There is nothing wrong with you.Please know this. Take the time to research and understand your genetic makeup. Find other sensitive friends to connect with. Start to look at how your sensitivity is an asset and not a curse. Look for the ways it benefits your life and enhances others. But also try to be aware of the challenges that come with it and work on ways to handle those. Your differences are not a weakness, they are a wonderful gift. I put in a lot of hard work to heal my relationship with myself and my sensitivity. But it was all worth it. My entire life changed. I now feel free to be who I am. Free to speak my truth. Free to be openly sensitive and emotional. I feel more connected to myself and the entire world around, as well as above me. I’m more confident and a million times happier. And this is available to all sensitives. You don’t have to suffer through life feeling like you’re cursed or you don’t belong here. There is a place for you here, you do belong. But you have to work on belonging with yourself first. It all starts from the inside out.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Rochelle.
Amber Rochelle is an Empath Empowerment Mentor and Emotional Wellness Expert. She works with Highly Sensitive Empaths to help them thrive in an all-to-often insensitive world. Known as “The Sensitive Badass®”, Amber’s mission is to change the narrative in our culture around the word “sensitive” and to lead sensitive souls to a place of empowerment. She believes that sensitivity is a superpower if you choose to treat it as one and that this world desperately needs the healing powers that sensitives have to offer.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
I’m a certified Professional Life Coach, Emotional Wellness Expert, Healer, Speaker, and Writer. I am passionate about helping my clients minimize the challenges and maximize the benefits of being Highly Sensitive. The crux of my work is re-connecting sensitive empath women to their inner truth and life purpose, while arming them with the tools for a truly thriving and authentic life.
Having experienced a lot of trauma in my own life, I have always been driven to use that as fuel to help others. There is no greater gift than walking beside a client as she heals her own past and steps into her full power.
I’m known as “The Sensitive Badass®” which is a phrase I coined to combat the notion that sensitivity is a weakness. Those closest to me know I live a heart-led life and always speak my truth. I’m deeply proud of my sensitivity and high level of intuition.
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 grew up struggling to talk about my experiences as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), but now talking about sensitivity and my feelings on the internet is what I do for a living! From a scientific perspective, being Highly Sensitive is actually a genetic trait. Roughly 20% of the population, male and female, are HSPs. Essentially, our brains are wired differently so that our sensory neurons take in more information from the world around us. Not only do we have incredibly high perception, but we also process that information more thoroughly — we have a rich inner life. I like to explain it as if the volume on life is turned all the way up, all the time. Because we notice more and things affect us deeply, we can become physically and emotionally overstimulated easily. Therefore, we need extra downtime to recharge our energetic batteries and calm our nervous system.
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?
All humans have the ability to be empathetic at varying levels. For Highly Sensitive People, empathy just comes more naturally to us. We have more activation in what is called our “mirror neurons.” Mirror neurons are a big part of what gives humans empathy, and why HSPs can have “emotional contagion.” They respond to actions or cues we see in others, and fire in the same way as if we made that action or felt that way ourselves. This is why a lot of HSPs may feel like an emotional sponge.
As far as being offended by hurtful remarks about others, I think that would be a pretty universal yes for HSPs. In the sense that we feel deeply for the person on the receiving end. Personally, I have always been one to stand up for others. Especially the underdogs, “weirdos” and those being bullied. I can’t stand cruelty and I know how it feels to walk in their shoes.
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?
Absolutely. Again, we are more affected by EVERYTHING. So, witnessing others in pain, fictional or not, is especially hard for us. It can be difficult to shake the feelings it evokes. I can be brought to tears by an animated film, or even a commercial. I stay informed, but rarely actually watch the news. I recommend my clients turn on their own “parental monitoring” when it comes to media exposure.
We also live in a very fast paced, high pressure society. It just is not set up for Highly Sensitive People. It’s important for us to remember that society is for the most part built around the other 80% of the world. So, for us HSPs, it’s vital to pay attention to what works for us and what doesn’t, and to build our lives around those things, even if it goes against the status quo.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
Before I shifted my career to Coaching, I worked as a graphic designer in corporate advertising for years. While I loved the artistic aspect of my work, the environment was not for me. Think noisy, open floor plan, super competitive, tight deadlines, and toxic coworkers. My saviors were my noise canceling headphones, sage spray and crystals tucked secretly in my desk drawer and frequent trips to hide in the bathroom and cry. Unfortunately, corporate America is mostly an environment where emotions, especially “big” ones, are not too welcome. We’re expected to suck it up and carry on and just work harder and harder. It creates a lifestyle that would be hard for most — but can be completely crushing for an HSP.
