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10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

All my life, I’ve been highly sensitive, and this has certainly carried with it a number of challenges. As a teenager, I was unable to be around people who were eating, because I couldn’t stand the sounds they made, and have always been repulsed by the texture of certain fatty cuts of meat.

And instead of simply learning to understand why, I become extremely grumpy if I do not get time to myself everyday!

Throughout my journey, however, I have learned that being highly sensitive can also be a tremendous advantage. If we can learn to understand and manage our sensitivity, we can then cultivate our increased awareness and empathy.

These are just a few of the many lessons that can help sensitivity become a strength, rather than a hindrance.

1. We Should Learn To Understand Our Emotional Responses

According to the article 5 Great Lessons for Sensitive People from Power of Positivity, the strong emotional responses that highly sensitive people experience are due to empathy. We often feel what other people are feeling. Learning to manage this can require some awareness and practice.

In my own experience, I have learned to stop and examine my thoughts whenever I experience a strong emotion. If it is clear that the emotion is not coming from anything in my own mind, then I am able to see that it belongs to someone else.

Empathy without awareness can look very “selfish.”  When we don’t realize that the emotions we are experiencing are not our own, we only focus on bringing relief to ourselves. When we are aware of the source of the emotional response, we not only bring greater relief to our own mind, but we are also able to better understand the people around us.

2. We Should Realize That Understanding The Response Does Not Mean We Should Act On It

Power of Positivity cautions against immediately trying to “help” other people or act on the emotional responses we experience. Sometimes it is in the other person’s best interest for us not to become involved.

When we experience the emotional response and understand where it is coming from, we then need to look at the situation logically in order to decide what to do next.

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I have learned this lesson many times in my own life. When I am around people experiencing fear especially, I have a very difficult time not stepping in and trying to make that fear go away.

Through calming activities and understanding, I have had to learn to look at the situation in terms of what the other person needs, rather than my immediate need to stop the emotional response.

3. We Should Learn To Listen To Our Intuitions

This may seem like it is contradicting the last point, but it is not. According to Power of Positivity, logic and intuition are both necessary in evaluating a situation, and many people who are highly sensitive discount their intuition.

If we experience a “gut” feeling, especially as to whether we should trust someone else, it is important to listen to that.  Because highly sensitive people are taking in so much from our environment, we are able to evaluate a situation on a subconscious level, which results in a stronger intuition.

I have found that as I have overcome fears and misunderstandings, my intuition has grown stronger. Sensitive people are often very sensitive to judgement and criticism that we receive from others, which our minds often take to be the absolute truth.

The fears and limiting beliefs that stem from these misunderstandings – and they definitely are misunderstandings – can often lead us to feel doubtful about situations when it is not necessary. As we sift through and eliminate these limiting beliefs and doubts, our intuitions will grow stronger.

4. We Need To Seek Out Stimulating Conversation

In Huffington Post’s How Highly Sensitive People Interact With the World Differently, Lindsey Holmes states that people who are highly sensitive tend to get bored in relationships if there is a lack of stimulating conversation. This is because we crave deeper, more meaningful connections and interactions with those around us.

Some of my best memories in my marriage are of long, drawn-out conversations while on the road, or even while sitting on our back porch.  My husband and I will talk for hours about everything under the sun – politics, religion, the meaning of life.

These interactions have led to a deeper, more fulfilling connection between the two of us.

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5. We Need to Schedule Some Alone Time

According to Holmes, people who are highly sensitive may become overwhelmed by busy, open offices or busy social activities. We may feel scrutinized by those around us, or we may become distracted by all of the sensory input around us.

Having time by ourselves each day will help us to focus better and decrease anxiety.

I live on a sailboat in a busy marina in the city and have very little privacy, so I have had to be creative in seeking out alone time. Sometimes, I wake up before everyone else and spend some time sitting on the dock, looking out over the water.

Other times, I find a quiet corner in Starbucks, where I can do my work uninterrupted. And alone.

6. We Should Not Avoid Conflict

Holmes states that people who are highly sensitive tend to avoid conflicts, because the emotions we experience during them are often overwhelming. However, the empathy that we experience can be a strong asset in problem-solving situations.

Experiencing the emotions of those around us can help us to better problem creatively, if we are able to stay calm.

Staying calm in conflicts has been key for me. It has also been important for me to realize that experiencing the other person’s emotions is not the same as experiencing their thoughts.

I still need to ask questions, rather than assuming that I know why the other person is feeling the way that they are.

7. We Need To Eat Well

In her article 8 Tips for Empaths and Highly Sensitive People on The Spirit Science, the author states that people who are highly sensitive need to eat foods that help to improve our mental states.

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She recommends plenty of raw foods and greens, but adds that the appropriate diet for one person may be different for another.

In my experience, I have found that eating whole foods, with a great deal of protein, has helped me to stay calm and to improve my own mental state. Drinking a great deal of water and limiting caffeine have also helped to decrease my anxiety.

8. We Should Seek Out Scents That Appeal To Our Senses

According to the article, essential oils and incense can help to create a calming environment for someone who is highly sensitive. Scents like lavender, bergamot, spearmint, and tea tree oil are most recommended.

I have found that I do not enjoy spending time in a home or room that does not smell good, and I often burn candles in order to create a pleasant aroma. And in vanilla, my favorite scent by far, I have found the most calming reaction.

In the winter, I will even boil a pot of water, vanilla, and cinnamon to achieve the scent to feel most calming and pleasant.

9. We Should Become Aware Of Our Stress Responses

In her article Highly Sensitive People: Desensitizing Your Fight or Flight Response: Creating a Sense of Safety in Your Life by Changing the Meaning of Your Experiences from Online Counseling, Ewa Schwarz states that when a highly sensitive person becomes overwhelmed, their fight-or-flight response is triggered.

This response is designed for short-term survival, and chronic fight-or-flight is harmful to the body and mind.  Becoming aware of this stress response and learning to minimize it is key to decreasing this feeling of being overwhelmed.

Learning to calm my body and mind has been very important in my journey. I have used breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and even walking to calm my stress response, so that I am able to move forward and process the situation around me.

10. We Should Examine And Redefine The Things That Cause Us To Feel Overwhelmed

According to Schwarz, the fight-or-flight response is triggered when the mind goes into an emotional reaction after making connections between the current situation and past experiences. The mind is detecting a threat in the present moment, based on its understanding of the past.

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Yet this is merely a perceived connection. In order to change our mind’s perception, we can go back to the initial assumption whenever our minds go into reaction.

Why are we seeing a connection? The connection is based on meaning that our mind has given the current situation.  When we can redefine the situation and stop seeing this meaning, we can diffuse the triggering event.

This has been absolutely key in my journey. When I am emotionally triggered, I stop and examine the thoughts behind the emotion. I then ask myself a series of question to determine why I think what I do, so that I can find the underlying assumption and redefine it.

This has helped me to become overwhelmed much less frequently.

I’ve often thought of a highly sensitive mind as being like a wild horse. It’s amazingly powerful, but it will take some time to train that horse and gain its trust.

With a lot of patience and perseverance, it is possible to train that horse and take advantage of its amazing power and strength.

Featured photo credit: Crystal/carianoff via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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