The greatest wisdom that I hear are often in conversations, such as the other day when my husband said to me that “Humility is not seeing yourself as above or below anyone.” We all have our insecurities and flaws. We’re only human. Perfectionism can be the death of our own sense of worth because it is an unattainable desire. The lens that we look through everyday comes from the thoughts that we have. The way that we feel comes from the way we speak to ourselves. If we look through a negative lens, then we will feel negative and see things negatively. When we see things through a balanced lens, we can see things rationally and clearly.
The thought that’s been pressing on my mind recently is the ability to have empathy. The human desire to be a better person comes from knowing that we don’t know everything and that we are learning everyday. Empathy comes from listening and putting yourself, truly putting yourself in someone’s shoes by feeling what the other person is feeling. Empathy requires us to be vulnerable and have compassion. Listening allows us to hear stories and perspectives that we wouldn’t otherwise hear. Listening opens up our heart and mind in a beautiful way so that we can have empathy for others.
Humility is the ability to say that you don’t know everything. We are life long learners. It’s the ability to say when you have made a mistake. It’s the ability to be grateful for the small things. We live in a society that places value and attention to external accomplishments. Humility, sensitivity and vulnerability are misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, when in actuality they are the greatest signs of inner strength. We need these crucial elements of existing to truly display acts of love and kindness. Love and empathy can exist when we stop looking inward, and start looking around at the world.
I love this beautiful excerpt: Humility is the understanding that we can’t go it alone. Empathy is the ability to identify with the challenges that have brought other people to where they are. Combined, these two traits invite us into authentic relationships with others, allowing collaborative energy to begin to flow. Humility keeps us open to new information, new insights, new wisdom. Empathy encourages us to unite.
I recommend reading the article The Beautiful Triad-Curiosity, Humility and Empathy here.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
What once was a momentary distraction from our daily lives has become a common escape for many. Many people use their phones during their lunch break or check them throughout their day. The effort to unwind has become a source of overstimulation and a dependency on technology. Social media has many positives including enabling us to maintain connections with friends and family overseas. However, it can also have negative effects from lowered self-esteem, unrealistic perceptions, information overload, and a false sense of connection. Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are particularly vulnerable to being exposed and impacted by the digital world. What is seen as a form of escapism and relaxation can be stressful and overwhelming for many HSPs.
After removing several social media apps including Instagram and Facebook, I felt more peaceful and relaxed and I had time to focus on what was important. As HSPs we tend to be highly sensitive in any of the five senses: sound, light, touch, taste, and smell. For people with sensory processing sensitivity, the information and forms of entertainment that we choose to watch, read, and listen to can have an impact on our physical and mental health. HSPs have much higher sensory processing, which means there are stronger reactions when seeing others’ emotions or watching a film with violent or dramatic scenes.
We can experience overstimulation / HSPs notice the small details and being overstimulated can cause feelings of anxiety and a lack of focus. Information overload can lead to cognitive overload, which can be debilitating for HSPs. The ability to focus on a particular task carefully can be experienced when we switch off or put our phone on airplane mode and prioritize what is most present.
When we reduce the apps, news, and time spent on social media and remove non-essential notifications, we can rest our brain and minimize the feeling of being drained. This reduces the sensory input that we are engaging in. The constant interruptions and flows of notifications are a guaranteed way to make you unproductive. During many of our working hours, many jobs require hours of screen-time. A way that HSPs can feel less stimulated is by minimizing their phone use during their private time.
It triggers our empath side / Imagine watching a film with a violent scene or reading about a tragedy on a news site. The intensity is heightened as the news can bring us down far deeper as there is a sense of helplessness that we can’t solve all these problems. As an HSP, I tend to limit my news consumption as it can be overwhelming at times and I can be brought to tears by an emotional story online. These all impact our mental state during the day and our general state of mind.
Highly Sensitive People have the great power of putting themselves in others’ shoes and truly feeling what they are feeling. This can be a blessing when being there for a loved one, but it can be draining for one’s mental health if there is an overload of problems from the exposure we have to the news and social media. As an HSP I find I intensely pick up on other’s feelings and what they are going through. I feel those emotions profoundly and deeply, and at times it can be all too much. It can be overwhelming. In these moments we need to set boundaries and limit/priorities where we place our attention and who we give it to.
Comparison is the thief of joy / Most people on platforms such as Instagram often show the highlight reel of their lives. Many Highly Sensitive People are sensitive to other’s feelings. Finding balance in our social media use is important as Social media can often cause us to place focus on other’s lives rather than simply living our own. Adopting the “Joy of Missing Out” can be a great relief to enjoy the activities we normally find stimulating. Highly Sensitive People are wired differently, but the comparison on social media can make it temporarily easy to forget that.
Many HSPs are confident and happy within themselves, and they share and use their sensitivity as a gift in the world. However, there is a potential for self-esteem to lower in someone whose trait is not understood or nurtured. Sensitivity is often associated with weakness in our society when really it is our greatest strength. It’s okay to be sensitive to the content you are viewing online and to act accordingly to minimize the impact.