Furthermore, we as sensitives crave more meaning in our day-to-day lives. A career that we don’t feel connected to, or fulfilled by, can be soul sucking.
When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?
There’s not a time I remember in childhood where I didn’t feel “too sensitive.” Similar to many HSPs I grew up feeling like something was wrong with me. I often felt like an alien that didn’t belong on this planet. The feedback I got from the world around me was that I was “too much” in general. I can’t count the times I was called “too dramatic” or “too emotional.” Simply put, I didn’t fit in, and I knew it. To adapt, in my young life, I unfortunately started tucking parts of myself away and hiding my truth from the world. I was like a little sensitive chameleon — changing my colors to fit whatever situation I was in. The human need to belong and be liked is strong and it can cause us to turn our back on our real selves.
I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?
This is one of my favorite questions to answer, because there are SO many! I truly believe that being highly sensitive / an empath is like a superpower! Sure, it comes with heaps of challenges, but once we learn to navigate those, the gifts get to really shine. Because of the depth with which we process the world and our immense compassion for others, HSPs make natural artists, visionaries, mentors, healers, historians, and scientists. etc. We also make incredible leaders with our ability to see both the big picture as well as small details, and to relate with others and their needs. Most sensitives are drawn to doing work that makes an impact on the world and that helps others. We have an innate knack for being drawn to areas that need love, care and attention, and the drive to make a difference. We possess a super strong intuition and (with work) connection to our inner knowing. We pick up on things others don’t. We are like human lie detectors. We have so much understanding, heart, and magic in us that we are a beautiful asset to humanity. However, our gifts have historically been overlooked, undervalued, and misunderstood.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
When I first started my Coaching Certification Program, something phenomenal happened. People were saying to me “wow, you’re so sensitive, and it’s amazing and beautiful.” This was not something I was used to hearing. It started opening my eyes more to the gifts of sensitivity. By the time I graduated and started my coaching practice, I had fully embraced my sensitive side as the superpower it is and began to focus solely on working with other sensitive women. Being sensitive as a coach is a huge advantage. My intuition and my ability to feel into others energy and emotions has been a powerful asset in the work I do.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
This brings me to the question of Empath vs Highly Sensitive Person. While they are not the same thing, I find the majority of HSPs are also empaths. An empath shares many qualities with an HSP but experiences the energies and feelings in an even deeper way. They are the most absorbent of the sponges, so to speak. Although I am both, I don’t think labels are as important as honoring our true nature and valuing our empathy and sensitivity as a true asset to humanity.
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?
Social Media is like anything else, it can be detrimental or helpful depending on how you interact with it. I think social media in general has brought an immense amount of increased pressure on humans to be “perfect” and to craft a certain image of themselves online. There is a lot of comparison and bullying in the social media space. All of these things can be particularly hard on HSPs as we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves already. Just the expectation of keeping up with Social Media and avoiding “FOMO” is daunting. But on the flipside, Social Media can be a wonderful tool for connection, collaboration, promotion and meeting new people. It can be a source of inspiration and finding others you relate to. I would say to anyone, but HSPs in particular, pay attention to how your relationship with Social Media makes you FEEL. What is it doing for you? Are you using it because you want to, or you feel like you have to? Have you become dependent on it? Does it make you feel drained? These are all powerful questions we can ask ourselves to make sure we’re aware of how that tool is actually affecting our lives and if it is working for or against us.
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?
When we let others talk us out of our experience of the world, we lose trust in ourselves and our feelings. We start to look outside of ourselves for validation of worthiness. We dismiss our own inner knowing. It’s sad and it’s damaging. These days I fiercely stand up for my experiences and truth. So, if someone is dismissive of that, I always say you have a right to your opinion, but my feelings are still valid. Everyone processes situations differently through the lens of their genetic makeup and past life experience. Others may not always understand the way I see things, but I expect those in my life to be respectful of how I do.
