My highly sensitive clients yearn to show up as their Authentic Selves, but it’s difficult for them. Why?
There are several reasons. Can you relate to any of these?
Highly sensitive people (HSPs) want harmony in relationships so they shy away from expressing their Authentic Self because it might cause conflicts. Instead, they try to please people and inadvertently lose themselves in the process.
If you are a typical HSP, you are empathic. You can feel what other people feel. If others feel uncomfortable, you feel uncomfortable. You don’t like feeling uncomfortable so you monitor what you say. In the HSP research, this is called, “pause to reflect.” You don’t want to ruffle feathers – yours or others’. Conflict generates anxiety for you.
Codependency helped you cope as a child.
HSPs with an insecure attachment style are often codependent before they enter therapy or life coaching with me. They don’t have a solid sense of self.
When they were growing up, their parents didn’t encourage them to express their own thoughts, feelings, and desires. If they asserted themselves as unique individuals, their parents criticized them, emotionally distanced or coaxed them to agree.
These HSPs didn’t feel safe to be their Authentic Self so they didn’t develop their unique God-given identity. In the face of conflict, these HSPs didn’t have the will to continue express their true selves when authority figures opposed them.
HSPs with insecure attachment styles spend a lot of time predicting how people will react. You can get caught up in a never-ending loop of over-thinking and analysis. It’s an instinctual protection pattern to try to protect yourself from possible harm. Sometimes it can lead to catastrophizing.
You may not know how to share your uncomfortable emotions in a tactful way. You want to keep the peace.
There’s nothing wrong with pleasing people, except when you lose yourself in the process.
You may be so tuned into other people that you don’t know what YOU feel or think or desire. You’re a good listener (except when you’re emotionally triggered). You ask questions to understand other people. The problem is that they often don’t reciprocate. Conversations and relationships can become one-sided.
Long after a difficult conversation has ended, you’re still processing what happened. You feel unsettled when the non-highly sensitive person feels fine.
With so much empathy and focus on other people, you find it difficult to stand up for yourself and make clear requests for your needs to be met. You hesitate to tell people that you feel hurt or irritated. They might get defensive, sarcastic, angry, or gossip about you behind your back. They might dismiss you. You fear being yelled at or rejected.
As a result, you bottle up your feelings. You put on a happy face or withdraw. Or, you give people advice and try to fix them and their problems. You feel burdened with responsibility. There’s little time to take care of your own needs.
After stuffing your feelings for a while, the pressure builds. Anxiety brews. Words spurt out of your mouth that you regret. You’re unsure how to repair the damaged relationship so that you can feel securely attached again. You put on a happy face or you withdraw.
You may swing from being non-assertive to aggressive because you don’t know how to be assertive in a tactful way.
Many highly sensitive people haven’t learned how to take care of themselves and skillfully navigate a conversation to create win-win solutions. You didn’t see this modeled in your family of origin, and no one taught you this at school.
I know this pattern because I lived it for many years. It hurts.
There are many ramifications of this pattern:
- Less-than-fulfilling relationships where you’re not cherished.
- Loneliness, even when you are with people.
- Body aches and pains.
- Careers where you don’t express your gifts and true potential.
- Not knowing your purpose in life.
- Taking care of others and neglecting yourself.
- Burn out.
My heart goes out to you. I’ve been there. Done that.
There is hope and help.
I’ll be offering a support group for highly sensitive women starting in September 2023.
I would love to know what you would find meaningful in an HSP support group so that I can design the group to meet your needs. I consider this a co-creation. This survey invites you to show up and express your Authentic Self. I want to hear from the real you.
Please click here to answer the survey questions.
The survey should take about 5 minutes. It’s anonymous. You don’t have to give your name or email address.
You’ll be invited to attend a complimentary one-hour group coaching session for highly sensitive women before the HSP support group begins in September. You’ll find a safe, supportive group of like-hearted women here.
This survey should be available until Thursday, August 17, 2023.
Click here to take the survey. Thank you!
If you would like individual life coaching, counseling, or couples counseling, or if you would like to join us for a Deep Emotional Healing Retreat for Highly Sensitive People, please complete the application on the Contact Page. You will receive a response Monday-Thursday to get the ball rolling.
Benita A. Esposito is the author of the bestselling book, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self, available on Amazon. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Georgia, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina, and a life coach and spiritual counselor for Highly Sensitive Introverts worldwide.