Social media can impact our sleep / The first hour of the morning sets the tone for the day and the last hour before sleep is critical for good sleep. By starting the morning off technology-free, you can create a ritual that is relaxing and puts your mind at ease. Checking emails and social media can cause the mind to wander and go into overdrive. With so much going on in the world today on the news, the news can have a negative impact on a highly sensitive person. I found a helpful practice to start or end the day is to meditate. It sets a positive tone for the day, relaxes all the muscles in your body, it slows your breathing, and allows your mind to start fresh and clear.
When HSPs experience good sleep they are able to function at their best. The presence of phones in the bedroom can have a greater effect on our sleep and wellbeing. The blue light emitted by screens can restrict the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. Scrolling and information processing can cause our brains to stay awake. By limiting your digital consumption during the start and end of the day, you can create a quiet routine to unwind at the end of the day and have a higher sleep quality.
It can increase stress and anxiety / There is more information flowing into our lives more than ever before. There are interruptions, distractions, and forms of escapism during our day. It seems the days where we wrote letters to each other or talked on the phone have changed into instant messaging and other immediate forms of communication. There is more social pressure to share personal information about our private lives. There is a lack of privacy and pressure from social stress.
The increased awareness of stressful events in other lives may contribute to the increasing stress people have in their own lives. The use of social networking sites can make mental health issues potentially worse. There are ways to minimize the increase of stress and anxiety by limiting the use of social media. Being self-aware of the behaviors and habits we may have, can decrease the chance of becoming addicted or investing too much time into social media.
Lack of presence and boundaries / It’s in those quiet moments when we’re sitting on the bus or waiting for a friend that we want to have a form of immediate distraction. When we’re scrolling on social media, we’re taken away from the presence. Taking those small moments to stare out the window, read a book or breathe slowly can allow us to stay centered. Social media inserts itself into our daily lives blurring the lines between public and private. The lack of boundaries between work and private life is more prominent.
Many Highly Sensitive People need boundaries to feel safe in any given environment. Social media means that we are accessible at any time of the day, and this can create an added pressure to respond to people in a shorter period. The focus of being online can draw us away from being present in the moment. When we actively seek out activities during the day that bring us back to our presence, we can feel more grounded. Give yourself permission to make clear boundaries and know that it’s okay to attend to things later or say no to an invitation.
How Can HSPs Manage Social Media Use?
Remove social media apps from your phone
Limit your use of technology each day
Make sure to unplug throughout the day and be conscious of your social media use
Unfollow accounts that don’t align with your values
Spend time when on your phone to talk to family and close connections
Find media and platforms that work for your individual needs
Stay in touch with nature and spend time outdoors
Turn your notifications off from apps
Taking a digital detox to take a break from your screens
Set a time for how much social media you use
Use apps that help you, such as mindfulness apps or gratitude diaries
Focus on the tasks and activities that you enjoy that don’t require a phone
Use your smartphone for learning or relaxing, such as reading, listening to a podcast, listening to music, or a guided meditation
For many of us, social media is active in our day-to-day lives. It can enable us to maintain connections with our loved ones and stay up-to-date with the news. With anything, it requires balance and moderation to maintain our sense of wellbeing. Its addictive nature and information overload can be especially overwhelming. For HSP, social media in moderate to high dosages can be overstimulating, energy draining, and even cause stress and anxiety. By incorporating more self-care practices and daily activities offline, it can make you feel calmer and more present to experience the day ahead.
What’s your experience with Social Media like as an HSP?
A battle with the ego is a daily war, a mere voice in our head and a character that tortures us. The sense of our true self is experienced when we let go of thoughts that aren’t true. Those limiting thoughts creep in to consume us and eat us alive. The voice feeds us lies that aren’t true, and those feelings can be overwhelming. After reading the book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, he tells us the power of resistance, and the power of our ability to concentrate and do what we need to do. He enlightens us on the true meaning of the Self and encourages us to stay in tune with the Self.
How many times in our lives do we tell ourselves that we can’t do something? How often do we encourage people in their endeavours, yet we can easily bring ourselves down. Pressfield says that “Casting yourself as a victim is the antithesis of doing your work. Don’t do it. If you’re doing it. Stop.” I really felt those words, as if a wise teacher was telling this to me directly. We can often become a victim to doing something we know in our hearts that we can do, or we desire to do it, yet resistance and fear pierces us and stops us from taking action.
Resistance thrives off of stopping us through procrastination and disbeliefs that end up taking more expended energy and effort. It becomes painful. It becomes soul-destroying fighting the resistance. Resistance exists from our fear. One of the profound words that Pressfield mentions is the fear that we will succeed. We are fearful to face our fears in fear that we might become the person that we truly are. Fear consumes us, yet failure is the necessary step that we must take to survive in the world.
What truly matters to you? We are dictated with definitions of what happiness, success and love should look like in society. We are told that we are always living in lack and that there is always something that needs to be cured, fixed, improved or changed. We are told that there is product that will fix our problems, and that there is always a problem existing in our life. Pressfield states that “We live in a consumer culture that’s acutely aware of this unhappiness and has massed all its profit-seeking artillery to exploit it.”
In the consumer culture that we live in, we are told that we can attain happiness in an instant pill-like substance that will satisfy our desires and needs. Whether that be in materials, money or status. Pressfield elborates on the differences between the amateur and the professional. The Professional understands delayed gratification and is patient in the end results whilst knowing the importance of the process. The Professional knows that good things take time.
