Highly sensitive people are known for their deep, rich inner life and do therefore (over)think a lot! Yet, many HSP’s seem to make these common mistakes.
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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Why I Am Sharing These Mistakes With You
Everybody makes mistakes. You, me and everyone you know has probably made many mistakes throughout their lives. It is an unpleasant feeling to make them, but an even more unpleasant feeling, is when you are not aware of it. I speak out of experience.
For many years of my life, I made the mistakes mentioned below, without recognizing that I was making them. It was through years of trial and error, self-reflection and growth, that I realized that these were mistakes that I made. When I talked to other HSP’s in my surroundings and listened to their stories, I recognized that many of them made these mistakes, too!
Therefore, in order to prevent you from making the same mistakes that I (and other HSP’s) did, I share them with you in this blog.
The Mistakes Every Highly Sensitive Person Makes
So, let’s have a look at the common mistakes I (and many other HSP’s) make:
You must probably think that it is weird that I state apologizing as a mistake I made. Don’t get me wrong: every now and then, it is good (and even necessary) to apologize, especially when you’re wrong. However, it is a mistake to apologize too much.
It is something that I recognized I did, when people started to say “You don’t have to be sorry” or literally told me to not say sorry that often. I did not see anything bad in apologizing much, as I experienced as a way of showing that I am kind and care about somebody else’s feelings. As a highly sensitive person, I usually pick up on other people’s emotional pain quickly. As a result, my apologies flew out of my mouth as soon as I received signals of discomfort from the other person.
Why This Is A Mistake
Quite soon, I recognized that the more I apologized, the more people around me felt comfortable about not taking their responsibility in conflicts. Not necessarily because they did not reflect upon their behavior, but because I simply did not give them any time to take action. I immediately apologized, without thinking about the pain that I was experiencing in that moment. All I wanted, was for that person to feel less bad. In fact, I put their pain above mine.
Because I so quickly went into submissive behavior towards others, people did not see the need to apologize or talk about their behavior towards me. And who can blame them? I took the blame already, so why should they? Due to bad closure and not expressing MY pain in those situations, it often took much longer for me to heal afterwards.
So, when somebody hurts you, don’t pull the apology trigger too quick. Think about both perspectives of the conflict, and consider well, if you really should apologize. It might surprise the people around you to see that you are more aware of your own needs. Try it out, you won’t regret it.
This video explains why apologizing too much is more dangerous than you think:
Not Recharging In Time
Everyone knows them: Those crazy, busy weeks, where you can’t seem to find a moment for yourself. You rush from one appointment to another, and at the end of the week you feel entirely burned out.
I have experienced such weeks, and sometimes even months. My schedule was overloaded with a meeting here, a social gathering there, or a dentist appointment in between lunch. When I looked at my schedule in those weeks, it gave me loads of stress and anxiety, but what was worse, were the moments when I broke down.
Why This Is A Mistake
Mentally, and physically I was empty. I had nothing to give anymore, and all I wanted to do, was to lay down on my bed. There was not a single piece of energy left in my body, and I felt like an empty smartphone that badly needed to be re-charged.
I find it extremely hard to discover in time that I need to take a break. I push myself to the limits, not thinking about that I need to have time to process all the input I have received during the day(s). Honestly, I think that many highly sensitive persons make this mistake, because they sometimes tend to forget that they receive many more signals than the average person.
Since I am more aware of this, I take a rest whenever my body or mind tells me to do so. Even if it is for just an hour or two. I know that it might feel frustrating for you to not be able to get things done right there and then. Been there, felt that. However, I realized that the sooner I took a break to recharge, the more productive and happy I was afterwards. I was functioning much better, than if I pushed myself to the limit and as a result went knock-out for a week or two. Taking care of yourself and recharging your energy is good for you, and it helps you to grow. Don’t feel bad about it, you deserve time for yourself.
