Take time for yourself. A big part of working through my intense emotions was finding things I could do alone to calm my mind. I love Pilates, meditating, and writing my feelings. They all bring me a sense of peace and help me release a lot of pent-up emotions I may be carrying. I am also a huge fan of a good drive in the car singing music at the top of my lungs. It’s whatever works for you. Take some time to find something you can do alone that helps you work through your feelings.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Arcand.
Alexandra Arcand is an insurance writer for QuickQuote.com. She loves her pets, nature, cooking, good exercise, and being able to write for work and her spare time. She has been highly empathetic and sensitive for as long as she can remember and enjoys finding new ways to work through her feelings.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
Thank you for having me! I am an insurance writer for QuickQuote.com and absolutely love my job. I have always had a love of writing, so getting to write for a living is like a dream to me. When I’m not working, I love taking my dogs out hiking or to play, cooking, or learning something new.
Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I understand how hard this is. Can you help define for our readers what is meant by a Highly Sensitive Person? Does it simply mean that feelings are easily hurt or offended?
I believe being highly sensitive can differ from person to person. Overall, I believe everyone shares the common theme of feeling emotions too deeply. It’s not always about being hurt or offended, but more so about the overwhelmingness of the feelings.
Most of my life I struggled deeply to properly handle criticism and people being mean to me. It would hurt my feelings so deeply when I was criticized or made to feel like I was doing something wrong. I think it is because I am a perfectionist. So, when someone would give me bad feedback, I would instantly take it straight to heart. No one is a bigger critic of myself than I am. I was never upset at the person giving me the feedback, I was always upset with myself for making a mistake and not doing things the right way.
I wouldn’t say my feelings were ever hurt or I was offended. I can’t speak for all highly sensitive people, but in my case, it was always me being angry at myself for not doing things correctly and deserving the criticism.
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have a higher degree of empathy towards others? Is a Highly Sensitive Person offended by hurtful remarks made about other people?
I believe so. I know that I am a highly empathetic person. I feel things very deeply. I could never stand by and watch someone get mistreated right in front of me and I could never make someone feel poorly. It would cause me too much pain to know I was putting that on another person because I would never want to make someone feel bad.
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or news, that depict emotional or physical pain? Can you explain or give a story?
I struggle to watch the news often. The stories they show are extremely sad and when I watch them, I feel an overwhelming sense of pain for the people or even animals that are suffering.
For example, I watched a documentary that took place in Los Angeles and seeing the amount of homeless people who are struggling brought me a lot of emotions. I felt sorry for them, I felt angry they weren’t being helped more, I felt guilty for not being able to do something, I felt many waves of emotions. This is a common occurrence for me when I see people or animals struggling, and it makes it difficult for me to keep up with the news due to the overwhelming emotions I feel.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
I once worked at a bank and being highly sensitive caused me many struggles there. I was not doing great when I first started and made mistakes. I’m sure this is common for people first starting out but every time I was told by my boss that I had done something wrong I felt like I was a complete failure and horrible at my job. It caused me to not want to go to work anymore and always dreading walking through the doors. My anxiety was at an all-time high even thinking about work. I am an extremely friendly and social person but working there made me feel less and less so the more I felt I was doing poorly at my job.
When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?
My mother, the always honest person that she is, pointed out to me at a young age that I took criticism far worse than most people did. It was after her bringing it up that I began to realize I was extremely sensitive.
The more I took notice of how unphased others around me were when they were criticized, when they saw something sad, or even when someone was being unkind to them, the more I realized I felt things much deeper than most people.
I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?
There are definite advantages. I am highly intuitive and empathetic. I can sense the emotions of those around me and usually know the right things to say. Many people I meet feel instantly comfortable around me and open up to me quickly.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
I feel it has been an advantage many times in my life. The people I am closest to always feel comfortable coming to me when they are struggling and need help. I love being that person for the people I love. It is an amazing feeling knowing they sought me out to be the person to support them in their time of need. Everything from personal, to work to financial struggles have been brought to me and I am always there to be a listening ear and give advice to whomever asks for it.
They know I will never judge or dismiss their emotions, given my nature, and I think that plays a huge role in why people feel like they can always come to me with their struggles.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
For me, I see being highly sensitive and empathetic as two different feelings. Being sensitive means you have a hard time with your own emotions, whereas being empathetic means you almost take on the emotions of others and feel what they feel. Both can be difficult to manage at times, in different ways.
Social Media can often be casually callous. How does Social Media affect a Highly Sensitive Person? How can a Highly Sensitive Person utilize the benefits of social media without being pulled down by it?
I think social media can be draining for highly sensitive people. I know it can be for me. I find myself comparing myself to others and the image they portray of their lives.
The main thing to remember is that social media isn’t real. Yes, the picture that person you went to high school with posted is a real picture, but you are not seeing the full picture. You are only seeing a tiny glimpse into their life. People will post their best on social media, usually never their worst. So, keep in mind that the person you see with the perfect life, doesn’t really exist. Everyone has things they struggle with and don’t feel good about, not just you. One picture on social media doesn’t tell you the full story. It’s important to not compare yourself and feel as if you are doing worse than your peers based off their social media. It’s likely not true.