You create the reality you live in. We decide our attitude regardless of the situation and we must remember that our emotions can distort reality. This is the wisdom that I strive to live by and often the truth is that as humans we are aware and knowing of many things, but the absolute difference is in practicing it. We can think about how we live in a world with two strong emotions of fear and love. When we have fear, we judge others.
Pressfield says that “Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others.” This may be a beautiful rarity in its purest form, but a practice we should all aspire to each and everyday. This world desperately needs more kindness, love and empathy. The ability to see things deeply and truly from another’s perspectives, to have true empathy, to have deep compassion, to act with integrity and love and to not judge others out of fear.
When we are chasing the finish line, we lose focus. When we focus on the journey, we learn and we grow. This is our own journey. It’s like the tortoise that persists and keeps taking that one step ahead, rather than the hare rushing to get ahead. Pressfield reminds us to “Remember, Resistance wants us to cede sovereignty to others. It wants us to stake our own self worth, our identity, our reason for being, on the response of others to our world. Resistance knows that we can’t take this, no one can.” He reminds us that Resistance is a bully that has no strength of its own. Its power comes entirely from our fear of it.
Whatever it is that you enjoy doing every day, whatever it is that brings you joy, whatever it is that makes you feel a sense of purpose – please don’t ever stop doing it. There are moments where our mind tells us it’s too difficult to start, but often making the small steps count. Whether it’s playing an instrument, writing a book, or painting an artwork. Pressfield’s words beautifully says that “When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates us. The Muse takes note of our dedication.”
Our mind can be the biggest battlefield that we will ever fight in our lives. It will tell us all the lies to tear us apart and it will try to tell us that we can’t face the world. The mind can be a prison where escape seems impossible. We are trapped in our continuous cycle of negative thoughts, until we come to realise that the key is within us the whole time waiting to unlock and free ourselves. One of the greatest choices that we can make for ourselves is to fight to be our true self and to strive to go past the resistance.
We all have the ability, but as we get older, it’s easy to forget it. We watch the beauty of nature, and how it flows effortlessly and watches the season goes by. It’s as simple as a child sitting down, being lost in play and being completely present in the world. The child doesn’t judge him or herself for the artwork they draw, the child just draws because they enjoy it. The power is within us. The ability to get up and do something. The ability to fight through the fear. Whatever it is that we do in our lives, the ability to have humility in all that we do is one of the greatest.
The principal of organization is built into nature. Chaos itself is self-organizing. Out of primordial disorders, stars find their orbits; rivers make their way to the sea. – Steven Pressfield
The self is our deepest being. The self is united to God – Steven Pressfield
The word nice is often said as a compliment to say that someone is lovely, sweet and friendly. “You are such a nice person, Katie!” was a very common phrase I heard growing up. As time passes by, it has been a blessing and a curse that has taught me many lessons. Being nice is different to being kind. However, from my own experience, it is difficult because my personality is naturally very caring and friendly. It often takes energy to be nice, and there are moments where I really do want to listen and help someone. However, it is important to be careful where you put your energy, otherwise you will experience emotional burnout.
The word nice has connotations of being modest, likable and well-mannered, but it also has negative underlying meanings of being weak, unaware and naïve. As an introvert, I prefer to spend more time having no activities in my calendar. Therefore, learning the art of saying no is very important. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly, but it’s important to know that there is a distinction between being kind and being nice and to set your boundaries with people. Don’t let people walk over you, and take control of who you are.
The pressure to be niceall the time The words we are told throughout our childhood have impact on our identity. The repetitive nature of being told something can make us believe those words. We begin to associate who we are as a person with those descriptions. The truth is no one can define who you are except for yourself. However, breaking a life time of believing what someone might say is good or bad can take time. It’s not realistic to be positive all the time and this expectation can create added stress and pressure.
The ability to be kind and assertive The moments I have been assertive are the moments I’ve felt the stress and worry decline. There is a misconception that being assertive means being loud and outgoing. You can be assertive and direct, but still be gracious and kind. Learning to communicate assertively in a fair and kind manner can be a relief to express yourself calmly and directly, yet still stay true to who you are without having to pretend to be anyone else.
Being taken advantage of A common experience I had growing up was being bossed around or being told what to do. I want to highlight that there is a difference between being asked for a favour, or designated work in a kind and direct manner. As opposed to someone who is taking advantage of you out of dominance and narcissism. There are many kind people in the world, but it’s important to know that there are people who will only engage with you when they need something or want something from you.
Stop caring what other people think Being caring and compassionate is being human. We have to remember that that is one of the greatest strengths we have as individuals. However, it is also important to stop caring too much what others think of you. The moments I care too much what someone might think, the more I want to try avoid situations that might upset anyone. No matter what we’re doing in our lives, people will always judge no matter if you succeed or fail. When you start to care less, you begin to live for yourself.
Self respect and self assurance Clearly stating your needs and being fair and open minded shows that you respect yourself. When you are sure about your choices and decisions, then you can communicate these more directly. When you know who you are, when you accept yourself and when you love yourself, that energy shines out into the world. Our self-esteem is lifted when we have a positive self-image of who we are and our identity.