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 wouldn’t change my caring and empathetic nature for anything. Most people who see me as overly sensitive and don’t want to take the time to learn and understand are just “not my people.” I have rejected the idea of being “too sensitive” or “too emotional.” I am what I am and I love myself that way. Now if someone says to me “you’re so sensitive” I say, “thank you.” Regardless of how they meant it. But for those readers who may not be at that place yet, I encourage you to stand up for your truth anyway. It can be really hurtful when people use your nature as a weapon against you. But think about what you would tell a friend if that happened to them. I imagine you would reassure them that they are wonderful as they are, and that whoever made the comment either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand. Often it says way more about them than it does you. Be kind to yourself. The more you love your sensitivity the less and less it will bother you when others don’t.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
Here are some of the main myths I see out there:
HSPs are weak.
The truth is that sensitivity does NOT equal weakness. In fact, sensitive souls are actually extra strong. We process and carry so much, yet we also have to live our lives just like everyone else. While dealing with the stigmas that are out there about us. It’s hard. Yet, we are incredibly resilient people. There’s this notion that HSPs need to “grow a thicker skin” and “toughen up.” But in my opinion being “tough” and “strong” are two different things. “Tough” speaks to pushing through, not letting anything bother you, always acting like you’re ok. While real strength calls for authenticity and vulnerability and wearing your heart on your sleeve. Standing up for what you believe in. Asking for help when you need it. I think we have enough “tough guys” out there. This is why I came up with the phrase “Sensitive Badass.” You can be soft and strong. You can be emotional and brave. Why not learn to love the thin skin you’re in? It truly is a deeply needed gift to the world.
HSPs are shy, anti-social introverts.
It’s true that we thrive on having alone time. That we prefer smaller groups to larger crowds. But we also love connection and having deep relationships. We like to have fun just like everyone else. Some of us are shy. A lot of us are introverts. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those things. But they are often spoken about in a negative context in our society. I was a shy child but can’t say that about myself now! And I’ve always been an extroverted introvert, or ambivert as some call it. I can get great satisfaction out of social interaction. But I also highly prioritize my down time and alone time so my system has time to process it all. People are much more layered and complicated than society expects. We do not all fit in one box.
HSPs are “dramatic” and make a big deal out of nothing.
Again, this is so relative. What may seem like “nothing” to one person, might feel major to another. And both people’s feelings are 100% valid. It is YOUR feeling and YOUR experience of the world. I think we are often labeled dramatic because we tend to be more open with our emotions. And we can’t always hold them inside. Furthermore, it’s actually not good for anyone to hold them inside. This is another area where HSPs excel. We have to find a way to make friends with and process our emotions if we don’t want to fall into depression, anxiety, and/or chronic illness. Why should anyone apologize for crying? For feeling? We are human beings and we are meant to experience the full rainbow of emotions. We shouldn’t place judgement on them as “good” or “bad.” It’s all part of the human experience. And learning how to relate to and move through those emotions actually makes us stronger and more resilient people.
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?
One of my main missions is changing the narrative in society around being sensitive. The more HSPs can educate others about our unique trait, the more we can not only break down the stigma, but also bring awareness to our gifts. And the more of us that do the inner work to heal our pasts, break down limiting conditioning, and stand in our power as sensitive beings, the more the ripple effect expands. One of my favorite things about this is by doing these things, HSPs are not only setting themselves free to be their true selves, but they are also more confident to share their magic with the rest of the world. It’s a double whammy of benefit for all.
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.
- There is nothing wrong with you. Please know this. Take the time to research and understand your genetic makeup. Find other sensitive friends to connect with. Start to look at how your sensitivity is an asset and not a curse. Look for the ways it benefits your life and enhances others. But also try to be aware of the challenges that come with it and work on ways to handle those. Your differences are not a weakness, they are a wonderful gift. I put in a lot of hard work to heal my relationship with myself and my sensitivity. But it was all worth it. My entire life changed. I now feel free to be who I am. Free to speak my truth. Free to be openly sensitive and emotional. I feel more connected to myself and the entire world around, as well as above me. I’m more confident and a million times happier. And this is available to all sensitives. You don’t have to suffer through life feeling like you’re cursed or you don’t belong here. There is a place for you here, you do belong. But you have to work on belonging with yourself first. It all starts from the inside out.
