what i've learnedSometimes when people learn about personality traits like high sensitivity, introversion, or extroversion, they wonder, why does it matter? How does that knowledge change your life?

Many of us had an “Ah-ha” moment when learning about HSPs–realizing that the trait described us perfectly. It seems like the main thing we realized, most of all, is this: we aren’t wrong or weird. We are normal.

[Listen to the podcast version of this episode here]

Since learning about HSPs a few years ago, I’ve come a long way. In this post, I’m sharing with you some of the main things I’ve come to realize. Maybe this will open the door for your own realizations about how knowledge of high sensitivity has affected you, too.

Here we go:

Realization: My intuition is valuable. I should trust myself more.

First of all, what is intuition? It’s something you know or consider from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.

I grew up believing in facts! and research! and thinking that arbitrary “feelings”, like instinct or intuition, were worthless. When my intuition told me something, I ignored it. I thought, “Why would I trust this unexplainable feeling? How do I know this is correct or valid?” I honestly thought intuition (at least mine) should be ignored because it’s not logical or explainable.

This was really what I believed for most of my life!

Now I know that those beliefs are wrong…and sad! Intuition is more than just random feelings. They are feelings that’ve come about due to the massive amount of mental processing that we have already done throughout our lives. We HSPs pick up on tiny details: body language, tone of voice, and the way things are put together. We relate things we have experienced to other things and make connections that may lead us to intuition about something else. Our intuition isn’t always an arbitrary guess, it’s, in a way, an educated estimate of how we think the future will play out.

Nowadays, when I feel my intuition telling me something, I listen, and I’m not ashamed of it anymore. I think back to the hundreds of times I had a feeling about something and I pushed it away…and then my intuition ended up being correct. I can’t always explain WHY I feel the way I do, but I trust that there might be something valuable in those feelings.

Realization: I’m gentler to myself.

If a friend or family member made some kind of mistake, let’s say, for example, they said something embarrassing at a party–would you berate them? And tell them how stupid they are, over and over, for days? Of course not!

So why do we do this to ourselves?

When I’m upset at myself and want to mentally yell at myself, I remind myself of this—I wouldn’t chastise another person for the same mistake. I would be understanding, supportive, and gentle.

We all make mistakes, we all say and do dumb things sometimes. We all fail.

Be gentle to yourself.

The other day I was at dinner with some new friends and I said something that totally came out differently than I thought it would, and when I got home I was mad at myself, and wondered if those friends thought I was a jerk for this thing I said. I just reminded myself: it’s over now, I can’t do anything about it now, we all make mistakes, and they probably didn’t even notice it. And even if they did, well, they’ll get over it.

It’s nice not to yell at myself anymore. I think I knew–deep down all those years–that it was wrong, but I felt like I should punish myself when I screwed up or failed, because I have such high standards for myself. But now I know I can still have high standards and realize that tearing myself down doesn’t accomplish anything.

Realization: Everyone is going through their own trials in life. Be open-minded.

Learning about high sensitivity–and also depression, anxiety, and mental illness–made me much more open-minded to the challenges people experience. I knew people had physical challenges and ailments, but previously, I didn’t think much about mental health struggles, or things like addiction and lasting issues from abuse or trauma.

Our unique life experiences have given each of us different, specific tools to deal with the world. Something that may be easy for one person to deal with may be difficult for another. We are all trying to do the best we can with the tools we have. (Of course, we can improve our coping skills, too.)

I’ve had my eyes opened to so many things. To give one example: I used to roll my eyes at people who had a gluten-free diet yet didn’t have Celiac Disease…until I developed digestive issues and was told to stop eating gluten (and other things) by my doctor. The irony! Now I have a lot of compassion for people with restricted diets.

So now, any time I feel myself judging others, I try to remember all the things I’ve had my eyes opened to in the past, and keep an open mind.

Realization: Self-care is important and necessary.

Before I had insomnia and digestive issues, if I heard the phrase “self-care”, I thought it was not for me. It was something other people might need to do, but not me; I didn’t need it. I didn’t buy into alternative therapies or meditation or essential oils or whatever. It even seemed extravagant, I mean, who has time to just slow down and relax and do nothing? I’m too busy! I sometimes even thought that people who did that stuff were weak-minded. I’m embarrassed to admit that now.

But now I know that things like stress and anxiety will manifest physically if you don’t take care of yourself. Exercise and eating well are important, of course, but mental self care also needs attention.

Even if you think you’re totally fine dealing with a lot of stress now–and you might be for years–at some point, it might rear its ugly head. I never thought it would happen to me. (no one does).

Once I started not being able to sleep–which was brought on by anxiety–I had to learn about self-care real quick.

I had sorta tried meditation before, but I really didn’t understand it. And now, I think meditation is one of the things that improved my insomnia the most. (Listen to my episode introducing meditation to those who haven’t tried it before.)

I now have to follow a lot of rules if I want to be able to sleep. I have to stop working at a certain time, stop looking at screens, focus on being calm and relaxed, make a list of all the things I did that day and a list of what I need to do tomorrow, and then meditate. Who would have thought that the simple act of sleeping would need to be precluded by so much work?

How is high sensitivity relevant to realizing the importance of self-care? Learning about high sensitivity opened my mind to being gentle with myself and accepting how I am. I can’t change my nature, so if I get overwhelmed more easily than someone else, I have to accept it and find a way to manage it.

If there’s a self-care activity that makes you feel better, then it’s important and worthwhile, and you should find a way to keep doing it.

Realization: There are strengths I didn’t know I had; I should value them

I already mentioned that I ignored my intuition for most of my life. I now realize that it can be a helpful tool.

There are other things I ignored and thought were useless about myself that I’ve started to pay more attention to, and value a bit more.

I know that I’ve improved some “soft skills” a lot. For example: I’ve actively worked on getting better at offering people condolences. I talked about this in episode 48. I was terrible at responding to situations when someone told me something bad happened in their life. I did research to improve this skill, and I’m so happy I did. I’m glad I have these stronger skills now because they have come in handy. I also think I’m a pretty good listener.

Previously, I was afraid to say I was good at something. This doesn’t necessarily have to do with high sensitivity–it may be more about how I was raised. I was taught never to “brag”. But I’ve gained some confidence, and sometimes I’m not afraid to say I’m good at something.

Realization: I don’t have to apologize for being highly sensitive (or introverted).

Everyone knows what introversion is nowadays. It is quite acceptable to want to stay home and watch Netflix rather than go out to a bar, for example. When I was a kid, if you wanted to stay home instead if hanging out with friends, you were a weird nerdy loser, basically.

But now, it’s totally normal and acceptable to want to spend quiet time alone! So you wanna stay home? That’s cool.

Of course, high sensitivity is not nearly as known as introversion, but along the same lines, instead of apologizing for how I am, I just am. I don’t always need to explain myself.

Let me try to think of an example, and I’m making this up–let’s say I was watching a movie or documentary with friends and it made me cry. In the past, I might say something self-degrading like this to the people I’m with:

“Sorry, I’m so stupid, I always cry at movies, I know it’s so dumb, just ignore me.”

Nowadays, I might just say something like:

“Oh, I’m just really sensitive.”

That’s it. Why would I be embarrassed about being touched by something?

What things have you realized about yourself since learning about high sensitivity? Please share in the comments below.