Leslie McGuirk: “Don’t expect everyone to understand you”

Finding other HSP is critical for your survival. Example: I have found that people who work with Nature and animals tend to be more like us…so go volunteer at the humane society or go bird watching etc. I work with wild horses in Utah. That is pure magic for an HSP. As a part of our […]

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Finding other HSP is critical for your survival. Example: I have found that people who work with Nature and animals tend to be more like us…so go volunteer at the humane society or go bird watching etc. I work with wild horses in Utah. That is pure magic for an HSP.

As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie McGuirk.

Leslie is an internationally acclaimed designer, illustrator, children’s book author, astrologer and corporate speaker on the topic of creative thinking. She launched her eco-friendly design company, McGuirk’s Quirks, in 1984 with a line of T-shirts, later building the iconic brand to include over 1,500 products for Takashimaya the high-end Japanese department store.

McGuirk has written and illustrated over 20 children’s books and has sold over two million copies worldwide. Her first adult book, The Power Of Mercury, (Harper Collins) is about her life as an astrologer and how this ancient esoteric science is incredibly accurate in describing how people are designed. She has been a popular guest speaker at many award-winning spa, including Rancho La Puerta, for over 20 years. She gives talks on creative thinking in the corporate world, and received a standing ovation for her TEDx talk in Hollywood, CA on “The Importance of Being Wrong”

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 have no training in art and was told repeatedly that I had no talent. I was a very squashed person. I started a T-shirt company, selling out of the back of my car, and my designs were noticed by GLAMOUR magazine, which lead to being discovered by TAKASHIMAYA, the Japanese department store. I became a designer of over 1500 products in Japan, and a well known brand called THE WORLD OF LESLIE MCGUIRK. My first children’s picture books were published in Japan, and eventually the USA. I’ve sold over 2 million copies around the world. My lack of any creative training gave me a unique insight into how uncreative most people feel. My workshop THE QUEST FOR INSPIRATION, which teaches people how to have non habitual thoughts, became so popular at spas that eventually I was hired by corporations. Now I am a full time astrologer. helping a lot of other Highly Sensitive People, and working with western trained doctors to help the medical community better understand how people are designed. Astrology and art have a lot in common, as they both involve seeing patterns and looking at people as unique creations.

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?

It means your level of awareness is acute. It means you will notice every little detail of every little thing. It means you are constantly saturated with input. You will sense things before others do. It is like having a super power to be highly sensitive. The problem is that most people are calcified and zombie-like. The problem is not that we are highly sensitive. The problem is living amongst others who are not like us.

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?

For sure, the empathy level is much higher for a HSP. Think of it like this — those of us who are HSP basically want to live like fairies and elves in a magic kingdom, but we have to deal with trolls all the time. And yes, we do get offended easily. When younger if someone made a hurtful remark it could hurt for weeks….but as we get older the trick is to go looking for others with “fairy” blood, and as long as we have our tribe we can manage the coarseness of the world.

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?

100% true. Anyone who knows me well knows that I can’t see any movies that have anything gruesome and violent. To witness even the slightest level of cruelty is extremely painful. When I was younger I saw the movie THE FLY, and it took me about a month to recover. I kept reliving the horrible scenes in my head and could not shake them. I close my eyes a lot, and put fingers in my ears if I ever see anything that is too much for me to handle. Those of us who are HSP can’t handle a lot of anything that isn’t coming from love and peace.

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

I picked a career that uses my highly sensitive nature in the best possible way. So with work it has not been a big problem. Socially…..that is a different story! For sure with dating, it is difficult because someone with “fairy blood” has to find someone else with the same, and we are not always that easy to spot. And we are basically a pretty small part of the population.

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 knew since the age of five. My family used to say, “Don’t be so sensitive” It was looked upon as a negative quality. The astrologer who basically saved my life at age 19 told me, “You are so sensitive, that if someone even looks at you the wrong way you will feel pain.” But she also told me that with that sensitive nature came great creative gifts, and if I used them correctly I would be able to thrive. It made all the difference, which is one reason I can help so many other HSP as a professional astrologer. The astrologer taught me that I didn’t need to be fixed and that it wasn’t my fault that I was so sensitive. It was just the way I was designed, which gave me great peace. Astrology is one of the best tools for surviving as an HSP. My goal is to teach other HSP to read astrology charts so they can also have this life saving tool.

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

We are incredible as artists, and friends and lovers. All that heightened energy is a total joy for others to take part in.

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

Every day as an artist and writer…..couldn’t have created the huge body of work I have put out into the world without being super sensitive. Also as a coach and astrologer to thousands of people, I am deeply kind and understanding with my clients and they feel it. I make people feel safe because I know what the opposite feels like. So it is a beautiful quality to have, once you settle into it with age. But as a young person it can be brutal.

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

Being highly sensitive is just being empathetic on steroids.

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? Many HSP stay off Social Media, but in my profession I have to be on it. I have never been pulled down by it.

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 I was younger I would get super upset and just keep quiet because no one understood. It is quite painful to be an HSP as a young person. You have to grown into building a fortress to protect yourself because this earth is not really created for people like us. Now if someone says something mean, I either hold my ground and speak my truth or just remember that person is not someone safe for me to be around.

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 am lucky in that I am now “revered” for being this sensitive. Watch my TEDx talk…..:)

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean? I don’t know of any myths . All I know is that we are deeply needed on this earth, as we show the way to a gentle way to live.

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? Articles like this will help! So bravo! HSP are getting more and more rare….so we need to be treated like an endangered species because we are! The world is becoming filled with sociopaths, and cruelty. Look at all the mass shootings and what is happening in our government. These are terribly difficult times for an HSP to even witness.

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.

  1. You need to know how to respond when people say you are too sensitive. Example: Try saying, “I can understand why you might feel that way, and I hear you….but I am sticking with my truth.” HOLD YOUR GROUND…you are not too sensitive. There is no such thing.
  2. Finding other HSP is critical for your survival. Example: I have found that people who work with Nature and animals tend to be more like us…so go volunteer at the humane society or go bird watching etc. I work with wild horses in Utah. That is pure magic for an HSP.
  3. Don’t get entangled with trolls. Trolls love to take advantage of HSP. Example: Read the book THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR….required reading for any HSP
  4. Take time alone. EXAMPLE: HSP need more time in NATURE than most people It helps us to recalibrate, and sometimes being in Nature rather than with other people is enough to get us back into alignment
  5. Don’t expect everyone to understand you; EXAMPLE: Often our own families give us the worst time. You have to be really careful where you go for comfort. It is only other HSP that can give you what you need, and your job is to make sure you have a whole stable of them to draw from. We need a lot of support because living is a lot more tricky for us.

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.

I think bringing HSP together and treating them like endangered species could help. They need to be singled out and REVERED! Our sensitive natures are like pure gold for the rest of humanity and it is time for this to be recognized.

How can our readers follow you online?

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

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