Get comfortable setting boundaries — We hear about the importance of setting boundaries pretty often. For someone who is sensitive, this is 100% non-negotiable. If you love to connect deeply with those you care about, it’s easy to give away your time and energy to others at the expense of yourself. This quickly leads to burnout and resentment especially if you end up in a situation where your efforts are not acknowledged or appreciated. Working through the discomfort of saying ‘no’ and choosing to put yourself first are game changing for your energy and for your ability to truly connect to others while also taking good care of yourself.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Manisha Tare.
Manisha is a Coach and Mentor for Highly Sensitive Women. She helps ambitious, sensitive women heal the root of their anxiety using a trauma informed approach so they can experience more ease and happiness in their relationships. For the past 10+ years, she has supported clients and students through yoga, meditation, bodywork, and coaching. She holds a B.S in Occupational Therapy from New York University and an MPH from Columbia University.
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 Coach and Mentor for Highly Sensitive Women. As someone who has a background in healthcare and has studied and practiced yoga, meditation, and many holistic healing modalities, I use a trauma informed approach to support women with sensitive nervous systems to heal the root of their anxiety, connect back to themselves and experience more ease and happiness in their relationships. I have a deep love of learning and support my own sensitive nature through taking long walks in the woods, making time for quiet reflection and cultivating deep connections in my relationships.
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 could see how those words might come to mind, however when I hear ‘highly sensitive person,’ the qualities that I relate to are deeply feeling and intuitive. Highly sensitive people also have sensitive nervous systems that impact how they pick up on and process sensory information from their environment. When out of balance, this can look like people feeling easily overwhelmed by large crowds, the excess use of technology or overstimulating environments.
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 do believe that being tuned into other people’s feelings lends itself to a higher degree of empathy. I also find highly sensitive people to be deeply caring so it’s quite possible they may be offended by hurtful remarks made about others because they can sense their feelings more acutely.
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?
If your nervous system is sensitive and activated by watching or hearing about emotional or physical pain, then for someone who is highly in tune with the feelings of others, this absolutely may be more challenging to watch.
Personally, I never watch horror movies or shows that I know have excessive violence. I consider myself highly sensitive and empathic so if I want to relax, then I avoid this because I know I’ll be on edge or feel the pain of the characters more intensely. I do think that being informed is important so I choose my news sources with care.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
I’ve worked in a lot of different office spaces in my career. The most challenging was working in a cubicle environment. There is a part of me that really enjoys people, but being in an environment where anyone could ‘stop by’ at any time with no notice definitely impacted my concentration and focus.
Also, because I hadn’t fully understood my need for quiet, focused time to get my work done, I had difficulty setting boundaries with colleagues. I would agree to help others because I could sense their urgency around getting something done. I would put their needs or projects ahead of mine and end up working later on what I needed to get done when it was quieter or there were less people around. As I understood what I needed to thrive in this type of work environment, I had to learn how to ask for what I needed. I have to say I’m pretty grateful to be working from my home now as it’s quite comforting to be able to set up your workspace to suit your needs.
When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?
What helped me recognize my deeper level of sensitivity was when I started exploring healing and coaching as a profession. I was practicing therapeutic bodywork and building up a private practice. I realized that I could pick up on a lot of my client’s feelings without even trying. What I sensed was quite accurate and I couldn’t quite understand it. I started reading more about being highly sensitive and empathic and realized that I could tune into other’s feelings. So many things in other parts of my life started to make sense as I saw my experiences and interactions through that lens.
I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?
Absolutely! The more I have understood my sensitivity, the more I have been able to embrace it. In my work, it allows me to tune into what my clients need with more precision. As they share their experiences and express conflicted feelings, my ability to tune into their feelings allows me to help them sort out what’s going on under the surface. They are able to gain clarity much faster and make clearer, more grounded decisions as a result.
I think highly sensitive people also have more direct access to their intuition. Trusting my intuition around life decisions that made no logical sense has allowed me to live my life more fully and meet and connect with people I never would have met if I only followed a linear path.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
In my work, I’ve had the privilege of hearing so many people’s stories. There are countless times when someone has shared something with me followed by “I don’t know why I told you that.” As someone who has practiced therapeutic work for years, my sensitivity allows me to help others feel at ease. It feels like such a gift to cultivate environments where people who are also sensitive feel safe enough to let go of something they have been holding onto for so many years.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
Being overly empathetic might look like identifying with someone else’s experience. If this is relatively balanced, it can lead to connection and understanding. Being highly sensitive can also contribute to empathy as being in tune with other people’s feelings supports understanding.
When these qualities are out of balance, it could lead to over-identifying or internalizing someone else’s experience which is no longer a healthy expression of empathy.
