensitivity superpowers. When you learn to listen to your gut feelings, you’ll be able to avoid unfairly blaming yourself or letting other people’s judgments affect your self-worth.
7. You are an amazing friend, partner, and family member.
One of your strengths as a HSP is your ability to create deep, meaningful relationships that brighten your life and the lives of others around you. You go out of your way to make sure your loved ones are happy, and when they need someone, you’ll always be there.
Healthy people will cherish you for this quality. If there’s someone in your life who doesn’t, remember that that’s their problem, not yours. Make sure to focus your energies on people who value and reciprocate it, because the truth is, you’re awesome and you deserve it!
So, how many of these signs do you relate to? Tag your friends who might be HSPs, too.