Healthy disagreements are okay We can’t escape disagreements with people, and having wisdom to not be involved in unhealthy conflict is a good skill to have. However, it’s okay and very normal to have conflict, because we are all human and we can’t agree on everything. There will be problems and situations we get into that may bring discomfort, and learning to face the discomfort and find the best solution is important.
Avoid passive aggressiveness and emotional outbursts I can say very clearly from personal experience that one of the worst things for your mental health is bottling your emotions up. Learning to regulate your emotions and finding methods to feel calm and communicate clearly to others will save a lot of distress. The periods of my life where I felt deep depression was after a period of bottling everything up without sharing with anyone.
Pain of perfectionism and self-criticism The strive for perfection is impossible. The more we create an unreachable standard for ourselves, the more stress and pressure we create for ourselves. It can be debilitating and increase feelings of anxiety. I remember thinking if I upset someone, if I spoke up about a certain topic or said something that might cause negative feelings, then it would mean that I’m not a ‘nice’ person. The self-criticism is very intense in my mind.
Speaking your mindand being honest When we stay silent in the moments where it counts to speak up, we lose our voice. When we are honest in an authentic and well-intended way, we stay true to who we are but we still have the ability to be assertive. Knowing when to stay silent and when to speak up takes wisdom. Being kind means thinking before we speak and considering how our words may impact on the other person. It means seeing things from someone else’s perspective, and then expressing your views. Being nice is often associated with potentially hiding your true feelings, however, you can always be kind and express how you feel.
The power of saying no When you say no to things that you can’t commit to, you aren’t interested in or you don’t have the desire to engage with, you are setting your boundaries. The choices we make each day will impact on the life we live. If we say yes to everything, we don’t create space for ourselves and we make ourselves too available for others. It will become a set expectations from others that you are always readily available which can make you end up being taken for granted or attracting only those who will get in touch when they need you, not because they want to.
Set clear boundaries for yourself As a nice person, it’s easy to want to help others and invest yourself into doing more. The more you set boundaries for yourself, the more that other’s can’t take advantage of you, and the more you are clear about where you stand. Our boundaries keep us safe and conserve where we place our energy. It shows the respect that you have for yourself. Boundaries help to keep your emotions in check, avoid social pressure, be clear about what you don’t tolerate, and stay true to who you are as a person.
Avoid burnout by prioritising yourself When you prioritise yourself, you prioritise your mental health and wellbeing. This is a hard one, because if you are naturally caring and sensitive then you tend to put others needs before your own. It makes me think of when you’re on the plane, and the safety video tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping someone else. You have to take care of yourself first. This doesn’t mean that you are being selfish, it means that you are practicing self-care.
Unrealistic expectations of othersWe can’t control how other’s react or what they say, we can only be in control of how we react to a situation. When we’re too nice to others, it builds unrealistic expectations that others should do the same. When they do not meet these expectations, you may feel upset or resentful. I’ve noticed this in situations such as in work or friendships. The truth is we shouldn’t waste our energy towards people who don’t care or who only come to you when they need something.
Being kind is the care and compassion we show through our actions. We can be outwardly nice and polite to those around us. We can smile and be friendly with strangers. When we are kind from our heart, it shows genuine care and empathy. Someone can have a serious demeanour, yet they may show their care through their actions. Someone can be outwardly nice all the time, yet in the moments where it really counts, they aren’t present. This is why it’s important to strive to be kind and assertive, and work at it everyday.
Being assertive means that you stand up for your own rights and set your boundaries clearly. There are many situations in my life where I let things slide by, when all it takes is a moment to speak up. This created a lot of unnecessary pain and hurt. I really hope someone reading this can know how important it is to practice and learn to be assertive, and know that being kind and assertive go hand in hand.
The earliest memories of the phone that I remember were the corded phones we used to call our neighbourhood friends. When I flash back to moments in my childhood, the nights were filled with bedtime stories, listening to cassette tapes and humming myself to sleep. The room was pitch black except for the straight line of light seeping through from underneath the door. Through the curtain, you can see the stars shining in the night sky, and you can hear the occasional morepork sound. Lying there on the bed, listening quietly to my thoughts, breathing slowly and then falling asleep. The night’s for many are now technology filled with online noise and blue screen lights.
Where we put our attention towards is what we prioritise. No matter where we are in the world, there has become an increase of people becoming slaves to their phones. We have become a generation with a huge phone-addiction. Our phones, when used in excess, has become a device that has caused a disconnected society. We crave connection, but how deep are the connections that we have? It seems common now that you can be friends with anyone online. I truly think that to have one true friend in this life time is one of the greatest blessing.
Our sense of self comes from our character and our heart. It can only come from within. The connection we have with nature, music, art or our loved ones can only come from the heart. If we had a look at the hours we spend on our technological devices during a lifetime, it may shock many of us how long we spend our time staring at screens. There is so much precious time that we have in a day. Imagine a world without smart phones or social media. What would be the same and what would be different?
The pros of smart phones and social media
Family and Friends / For those who have long-distance relationships with their family and friends, our devices enable us to connect with our loved ones.
