Embrace it all and do your best. Being a highly sensitive person, you are going to get caught many times in overwhelming circumstances. Embrace that. It is okay. Do your best to float through it and know it will pass. Sometimes we feel like the world is closing in and it seems to be too much. This is because your sensitivity is a beacon of light for others. Remember to always send love and work from a place of love and nothing will be able to permeate you doing your best. You got this!
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucie Dickenson. Lucie is the author of Overreacting: a memoir of anxious proportions. She is a certified Emotional Freedom Technique Coach, as well as a Functional Nutrition coach. Lucie is also certified in Mental Health First Aid. She believes that we are all here to help one another be the best we can be. Her hope is that by connecting with others through her books, blogs and articles she can share her story of overcoming anxiety and help others find freedom from anxiety.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
Of course! My name is Lucie Dickenson, owner of Love Always Lucie. I grew up on the Jersey shore and it was there, at quite a young age, that I understood I was a sensitive child. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I excelled in academics and athletics. But as I entered high school, the ruse of being perfect was too much to hold onto and the sensitivities that I had been hiding began to surface. I was able to keep it together until the birth of my first child. That single event was the catalyst into a new world filled with fear and anxiety. From viewing myself as a victim of circumstance with debilitating anxiety to a conscious creator of my own destiny was not an easy, but necessary journey. Today I speak to audiences about the stigmas of anxiety and sensitivity. My new book Overreacting: a memoir of anxious proportions goes into detail about my journey and what it took to overcome, accept and love myself unconditionally.
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?
To be honest, it is not hard to talk about HSP, it is hard not talking about it. When we talk, we remove the stigma of labels and we come to realize that we are all on the continuum of HSP in some way. I don’t see my sensitive nature as a block or a problem, however I do see the label as one because we all have set ideas and beliefs about labels. Remove the label and instead connect with the person behind it. This is the space where we can listen, learn and grow.
To be highly sensitive is not just about being overly emotional. The two may seem interchangeable, but in reality, I don’t believe one even has to do with the other. I actually believe because of my sensitive nature I am more in tune with my feelings and therefore open to them. I accept all feelings as they come no matter what the emotion. When I allow myself to experience the emotions, I believe I am being true to myself and this allows me not to hold onto anything other than the present moment.
I believe HSP is a fear-based label that creates the illusion that something is wrong with me or others that have been plagued with this label. When in reality HSP is just real human beings in touch with themselves and the world around them.
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 think that an HSP has a great deal more conscious empathy towards others. High sensitivity is not just about what happens within the body but within the world, and as such they can literally feel what is going on around them, including hurtful remarks made about other people. The HSP knows on a cellular level that we are all connected and what hurts one hurts us all.
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or new, that depict emotional or physical pain? Can you explain or give a story?
Personally speaking, I don’t have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or news, however, I do choose to remove myself from certain situations because I know that my ability to connect and plug into the world will weigh heavily with me when I engage in certain activities. This goes for anything that is depicted in a purposefully negative way such as horror or war films or even something as benign as “funny videos” of people falling and getting hurt. I can literally feel their hurts and fears and through trial and error, I have learned that it is more about the energy that I choose to surround myself with and the energy for which I choose to set a boundary. The news is another situation that I have learned to limit. I find it is okay for me to watch the news and get the gist of what is going on in an hour, but to sit in front of the television and watch the news on a constant loop as background noise creates a heaviness that I have come to understand means I have let too much in. I do not find this as a fault, but actually more as my system is working well and telling me no one should have so much pollution within them- physical or mental.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
I tried to hide my sensitive nature for so long because I viewed it as something shameful or wrong with me, so when it finally did surface it did so in a very explosive way. While I was working for a Fortune 500 company, I held the guise of a perfectly put together go-getter employee. However, inside I was stressed to the hilt. I did nothing about the stress and buried deep within myself. I began to experience symptoms of sensitivities. First to food. I started having reactions to a few foods, but in a short amount of time it was almost all food. I could only drink water and five or six different foods. Then the sensitivities began happening in my environment at work. I was not able to sit at my desk; I could smell the plastic and the rugs. It would create anxiety and outlandish fears. The chemical sensitivities began happening not just at work, but everywhere. I could not be around candles, perfumes or even pesticides or new car smells. The list was endless and my world became smaller and smaller. I became a prisoner in my own life and I was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), anxiety. It became too much to handle and one day at work I literally had to be taken out of my office on a stretcher because of a nervous breakdown.