Being empathetic and highly sensitive are beautiful qualities. However, in my experience, they need to be balanced with attention to one’s nervous system and not getting caught up in another person’s experience so much that it leads to codependency.
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 moves quickly and can be overstimulating for everyone. Our brains were simply not built to process this much digital content all the time. Scrolling randomly can be quite draining so when you log in, have a time limit and purpose in mind. Use your intuition and your sensitivity to see who it feels good to connect with and how much you want to interact. Most importantly, stick to those boundaries. That way, you’re enjoying your time on social media and logging off before your energy gets zapped.
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?
Over the years, I’ve learned to trust my feelings. While I do check in to see if I’m being personally triggered, I tend to move through that check pretty quickly and know that if something feels off to me, it’s what is true for me. I don’t feel the need to convince someone else that what’s bothering me is valid and I don’t expect them to get on board. I think a huge part of owning your sensitivity is trusting what you’re picking up on and not needing others to validate what you’re feeling.
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?
This is such an interesting question. I recall being called ‘weak’ many years ago when I was trying to be kind and not hurt someone’s feelings. It certainly stung at the time. As I reflect upon that, I find that instead of having a strategy around overcoming a perception, I’ve simply accepted that others will perceive me through their lens and I’m not interested in spending my time or energy trying to change it.
In a world that is quite disconnected, where so many are looking out for only themselves, more ‘overly’ sensitive people is what will lead to a more caring, empathetic society in my opinion.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
I love this question! The biggest myth that I have heard is that highly sensitive people are ‘too’ emotional and have a hard time making smart decisions.
One of the amazing things about being human is the ability to feel deeply. I believe that our feelings give us nuanced information that we can combine with more logical information to make better choices. With facts alone, you might be limited in what you think is possible. Tapping into the wide range of feelings and intuition is what leads to visionary thinking.
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’s perceptions are due to their subjective experiences. I don’t know that people can be convinced to feel one way or another. And if you’re not built as someone who is highly sensitive, you simply don’t know what it feels like or know that it’s not a choice. I don’t feel compelled to take this on or try to change this point of view. The more you own your sensitivity and lead with that, people will simply see the power of your ability to connect and to make a difference. I find that claiming this as a superpower is the most direct way to ‘challenge’ this sentiment while not wasting time and energy on convincing people of anything.
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.
- Know what replenishes your energy — As someone who is highly sensitive, knowing what I uniquely need to replenish and protect my energy is key. Meditation, time in nature or a neighborhood walk to clear my energy are non-negotiables. Spending too much time in front of a screen or around the stimulation of chatter and other noise can be quite draining.
- Know what triggers you — We are all human and have our personal triggers. As someone who is sensitive, your triggers may overwhelm your nervous system. When you know what typically pushes your buttons, you will notice your patterns faster and be able to do the work to shift your experience. Over time, you’ll take things less personally as well.
- Understand what calms your nervous system — If you are easily affected by the stimulation around you, it can put you on high alert. For me, when I’m ‘on’ a lot, I feel on edge and hyperalert. I know what this feels like in my body so as soon as I notice it, I know I need to take a break as soon as possible so I can shift my energy. I might choose to get some fresh air, take a few deep, intentional breaths or get quiet. This gives my nervous system a moment to decompress. It might feel challenging at first but the quicker you notice your system is out of balance, the faster you can bring it back into balance.
- At the end of each day, ask yourself ‘Is this mine?” — Because you’re sensitive to other people’s feelings or even take on their feelings as an empath, it’s easy to confuse what’s yours and what is someone else’s. In this confusion, you might take on things that have nothing to do with you leading to hurt feelings and wasted energy. If you notice this happening, take some time to connect back to yourself. As you make it a habit to check in with what feelings belong to you and which don’t, you won’t take on other people’s struggles and you’ll feel more clear and grounded.
- Get comfortable setting boundaries — We hear about the importance of setting boundaries pretty often. For someone who is sensitive, this is 100% non-negotiable. If you love to connect deeply with those you care about, it’s easy to give away your time and energy to others at the expense of yourself. This quickly leads to burnout and resentment especially if you end up in a situation where your efforts are not acknowledged or appreciated. Working through the discomfort of saying ‘no’ and choosing to put yourself first are game changing for your energy and for your ability to truly connect to others while also taking good care of yourself.
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.
Personally, I would love to convey to people how important it is to acknowledge their feelings. I have found that so many people hold onto and suppress their feelings because they feel embarrassed, not justified or simply haven’t been taught how to express themselves. If we created a culture where people felt like they had permission and the skills to feel their feelings, we would be a much happier, more content society that could more easily express empathy and compassion towards each other.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
I’m so happy to share my experiences and journey in hopes that it will support others to feel empowered and own their highly sensitive nature.