Living with convenience / We are able to research, read and find information from the touch of our phones. We can shop online, search for a phone number or use Google maps.
A sense of community and connection / Social media can be great for establishing groups that can help each other out. The online forums at university were really great for messaging other classmates and discussing ideas and group projects.
Sharingour creative work / Social media can be a great platform for those who want to share their creativity. I wonder if pre-social media created a more authentic space for creativity. The curiosity we have is often found in the quiet moments.
The rise of online communication / The ease of communication has also been prevalent since Covid as many companies are now incorporating flexible arrangements, such as remote working.
Using Wellbeing apps / Regular use of apps that can help with your mental health can be beneficial. I find listening to meditation podcasts everyday really help.
The cons of smart phones and social media
Escapism and distraction / Many people want to avoid the discomfort of sitting in silence or appearing to do nothing. The phone has become a safety net to take us away from the present.
Mental health problems / Our phones have influenced the rise of mental health problems. This is why balance is so important as the connections we have in person can contribute greatly to our wellbeing.
Spread of false information / Social media can be highly unrealistic and the spread of misinformation is prevalent. There is rise in fake news and the spread of opinions as facts within news outlets.
Lack of privacy / I think we’d all be shocked if we knew how much the online world knew about each and every one of us. Perhaps it would encourage us to limit our phone usage.
Having bad manners / When we use our phones at the dinner table or when catching up with a friend; it is bad manners. Eye contact and being present is one of the important aspects of communication.
The rise of consumerism / Targeted advertising is a huge market for businesses to earn money right from the use of our phones. Every click and every view we make is all recorded into an algorithmic database to keep track of our interests.
The increase of superficial comparisons / The reality is that what we see on social media is a curated image. It is designed to look a certain way. The most human part of interacting with one another is communicating in person.
Social media is designed to be addictive / The more time we spend on it, the more money corporations can make. Social media hinders our ability to focus and creates short-term attention.
Children using social media / There are more children growing up with technology and social media. Children should be playing outdoors, interacting with their parents and watching the world around them. The implication for us to also use our phones less rings very true.
Tips for using your phone less
Using an alarm clock to wake up in the morning and wearing a watch for checking the time
Removing inactive or time-consuming apps and disabling notifications
Having purpose for when you use your phone eg. talking to someone, using a meditation app
Creating a daily habit of not looking at your phone in the early morning and before bed time
Spend more time doing the things you love eg. reading, playing an instrument, going for a run
Remove or deactivate social media accounts that you aren’t engaged with
Reading, people-watching or day dreaming during your lunch breaks
Taking time to journal and reflect during quiet times during the day
Go outdoors for a walk and surround yourself in nature
Be conscious of when you do use your phone and what you are using it for
Inside every person is an ocean of stories. In a visual world, we often only see what lies on the surface, forgetting the intricate, detailed and deep layers that every individual has. A story filled with endless chapters. The laughter, joy, pain, hurt and tears. When we read, we build an understanding of the characters, the plot and the story becomes vivid within our imagination. Reading builds empathy. Growing up in a multicultural society, there are people from various backgrounds and cultures.
There are many silent stories waiting to be heard. Remember how children’s book’s would make us laugh, cry, wide eyed in curiosity, and intrigue us to know more. When we take interest in others, we express care and compassion and we show the desire to understand. Stereotypes, assumptions and judging someone from a brief moment can be incredibly damaging, as well as the number of stereotypes that have been deeply ingrained in the media and society.
As aspect that has been on my mind more particularly since last year is the concept of casual racism. We have to acknowledge that racism and discrimination exists in New Zealand. The earliest memories of racism that I can recollect start from primary school, observing my parents interactions with other people when they first arrived in New Zealand and the numerous stereotypes and ignorant comments.
The daily microaggressions, experiencing different treatment in certain situations and the language that may occur in conversations are common experiences. The comments that someone should go back to their country, the judgment of one’s English fluency, the lack of respect for cultural differences, the comments on food or one’s appearances, the stereotyping and backhanded comments can often be experiences that are had in silence or not witnessed by other people.
Our stories are a part of us. It takes courage to share our stories. However, it can be incredibly freeing and it can be a source of greater connection and understanding of ourselves and others. Our stories are like a strong string that attaches us to one another forming a bond. They open the room for conversations on topics that may not be commonly spoken about. Sharing our stories can also be a process of healing, reflection and growth. They can broaden our minds and create change. The more we share our stories, the more we realise we are all connected.
Your voice matters. Taking the time to listen and understand someone’s story is incredibly valuable. It makes us realise that every person has been through their own hurts, pain, success, failure, struggles and achievements. If you ever have the chance, take time to listen to individual stories of different backgrounds. We can take action when we recognize the signs of discrimination taking place. When we hear from different voices it enables our world view to widen.
Humans are wired to connect and to have authentic conversations. Being sensitive, empathetic and vulnerable are traits that allow us to truly connect with people. A highly sensitive person (HSP) experiences the world through a heightened way through high sensory experiences. This may be through crowded places, strong scents or loud noises. It is said by the clinical psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron that 15-20% of the population are HSPs. HSPs process and feel emotions more deeply than others and they are highly empathic and tend to have rich inner lives. The emotions they may feel are very deep whether that may be positive or negative.