I went to many different people to help me find out what was going on with me, including doctors, psychologists, energy healers, nutritionists. You name it, I tried it. There was one particular person who introduced me to the term HSP. I believe her words were something like “Lucie, you are just too sensitive for this world. You are like a canary in a coal mine.” This brought tears to my eyes for I believed her words in that moment. I thought maybe she was right, that I don’t belong here because I was too sensitive. But it was just days later that I was no longer sad, but mad. I knew if I was here on this earth, there was a reason. And one of those reasons was to untangle the truths about my sensitive nature and to find the good in it. Not to ever view it as a burden. And so, began my quest to find what this was, what it meant, and how to love it.
When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as too sensitive?
This excerpt from my book gives you the exact moment I noticed my sensitivity.
“LUCIE YOU ARE SO DRAMATIC.”
“Lucie you are going to win an Academy Award one day with that crying.”
“Just stop it. You are way too sensitive.”
^ Words I heard growing up.
I wanted so badly to be the perfect kid. The fifth of six kids, I really did want attention. I craved it. I thought perfect would be the way to cast the spotlight on me and away from everyone else. But if I was being told I was too sensitive, obviously there was something wrong with me. I needed to fix that, but the more I tried, the more entangled I was with what came to be known as me being a drama queen.
There were other words that I heard growing up, such as: “You are so smart.”
“You are beautiful.”
“What a great singer you are.”
As a kid who wanted to be perfect, I did not focus on what sounded great. I could have gotten compliments and high praises for weeks straight, but it would be the one . . .
“You are too sensitive.”
. . . that would get stuck in my head. The words that I deemed negative were the ones I focused on, and I tried to figure a way out. To be the opposite of. To pull the sensitivity out of my body and replace it with a stoic warrior.
The more I tried, the more sensitive I became. I believed the hype.
I believed what I was told.
Words were everything to me.
And I let them seep into my subconscious that was working hard to create my life’s foundation.
My belief system. I am sensitive.
I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?
I believe there are many advantages a highly sensitive person has and I also believe that others need to take notice because it is these highly sensitive people that are giving you clues to what is going on in the world and what changes need to be made. They are the canaries in the coal mine, and that is a very good thing!
- An HSP has the ability to energetically feel the energy in a room. This is advantageous because they know how to avoid negative conversations and interactions. When an HSP listens to their intuitive abilities they are able to navigate themselves towards positive outcomes.
- AN HSP can have sensitivities towards foods that are not for our highest and best health. The foods that work for them are the foods that we are meant to eat; nutrient-dense whole foods. When we notice what an HSP gravitates towards in their diet you will understand the beauty of a healthy diet.
- An HSP can have sensitivities to chemicals. They are clearly showing you what is poisoning and depleting the Earth. Watch them note what we should not be producing, using, and consuming.
- An HSP feels their emotions in real-time. By allowing their emotions to be felt and not holding them inside they have the power to create consciously in the present moment.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
One day, while holding my two-month-old son close to my chest, I followed my husband to our shed at our new home. There were some things the previous owner left behind and as I looked in a corner shelf, I saw a white plastic circle poking out from behind a paint can. I moved closer and saw it was a carbon monoxide detector. My anxiety went through the roof, I immediately began thinking, “we don’t have one of these in our house, why don’t we, we need to put this in the house now”, and on and on. I hounded my husband that it needed to be immediately installed in the house. I thought maybe I was overreacting, but there was an energy about this that felt right. That night my husband plugged the detector in the hallway, by our bedroom, and within the hour we were fast asleep. We were no sooner woken by the loud shrill of the carbon monoxide alarm. My husband said there must be some malfunction with the device and he unplugged it. He was getting ready to get back in bed when once again I felt a nagging knowing to call the gas company. My husband thought I was overreacting and being way too sensitive, but he understood that I would be relentless so he called. When they came, they said if we did not have the detector, we would not have made it through the night.
I truly believe me finding that the carbon monoxide detector was a beautiful gift from my highly sensitive intuitive self. The connective sense of knowing literally saved our lives.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
I don’t believe there is a line between empathy and HSP, I just think it is a different way of looking at the same thing. Empathy is viewed as a positive attribute; the word empath is such a buzzword right now. To be empathic is to have the ability to understand others, but to also wear and try-on their feelings. It is a very connected and sometimes scary situation. Scary because unless you learn how to set a boundary you are literally carrying the emotions of the world on your shoulders. When you do learn, you can pick and choose what you let into your energy field.
I believe a highly sensitive person is that same person as an empath. They also can feel others’ energy and feel the sensitivities of the world. Depending on which one you are labeled with is how you will respond. Empaths are the healers and helpers of the world. People are drawn to them and almost see them as spiritual guides with a special gift. On the other hand, highly sensitive people are viewed as over-emotional and overreactors. I truly believe that labels create division. My thought is if you call them empaths or HSP they are amazing, insightful, intuitive beings that hold amazing gifts that they are able to teach others.
