How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, With Designer Dalia MacPhee

We need to recharge. Know that the time we spend with you alone or in social scenarios can feel depleting, but it is not at all personal, it has to do with an extreme sensitivity to stimuli and energy. If you give us space to recharge alone without judgment or guilt, we will always come back! […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

We need to recharge. Know that the time we spend with you alone or in social scenarios can feel depleting, but it is not at all personal, it has to do with an extreme sensitivity to stimuli and energy. If you give us space to recharge alone without judgment or guilt, we will always come back!

As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dalia MacPhee. Canadian Fashion Designer Dalia MacPhee has been called the “IT” girl of the red carpet and Entertainment Tonight has referred to her brand as “Couture with a Conscience.” The Consul General of Canada listed her as an “emerging phenomenon in Canada with significant designing talent,” and Google Inc has touted her as “making waves in fashion and technology.” Dalia’s designs have graced the figures of celebrities such as Hilary Duff, Heidi Klum, Gina Rodriguez, Brooke Burke-Charvet, Olivia Munn, Amber Riley, Anna Silk, Mel B, Nina Dobrev, Niecy Nash, Alyssa Milano, Serena Williams, Scarlett Johansson, Sheila E, Khloe Kardashian, the stars of The Vampire Diaries, Big Bang Theory, Pretty Little Liars, True Blood, and Glee to name a few. Her brand can be found in better boutiques and department stores worldwide.

A TEDx speaker, Dalia has been published in Forbes, Success, Inc., Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post and The New Yorker, and featured on CBS, CTV, ABC ,CNN, NBC, and Fox News. Recent fashion projects include an underwater celebrity fashion campaign to bring awareness to violence against women and a global fashion show to promote world peace. Dalia is the inventor of the world’s first light up jeans, the “brilliant” purse, and most recently the EQUISAFE and PETSAFE Blankets, the first fully fire retardant horse and pet blankets with built in GPS.

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 own a women’s apparel brand which is available in boutiques and department stores worldwide. I also recently started a brand of innovative products for animals.

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?

Thank you! No, not necessarily. It means being highly sensitive to and aware of stimuli and energy. This can be the energy and emotions of people and outside stimuli.

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?

In my own case, I do feel I have a higher degree of empathy. I’m often able to detect other’s energy and how things make them feel. As such, hurtful remarks about others do affect me quite deeply.

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. For years I avoided watching any news or social media posts depicting pain as I could literally feel it in my body and it would affect my demeanor for the entire day. Of course, pain is a part of life and putting one’s head in the sand isn’t the answer, so I eventually found a way through that. Now I’m able to watch, feel the pain for a moment, and transmute it by shifting my focus to solutions and ways in which I may be able to help. Since I love to innovate and create products and ideas, doing this takes me out of victim mode and into creator mode.

Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?

Being highly sensitive, I have a zero tolerance policy towards bullying. There have been scenarios where I’ve publicly stood up to perpetrators, even when it was not popular in my business or social circle.

When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?

I don’t see myself as “too” sensitive. Humanity needs more of this. One of the clues I was more sensitive than the majority, however, was in my reaction to certain situations and my experience in social scenarios. Passing by someone living on the street for example, I noticed I was one of very few who wanted to make eye contact and acknowledgment. In general, I would be more concerned about others’ feelings than most. Sound, lights, and crowds are all experienced more intensely, and so often I would need to excuse myself when things felt too intense.

At social engagements, I noticed where others were getting energized I would get completely drained. Even in one on one situations, I would often need a half to full day to completely “recharge.”

I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?

They’re usually able to sense what someone is feeling, put themselves in other’s shoes, and pick up on very subtle details.

Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?

There have been many, but definitely from a business perspective it’s allowed me to have strong emotional intelligence. I was once in a very important sales meeting with a new account, and it was apparent the buyer was “somewhere else.” My sales rep who was also in the room whispered to me that it looked like the buyer was not interested, but I could sense something else was going on. I quietly asked her if she was OK, and she ended up sharing something very personal that was happening. I suggested that we reschedule so she could be where she needed to.

When we met again, she was fully present and also expressed how appreciative she was of my sensitivity. We got the order.on a daily basis, I meet people who appreciate being able to connect on a real level. It gives them permission to be themselves, and that strengthens relationships.

There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?

I think when the feelings become so great that they overpower and get in the way of being productive, present and empathetic to others’ needs, the line is crossed.

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?

This is a real sore spot for me, because the amount of bullying and blatant disregard for decency that I’ve witnessed online is both appalling and embarrassing. The best thing an HSP can do is to help raise the vibration by counteracting all the negativity. We can defend those who need support. We can reach out and offer positivity, solutions, laughter, anything to counteract the cowardly toxic behavior.

How would you respond if something you hear or see bothers or affects you, but others comment that you are being petty or that it is minor?

When I was younger I used to get defensive in such scenarios, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that all of this is really like speaking a language. Some people will speak the same language as you, and that’s great. You’ll never have to explain yourself. Others won’t speak the same language, but they will make an effort to try to understand you. That’s a happy middle ground. Still others won’t understand you nor have any desire to. It’s not personal. I don’t defend myself anymore, and I’m also careful not to express very sensitive feelings to people who don’t speak my language.

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?

Although I’m an HSP, I am quite careful not to expose too much of that to those who don’t speak my language. When I do show my caring nature in scenarios where I might be judged, I’m also sure to show my strength so it’s apparent I’m not a pushover.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?

I think one of the myths is that they are fragile and that they need to be handled with kid gloves. Here’s the thing: you can be a warrior that feels more than anyone else on the battlefield, but you may also be the strongest warrior because of that.

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?

Yes! I experienced that sentiment a LOT growing up. The problems on this planet don’t exist from people being too sensitive. They exist from people not being sensitive enough. The truth is, we all come into this world incredibly feeling. Some of us maintain that, and some of us have learned to build a thick wall around it. When I hear that phrase from someone now, I don’t defend myself. I try to help them remember who they are: a sentient, feeling being.

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 If You Love Or Are In A Relationship With A Highly Sensitive Person. Please give a story or an example for each.

  1. We need to recharge. Know that the time we spend with you alone or in social scenarios can feel depleting, but it is not at all personal, it has to do with an extreme sensitivity to stimuli and energy. If you give us space to recharge alone without judgment or guilt, we will always come back!
  2. Because of #1, we may not be able to go out to with you to a plethora of weekly “outings” and events. Pick the important ones.
  3. We know what you’re feeling. We’re incredibly sensitive to emotions and feelings. If you’re trying to hide your feelings, that won’t work. In fact often we can pick up what you are feeling before you even have.
  4. We have no tolerance for bullying and mean behavior. If you pick on someone, hurt an animal or child, we’re out.
  5. When you’re in a negative or angry mood we feel it tenfold. Both of those emotions can go through us like electricity, so if you are feeling either, it’s better to communicate them from the heart center rather than the ego center.

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.

Our planet is fighting for its life. If we gave more credit and media attention to the game changers, and made influencers and celebrities out of them, perhaps we could create an insurmountable ocean of change.

How can our readers follow you online?



Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


15 Traits of Successful People That Ambitious Professionals Should Emulate

by Scott Gerber

Amy Rollo: “Highly sensitive people notice everything”

by Phil La Duke

Jenna Monaco: “Boundaries are your best friend”

by Phil La Duke
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.