Growing up as a classical musician, I was deeply moved by music during a performance, a painting in an art gallery, reading a book or watching a movie. Taking actions such as surrounding myself in nature, sitting at a library or taking time to pray or meditate would bring peace and calm. Discovering that I am an HSP explained so many factors from my childhood, career and the unexplainable feeling that there was something wrong with me. The act of practicing loving yourself and being gentle with yourself is one of the most kindest and lifechanging things you can do for yourself.
I recently read The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People by Mel Collins, and felt touched by a lot of the ways she describes the experiences that HSP’s have during their lifetime. The book is separated into three sections. The first section expands on the term HSP. This includes the definition of an HSP, the Environmental and sensory triggers and the challenges HSP face. The second section looks at different strategies through processing emotions, practicing self-love and tapping. The third section talks about the spiritual perspective from exploring our past lives and maintaining inner balance.
The book is a great introduction for those who want to have a better understanding of being an HSP. The book reminds you that you are not alone in this journey, as it invites HSPs to recognize their strengths rather than look at themselves as flawed. Collins expands on the top ten challenges faced by HSP’s. These include being empathic sponges, deep emotional sensitivity, a feeling of not belonging, a difficult childhood, self-esteem and self-worth issues, relationship struggles , health issues, difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’, parenting parents or other family members and feeling unfulfilled.
Being empathic sponges can be draining due to the HSPs being kind-hearted and highly empathic by nature. When surrounded in a negative environment it can leave them feeling over-stimulated. Collins says that “HSPs often feel a need to withdraw from the outside world to release the energies absorbed and to recharge.” Deep emotional sensitivity is felt through the positive (joy, kindness and love) and negative emotions (guilt, shame, fear, hurt, loss, unworthiness, jealousy, anger and feelings of betrayal). A feeling of not belonging can start from a young age particularly for those who have experienced a difficult childhood.
Self-esteem and self-worth issues may arise due to the HSPs sensitive nature being criticized or judged from a young age, causing shame and embarrassment because of it. Relationship struggles can be common for HSPs such as nurturing friendships, as they are natural givers and good listeners. This can attract the friendship patterns that are one-sided. Health issues can be a problem as HSPs are extremely sensitive to pain. For example, they may experience disorders such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or insomnia.
Difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’ is a common trait for many HSPs. HSPs tend to be kind-hearted people who want to be good to others. Collins states that “They often have difficulty accepting what is viewed as the ‘darker’ side of themselves. This can lead to them suppressing what they see as their more negative emotions.” The words Collins adds rings true “whatever you resist persists.” It’s important to find healthy and safe ways to release any suppressed emotions.
HSPs can grow up taking the role of the parent subconsciously. This is common for HSPs whose parents were emotionally unavailable. The final challenge Collins states is feeling unfulfilled. Collins states that “In my experience working with HSPs, many have a strong drive to feel they are making a difference in the world. As a result, many believe that if they don’t feel fulfilled in this way, they are in the wrong career.” Many may find that there is a long period where they may spend searching for what they are ‘supposed’ to be doing. However, she says that “In reality, however, any job has the capacity to reflect an aspect of themselves or meet an inner need […] Every job can be viewed in this way if you make a choice to do so – as a stepping stone towards a more fulfilling purpose.”
For many HSPs it can feel like you are spending a lifetime finding your purpose and understanding the depth and complexities of your emotions. Embracing your inner self and accepting that you feel deep emotions will free you from the chains. The pain was only extended through the deep fear of judgment and rejection for how I was feeling. Taking steps and finding specific ways that help you with your feelings is an important step to healing. I really hope in writing this, that it can help even one HSP know that you are not alone. I spent many years with depression and anxiety. I found methods such as meditating, praying, journaling, walking, being in nature and self-havening incredibly healing in the moments where I’ve felt helpless or overwhelmed.
Your sensitivity is your superpower. The ability to empathise towards others and deeply connect to animals, nature, music and the arts is a gift. The search for meaningful connections means that you give your all or nothing in friendships and relationships. Sensitivity is both a blessing and a challenge, but sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness. We live in a world that tells us that we need to be a certain way, but when we acknowledge the strength of being sensitive, it opens the door to understanding. The characteristics that you may have not seen as worthy are the very aspects that make you beautiful.
“By becoming conscious of what it is in the ‘darkness’ or ‘shadow, you are shining light into the darkness and encouraging it to dissolve.” – Mel Collins
The ability to embrace the art of doing nothing allows us to appreciate periods of solitude and the presence of our own company. Social media has contributed to the rise of consumer culture and social pressures. These pressures can cause stress and a distraction from what is important in our lives. The concept of missing out is often labeled as a negative aspect, and it can often be perceived as antisocial. There is great beauty in taking quiet moments during the day to just be in your own presence. There is great love in giving yourself permission to take time to rest, reflect and reconnect with yourself. The joy of missing out is taking time to enjoy the quiet moments and to embrace being who you are.
The art of slow / Our lives can be filled with endless things one after the other, or a never-ending to-do list. Being able to say no to invitations can allow yourself to take it easy. We live in a society that praises a busy and productive lifestyle by labeling these aspects as the definition of success. But the truth is that we are really only able to experience true satisfaction in life in the moments where we feel a sense of flow. Those moments are appreciated when we aren’t rushing through the world.