Remembering And Analyzing Everything
As mentioned earlier in this article, HSP’s tend to (over)think a lot. It is like our brains never stop! They continuously process every tiny signal from every single experience that we’ve had. And then, the analysis can begin. What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? How must that person have felt when I did that? How could I have avoided this situation? Is the person still thinking about that moment today? You feel what I am saying? It is truly exhausting!
I am sure that I am not the only one who is an overthinker. I can remember awkward situations of my life from when I was 14. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, a memory from 10 years ago pops up in my head, and I start analyzing. And after a while, I catch myself while doing this. And a little while after that, I realize that those are moments of the past. The persons involved in those moments have probably even forgotten that this ever happened. Yet, I have not.
Why This Is A Mistake
What I learned from this behavior, is that it is energy-draining. Just like overloading your schedule with appointments, overthinking can exhaust you to the bone. What helped me in tackling my overthinking-habit, was to meditate and use mindfulness. You are in charge of your thoughts, and you can control them in whatever direction you want them to.
Tip! Whenever a thought you don’t want to think about anymore pops up in your mind, try to relocate your thoughts to a different and more pleasant memory. Think of every detail of that happy memory, and try to remember the persons involved in it and the feeling that situation gave you. Doing this has helped me very well in treating anxious thoughts from the far past, and I hope that this might help you too. (But be aware, this advice is only useful when we are talking about so-called useless thoughts that in your opinion bring you nowhere and that just pop up out of nowhere. If you have experienced something traumatic that gives you stress and takes up much of your headspace throughout your day, I highly recommend you to talk to a good friend, a therapist or some other specialist.)
You might also want to check out this guided meditation that can help you to detach from overthinking:
Seeing Your Sensitivity As A Flaw
I saved the biggest mistake that I made for last! From what I have seen in several HSP-communities that I am a part of, but also from my own behavior, I acknowledged that me and many other HSP’s often see their sensitivity as a flaw or weakness. The society we live in, tells us to be tough, to work long hours and to push our bodies to the limits both mentally and physically. We should not whine, we should not show our emotions, and we surely should not show our ‘vulnerable’ site. It are impossible and unrealistic standards to live by. Yet, we all want to achieve those standards.
Why This Is A Mistake
It is because of this norm, that highly sensitive persons might feel like they are not enough. As a result, they undermine their character, their sensitivity and the essence of who they truly are. They pretend to be someone they are not, in order to meet the standards that society sets. I know that I did for a long time. Pushing myself to the limits, achieving more and doing things that I thought others expected of me, resulted in me losing myself. And what was I doing it for? More money, more status and recognition? Was that really worth losing myself? I figured out that it is not. So I changed my mindset.
Throughout counselling, I realized that it is important to build upon your strengths, in order to lead a happy life. Your strengths often are a part of your character, and for me my strength was and is my sensitivity. Due to my sensitivity, I have a set of other strengths, like creativity, empathy and caring for and about others. I saw my sensitivity as a flaw for a long time and tried to undermine it. Thereby, I also undermined all the other qualities that are a result of this sensitivity.
What I am trying to say is, don’t take away the foundation of who you are, simply because society has a different standard. Maybe, there are 15-20% of highly sensitive persons out there who feel like they have to change. Just imagine a world, where all those HSP’s love themselves and their sensitivity and are not ashamed of it? I am sure society’s standard might be greatly influenced, if one in five people dared to just accept themselves the way they are. Stop camouflaging your sensitive side, but wear it with pride!
To feel more proud of your high sensitivity, check out this inspiring Ted Talk by the highly sensitive entrepreneur Elena Herdieckerhoff!
How This Knowledge Could Transform Your Life
I know that it might sound extreme to say that this info might transform your life, but I know it did for me. Due to acknowledging these four mistakes and adjusting my behavior accordingly, I became a happier highly sensitive person.
Sure, life is not always sunshine and happiness and there are days where you just feel bad. In my case, this knowledge helped me to get through these bad days. Taking care of myself and thinking through my behavior and what makes me truly happy, helped me to survive those days where I just wanted to hide in my bed. I hope that they will help you too!
Are there any mistakes HSP’s often make, that I did not write about in this article? Please feel free to share them in the comments!