- You are so incredibly gifted! Every human being has their individual talents and areas they naturally excel. We all have gifts to contribute to the collective. I like to use the example of a child who is showing a natural skill for, let’s say, basketball. In a lot of scenarios, that child will be encouraged to continue to work on the sport. They will be praised for their abilities. Sometimes sent to a special camp or workshops to hone those skills. Or what if there’s a child who is showing promise as a young artist? Same thing. Well as an HSP some of your innate gifts are empathy, compassion, understanding, depth of processing, intuition, creativity, and a desire to help others. How beautiful is that??? It’s just that historically, these things have been undervalued. But that doesn’t mean they are not just as important as other skills. Imagine if these gifts were more recognized and fostered in children and adults? What a different world this would be. Cherish your gifts. Take care of them. And never stop sharing them with the world. It’ll catch up. *Wink*
- Boundaries are your best friend. Just because you are a natural people pleaser, does not mean you have to be a doormat. We sensitives have what I call “little antennae” that are constantly picking up and pulling information from the world around us. We have a natural ability to tune into the feelings and needs of others. But what often happens, is that the noise and pressure of the outside world overpowers the needs and insight of our inner world. A lot of HSPs struggle to see their value outside of “being there for and making others happy.” But this can lead to burnout and resentment and detachment from our own bodies and hearts. It’s important to practice turning those energetic antennae back inwards. To tune into your own frequency on the daily. In that way you can build a relationship with your emotions and your inner guidance system. You can start to see what your own needs are. You can evaluate what you are and aren’t willing to allow in your own orbit. This requires boundaries. About how you want to be treated. What you are and aren’t willing to do. Expressing and standing up for your needs. In the beginning this can be difficult. We feel guilt, and struggle to articulate these boundaries. We often fall prey to the “good girl” syndrome and don’t want to ever “rock the boat.” But honestly, that’s a terrible way to go through life. You matter just as much as others. And at risk of sounding cliché, you really do need to put your oxygen mask on first. Boundaries are just good self-care. “No” gets to be a complete sentence.
- It’s ok and possible to build a lifestyle outside of the status-quo. I mentioned earlier that our society is not really set up for the benefit of HSPs, but rather the other 80%. Because of this, and because we experience life differently, it’s important for us to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. We have different needs than others and for that we have to be our own advocate. A typical “day in the life” may not be right for us. It can take creativity and confidence, but there are ways to create a lifestyle that supports your sensitive nature. With more down time, more alone time, more time in nature. Maybe it’s a non-traditional career, or a fiercely protected self-care routine. The main thing is to find what works for YOU. Where do you feel like your most nourished, taken care of self? Where do you feel at your best? Lean into those. Who cares what everyone else is doing? Normal is boring, anyways.
- You have a built in GPS system (intuition). All humans have access to their intuition. But it tends to run deeper for sensitives, when we take the time to nurture it. When you strip away all the “shoulds” and pressure to conform, underneath there is a voice patiently waiting for you to listen. What would that voice have to say if it wasn’t muffled by rules, conditioning and judgment? There is magic there. There is truth there. There is healing there. When you intentionally slow down daily and get quiet enough to listen, this voice will lead you to your purpose and your greatest happiness. It will show you what needs to be healed. It will guide you to your next right action. It will ground you in your truth. And it will anchor you into strength.
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.
It’s okay not to be ok. Feeling all your feels is not only ok, but healthy. The modern world has kept us small in a lot of ways. Pressure to all conform to one way of looking, being, doing. Pressure to always produce more and do it faster. But we are not robots. And this distracts us from slowing down and looking within. It overpowers the softness of our inner voice. It leads us to stuff things down. And it so often results in pain and sickness.
Our hearts, our vulnerability and our authentic expression are some of the most powerful tools we have. They breed compassion, connection, understanding and acceptance. I always like to imagine a world where no one felt like they had to be someone else or suppress their feelings. Where we were taught more emotional tools and a wider acceptance of our differences and struggles. If less people were focused on how things look on the outside and were tending to the inside without fear of judgement or shame — I truly believe this would be a much more healed earth.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.