Finding balance / We practice moderation through how much we consume. These include food, exercise, or technology. We can focus much more deeply when we take time to switch off, practice being mindful of our actions and become aware of where we are placing our attention and time. The joy of missing out on what is always happening in the world can also be beneficial for one’s mental health. Taking a break from technology can allow oneself to focus on being in the present.
Simplifying one’s life / When we let go of the need to chase excitement or fill our lives with things, we have more time to do all the things that make us truly happy. There is a false belief that we must always buy the latest thing, stay on top of trends or achieve something great to be happy. It’s truly the small and simple things in life that can give us the greatest joy. It can be the smallest things that can trigger a sad or happy memory.
Staying authentic to yourself / The joy of missing out means that we can spend more time doing things we enjoy. The time we spend alone is precious, as those moments are where we face our thoughts, feelings, memories and experiences. We have space to reflect and think about life. We can focus on change and growth and we can spend time doing our favourite hobbies. When we stay true to ourselves, we feel the greatest sense of freedom. It takes effort and energy to not be who you truly are.
Deeper connections / We only have so much time and the time we spend with people is the connections we are investing in. By surrounding yourself with people who truly care about you, you nurture a deeper connection. It takes time to really get to know someone, and it takes energy to be there for others. When we miss out on other things, we can spend time with the one’s we love. Relationships are beautiful things. The people we surround ourselves with and spend time with the most have a greater impact on us then we may consciously be aware of.
The path we’re meant to be on / Many things in life are a blessing in disguise. In the moment we might not understand why it happened or we might feel that it was unfair. There are aspects that may be a perception of failure but we are yet to realise that the best is yet to come. Sometimes we think something is a setback when it’s really pushing us forward to where we need to be. The joy of missing out on an opportunity can be the greatest blessing to discovering where you’re meant to be.
We are all consumers in one way or another. Whether that may be in materials, books, films, art, food, electricity, water, social media, news, internet, advertisements and so forth. How much and how often we consume things over another varies depending on our behaviour, habits, lifestyle and interests. The power of marketing and advertising is immense as it creates the illusion of needing more. The need for intimacy and meaning in our lives is often clouded by the illusion that we need more stuff to be happy. When I browse thrift stores in an ocean of clothes, the reality sinks in that there is a vicious cycle of the production, consumption and disposal of clothes.
I strive to live by the philosophy and mentality that less is more. As we live in a consumer culture, we are encouraged to buy more, even when we have more than enough. Advertising sells us a lifestyle, status, and identity. In terms of clothing, it is one of the top polluters in the world. If we consume less, we also lessen our carbon footprint, and we contribute less waste towards the earth. However, the power of advertising covers it with the glamour of a certain lifestyle. But, the truth is, we don’t need a lot to be happy.
Fill your spaces with love and purpose. Living with less means only having materials that will be used for years to come. Advertising tells us that we are lacking in our lives and that we need to fill our spaces with materials to feel a sense of fulfilment. However, many of us have more than we need.
Buy good quality materials. Purchasing good quality clothing gives it longevity. Many things can last a long time. As I mentioned above, there are many second hand clothing that are good quality. But, the fast fashion industry is constantly moving in and out with trends that are having a heavy impact on the environment.
Money and materials cannot buy true happiness. Consumer culture means that we spend so much on material items that don’t bring us long term happiness. We live in a capitalist system that rewards us for our perceived efforts and productivity. Yet, the definition of success tells us that we are always in need of more. Living with less reminds us of what’s important.
Borrow more books. I must say that if I had my own house, I’d love to be able to fill it up with shelves of books. However, as someone who is always moving suitcases to somewhere every year or so, the library has been a blessing. I remember having to donate dozens of books over the years as they can take up a significant amount of space.
Saving money. If you are saving up for something, whether that be a car or a house, you can save money from the smallest things. For example, if you like to drink a cup of coffee everyday. You could start making your own at home everyday, and perhaps in one year you could save 365 x $3.50 = $1,277.50.
Do it for yourself and for the planet. Consumerism really costs the Earth. The more we buy, the more that is disposed of, and the more rubbish we create in the world. An example would be consuming less meat and dairy. Where we spend our money is essentially who we are supporting.
Living with less is not only in materials. In a consumer culture, we are told we need more friends, more money, more travel and more things. The focus is on having a better future, but it’s important to embrace the present and be grateful for everything you have. Advertising focuses too much on ourselves, whereas long term happiness focuses on aspects such as helping others and forming strong relationships.
What is my intention for buying this? I used to have handbags that end up only getting worn a few times during the year, whereas my black handbag would be worn every day. My trainers and school backpack are worn almost every single day. Minimalism may not be for everyone, but it really helps in having a clearer mind and appreciating what you already have.