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, just like with any other media, has its time and place with an HSP. First, many HSP’s are people that are very likable but yet not overly social. HSP will stay away from large social engagements because of their sensitivities, so social media is a fabulous medium for them to plug-in without having to go out. It may seem unhealthy, but an HSP is so connected to nature and the outdoors, they definitely get their fill. They are also tremendously loyal to their small circle of friends. Mostly, HSP’s tend to gravitate to one another because each understands that not going out often is not personal, it is a needed lifestyle. Social media fills the gaps and allows them to use their voice, sending messages of hope and healing out to others. It is when an HSP begins getting caught up in the negative comments of posts and pictures that social media can become a problem. I have learned to get on, send positive messages, and follow only (or mostly) positive friends and accounts.
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?
I used to respond by not responding. Until I was well into my thirties, I would hold it in or look away, but I found that by ignoring something that seemed wrong or means it would eat away at me. So, now I absolutely speak up and call out whatever it is that is affecting me. If someone speaks up and calls me out on it, I know it is more about them and not me. I just send them love.
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?
My answer was to write a book. Honestly. I felt it was a way to give people the insight and time to read about what it was like to be inside the mind of an anxious and sensitive person. I wanted to break open the myths and whispers about overreacting, anxiety, and sensitive individuals. We are who we are and I refuse to apologize for who I am. When people ask me about it, I tell them honestly what it is like and how it makes me feel. This opens up a conversation and connection. I feel we are more alike than we are different and the more we talk and open up; the more people understand and connect.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
Myth: I am in my room crying all the time
Truth: I cry if I need to cry, but I leave it there and don’t carry it with me into the future.
Myth: HSP people are weak and sickly
Truth: I am probably one of the strongest people I know! It takes a lot to be able to feel the energy of the world, and then some!
Myth: HSP people withdraw because they are not happy or they are depressed
Truth: HSP love being alone! It is their time to recharge and use their incredibly creative brain!
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?
You just cannot stop being who you are. For someone to say “stop being so sensitive” it gives the receiver of that message the idea that something is wrong with them. There is nothing wrong with an HSP. Again, I believe here, opening conversation and talking about your story will open the eyes and the heart of the other person, helping them to understand it is not something that can just be changed, but it is actually a gift.
5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person
- There is nothing wrong with you. Acceptance is the key. You were born the way you were for a reason. Embrace your sensitive nature and learn to not only accept it but love yourself for having it. When you see it from this perspective everything changes. When I was a child, I hid my highly sensitive ways because I felt shame that I was different. I could sense that I was different and I viewed it as a burden. It was when I began to look through the lens of love and acceptance that I saw the gifts that come with being an HSP.
- Respect and create healthy boundaries. Your superpower is your sensitivity and just like with any superpower, you need to learn how to protect it. Boundaries are the secret sauce that helps you live with such a beautiful birthright. You have the power to let in what you want and the ability to say no to what you do not want. It is your personal space/energy field, no one else’s. I had a hard time with boundaries. I thought it was my job to let everything in and to feel it all. Nothing can be further from the truth. You have the power to remove yourself from situations, places, and people.
- Take time for yourself. Being an HSP may seem like to others you are a daydreamer, but really you are taking it all in, on every single level. This takes loads of energy and you have to off-gas that somehow. Taking time for yourself is imperative to the balance of a highly sensitive person. Some may think you are being anti-social and reclusive, so what? This is your time to power-up by giving yourself self-care and self-love. You will know when you are ready to go out again and when you do, remember those boundaries!
- Use your wonderful creative abilities and intelligence. Along with being an HSP comes the gift of intelligence that can send your creative juices on overdrive. Don’t ignore these callings. Create. And create often. Even if you have a career in the business world, take time to paint, dance, write, speak, sculpt. Whatever it is that gets you to not only invest time with your mind and body but also is the thing that brings a smile to your face. It could be something at your job or a hobby. Or maybe it is something more personal like sharing your story to connect. Or you feel that tug from the universe to learn more about the healing arts. No matter what it is, you have this beautiful aptitude and capacity for creating, enjoy it. It will bring you much peace.
- Embrace it all and do your best. Being a highly sensitive person, you are going to get caught many times in overwhelming circumstances. Embrace that. It is okay. Do your best to float through it and know it will pass. Sometimes we feel like the world is closing in and it seems to be too much. This is because your sensitivity is a beacon of light for others. Remember to always send love and work from a place of love and nothing will be able to permeate you doing your best. You got this!