People can also be harsh on social media, which can be hard to deal with when you are highly sensitive. Being behind a keyboard gives people a false sense of importance and strength to say mean or hurtful comments to others because they see no repercussions. It’s crucial to remember those comments often come from people who have nothing better to do. Though it’s hard not to take them to heart, it’s important not to.
How would you respond if something you hear or see bothers or effects you, but others comment that you are being petty or that it is minor?
I once read a quote that said, “When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” — Louis C.K.
I feel this is a perfect idea to have. Just because something does not affect another person in the same way, doesn’t make my feelings any less valid.
This doesn’t have to only apply to the way other’s make me feel, but also my feelings on things around me. If someone believes I am too sensitive for being upset over something that happened to me, that’s not their place. They are not me and they don’t feel my emotions therefore they don’t get to tell me my feelings aren’t valid. I usually will respond with something similar to that if I’m told by someone that what I’m upset about isn’t a big deal.
What strategies do you use to overcome the perception that others may have of you as overly sensitive without changing your caring and empathetic nature?
I work on my internal feelings more than anything else. I am okay with others knowing I am empathetic; however, I did need to improve the responses I have when I feel I am being too sensitive. It took a lot of confidence in myself and personal growth to accept that criticism and negative comments are not personal.
Even being a perfectionist, I learned that just because someone is telling me a better way to do what I’m doing doesn’t mean I’m doing a bad job. It simply means I can do better. And the fact that they are taking the time to tell me that means they believe in me to be better. If they thought I was not worth it, they wouldn’t bother to tell me how I can improve. It took me many years to gain this mindset, but I am grateful to have it now. In my current position, I take all the improvement pointers I can get. I want to be better at my job because I enjoy it and want to make my company proud.
I also grew my confidence over mean comments as well. No matter how amazing you are doing, there is always someone who won’t like you. And that’s okay. It’s not my job to make everyone happy. I had to learn to let negative comments go and not take them to heart. Usually, they aren’t even about me but more about the person making them anyway.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
I feel there is a strong misconception that overly sensitive people just cry constantly about everything. This is not true at all. I personally hate crying in front of people. Often, even if my feelings are hurt, no one around me would even know it because I try not to let my emotions overtake me. But I feel it’s common for people to associate sensitive people with also being overly emotional even though it’s not always the case.
As you know, one of the challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person is the harmful,and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just stop being so sensitive?” What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that it just doesn’t work that way?
I think it needs to be understood that highly sensitive people are often frustrated with themselves over their emotions, so we typically don’t need anyone else rubbing salt in the wound. It can be overwhelming to feel things so strongly and others having a little more empathy in the moment can go a long way. Just let highly sensitive people have a moment. If they need to walk away and be alone for a little bit, let them. This can allow them to work their emotions much quicker than having someone tell them they are being too emotional.
Ok, here is the main question for our discussion. Can you share with us your “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person? Please give a story or an example for each.
- Take time for yourself. A big part of working through my intense emotions was finding things I could do alone to calm my mind. I love Pilates, meditating, and writing my feelings. They all bring me a sense of peace and help me release a lot of pent-up emotions I may be carrying. I am also a huge fan of a good drive in the car singing music at the top of my lungs. It’s whatever works for you. Take some time to find something you can do alone that helps you work through your feelings.
- Find ways to build your confidence. There are so many ways to be more confident in yourself, and they are often just small changes. Start your day with a reminder of all the good things you have accomplished in your life. Talk yourself up. Be your own biggest fan. The more confidence you gain, the easier it becomes to let other people’s words roll off your back.
- Find people who embrace and understand you. This doesn’t mean leaving behind existing relationships. But try to seek out others who are also on the more sensitive side. Sometimes being heard and understood by someone else makes you feel so much more validated. It can be a huge help when you’re highly sensitive.
- Let yourself feel it. Sometimes, the emotions can be really intense, and we want nothing more than to push them farther and farther down. But there are times the best thing you can do is just let yourself feel them. Often, this can actually help you get over them quicker than pushing them down.
- Remove people who don’t try to understand or make things worse. I’ve built and broken a lot of relationships in my life. And 90% of them were people I thought were my friends. But sometimes people are simply not going to understand you. And you can’t make them. People are wired differently, and you have to reach a point of acceptance with that. If people are bringing you down, making you feel bad for your sensitivity, or just overall don’t understand you, let them go.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
A movement I would love to inspire would be the movement of animal rescues/rehabs working with people who may need emotional support. Something where people who are perhaps struggling in one form or another help in rescuing or rehabbing animals. I have always loved and felt connected to animals. I think they have incredible therapeutic abilities, and they can really help people who are highly sensitive or struggling. I know when I feel overwhelmed, I can always expect to see at least one furry face next to me making sure I’m okay. They are amazing and I would love to see more people involved in rescuing, fostering, and advocating for them. I see this as a win-win. The animals are being helped and people who are maybe struggling with different things are given a chance to help them and also help themselves in the process. I think it would be amazing for those struggling with their mental health or any other kind of struggle.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.