If you grew up before social media escalated and became increasingly popular, you’ll remember how interactions were far different to how they are now. We used the telephone at home to talk to friends, we mailed letters to our families overseas and we would go next door to play with the neighbours kids. Communication now has a sense of urgency, but the value in a conversation is the most important thing, no matter how convenient it is to reach someone. Social media has enabled us to connect with anyone online but there is a rarity in truly establishing an authentic conversation. Below are several observations of how social media has impacted our lives.
sharing / Sharing is a natural part of our daily conversations and interactions with friends and family. However, it’s increasingly common to share with strangers about intimate details of our lives. It’s good to share what you like, but it’s important to have moderation, because most of the simple memories are the ones we keep to ourselves.
privacy / There is less mystery now compared to when we wouldn’t know what someone is doing or where they are. It’s common to share more of our lives to the public. Every action we take online is not truly private from everything we view to what we read.
daydreaming / The art of people watching has been replaced with spending time on our phones. The days of sitting at the bus stop watching people walk by or staring out a window looking at the cars seemed to give us a sense of feeling present. Daydreaming gives us a whole universe into our imagination that a phone can’t replicate.
relationships / My close relationships with friends and family are often those that I see in person, or even those that I might not talk to for a while, but when you reconnect in person it feels just the same. It’s easy to be online friends with many people, but in-person contact definitely solidifies a deeper friendship.
follows / Before social media was what it is now, we tend to catch up, surround ourselves and make friends with people we feel good around. The concept of following means that many people are following the lives of people they don’t really know, rather than focusing on living their own lives.
daily routine / social media is a normal, regular part of many people’s everyday routine. I remember before social media, I spent a lot more time reading the newspaper while I was having breakfast, playing with puzzles, going to the library for an afternoon and being creative with my hands.
online personality / When I think of social media apps like Instagram, there can definitely be a narrow snapshot of what the person is like. We only get a tiny glimpse from a shot snapped in a second. We can choose what we want to show and we can show ourselves a certain way.
strangers / Do you remember walking down the neighbourhood streets and greeting people or talking to random people in the store? There was more of a mystery of not knowing what goes on in other’s lives but there was also a genuine kindness and connection that we would have.
news / We have more choices than ever before and we are able to choose which platforms we receive our news from. There is more fake news online and we are consuming news that has been specifically targeted towards us from what we’re already consuming, rather than challenging us with new ideas.
childhood / One of the most heart-breaking things is seeing how young children are already using phones and tablets. I would argue that this is not healthy for a child and even for adults using their phone when the child needs their attention. Play is a powerful part of childhood, as well as interacting with people or exploring the world around us.
boredom / How we spend our free time has changed. One of the most freeing things was when I stopped using Facebook. I think that social media can often be a way of filling our moments of boredom, yet those are the very moments that can be filled with something that can support our growth. Learning a new language, going out for a long walk or talking to a loved one.
special memories / When we were younger, there would be endless photo albums of memories that were captured. The moments were precious, natural and candid. They were just snapshots of the life we were living in, rather than photos of looking a certain way. Those special memories we hold dearly.
mental health / We live in a generation where many people have a smartphone addiction. The constant use of our phones are also a form of escapism of our real-life experiences. It creates avoidance in confronting issues and it has increased the rates of anxiety and depression. Minimizing our technology use is beneficial for having a balanced lifestyle.
in person / The best form of communication is always in person, even though it’s great that we can connect with people online, especially if we’re unable to see them often. However, I find that when we use our phones in the presence of others we lose a moment to connect with them. It’s the ability to be in the present that is important.
phone addiction / We pick up our phones numerous times a day to check our messages, watch a video, write an email or read an article. Before social media, our phone usage was far less. We would predominantly use it for texting and calling. We are constantly distracted by our phones.
surveillance capitalism / After watching The Social Dilemma, it makes one question how every part of our online activity is being followed and tracked. We are living in isolation bubbles from algorithms that expose us to repeated content that we are predicted to engage with.
sense of mystery / There would be an air of mystery. Now when you meet someone you can look at their social media profile and pretty much know most things about them. Without social media sites, there would be more mystery and you would have to form your own opinion of them from your experiences.
over consumption / Over consumption is encouraged through the never-ending flow of information available online. It can be helpful to follow a small amount of accounts. I feel that then gives an added value, rather than joining the noise and mindlessly passing through many posts. It also saves time to minimize the amount of online content you consume.
ability tofocus / How present are we in our day-to-day lives? We live in an attention economy where corporations earn profit from our attention and how long they can distract us. Seeing the world around us means consciously having no screen time and having time to be in our own thoughts. The moments where we get lost in reading a book or playing an instrument.
communication / The way we communicate has changed astronomically. We don’t talk on the phone as often, and most communication is done through messaging and emailing. We tend to use the self-check out aisles and we avoid more in-person communication. The true connection we have in the world can only be felt through in-person interactions.
the art of slow / I think of how our parents would go to the library to do all their research or how our grandparents would write letters to one another. There was no shopping online or instant messaging, and reading and research were all done offline. The ability to take a step back and take your time rather than rushing through life brings us back to the present.
Reflecting on life before social media causes us to confront the behaviours that have changed over time. Research says that social media is re-writing our brains and our behaviours are heavily influenced by technology. Social media has permeated many facets of our lives; breaking the boundaries of what is public and private. By consciously taking control and action to maintain balance in our life, we reclaim the time we may spend online, and we have the freedom of not being constraint to our devices.
“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” ― E.O. Wilson