Above all things, protect your energy first. There are very simple ways to do this, and even though they are “imaginary”, for me it makes all the difference in the world. For instance, if I know I’m going to be around a lot of people that day (like going to a conference or seminar), I do some meditation in the morning and imagine a protective bubble around me. This bubble goes around the top of my head and below my feet, and completely surrounds me and protects me and my energy. Some people might also imagine an imaginary cloak that covers them and preserves their energy, or you can do a “zip up” technique where you’re pretending to close a zipper that starts at the bottom of your feet and goes up and over your head. No matter what you choose, this exercise is meant to keep your energy in, and other outside energies out.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Torres. Mary is a mother, a makeup lover, and a marketing manager with over 15-years of experience in the beauty and cosmetic industry. Mary manages social media, content, creative teams, and marketing strategies. As a mom, Mary is always advocating for clean beauty products and skincare that is safe for her whole family to enjoy. She found herself at her dream job when she joined Phi Therapeutics, Inc as their Head of Marketing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
Thank you so much for having me. I’m a makeup and skincare lover at heart. I love all things marketing and “clean” beauty. I currently work for a biotech skincare company as their Head of Marketing and love my job. I work in a fast-paced start-up environment that requires me to think on my feet and make very strategic business decisions. To stay grounded, I spend my time with my family, write in my journal, meditate, and listen self-improvement audiobooks.
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?
At first, when I was a kid, I was taught that being sensitive meant that I was a crybaby or couldn’t take a joke. Now that I’m older, and I’ve leaned into my sensitivity over the years, I’ve learned it’s a lot more than that. For me, it’s literally the feeling of absorbing someone else’s energy. I know that sounds really strange, and even somewhat “woo-woo”, but it has definitely been something that affects my life daily. When I couldn’t figure out what it was, or how I could manage it, I would be exhausted and would sleep in the middle of the afternoon and into the morning. Thankfully, I now see it as a superpower, where I can be more compassionate and connect to people on a deeper level, because I understand their baseline energy.
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 would agree that a Highly Sensitive Person has a higher level of empathy towards others, but only if that Highly Sensitive Person recognizes and understands their empathic abilities. Some people would even use the term “empath” in correlation to a Highly Sensitive Person, which is a term that totally I identify with.
As far as hurtful remarks, yes it can feel offensive at first. For me, since I lean more into the feelings that are communicated to me from the other person, I often feel an overwhelming sense of compassion rather than offense. It’s almost as if I can feel the underlying pain they are going through, as opposed to hearing the words they are telling me. So, in that sense, I know that the hurtful remarks aren’t necessarily about me, but more about the person saying it.
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?
Yes, definitely. It’s pretty obvious that a Highly Sensitive Person would cry during a sad movie, but when it comes to violence being depicted in a movie (or even suspense), I literally have to run out of the room because my body and emotions can’t handle it.
I remember when the movie, The Ring, came out and my partner at the time really wanted to watch it. Regardless of how much I hated scary movies, I still wanted to make this person happy.
It wasn’t even 15 minutes into the movie, that I got up and left the theatre. I couldn’t handle all the suspense, noise, and negative energy. I just left. I also left that relationship, because who wants a partner that forces you to do things like that to make them happy.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
When I was younger, it was really easy for me to quit my job if I was inconvenienced in some way. Same thing with relationships- I would break up with someone really easily because I couldn’t handle all the spiraling energy, and I would have to end things pretty instantly.
The one thing I would say is that on the flip side of being an empathic or Highly Sensitive Person, there are “energetic vampires” or opportunistic people that somehow can sniff out a Highly Sensitive Person and just gravitate towards them because they sense weakness.
A lot of my past managers and partners were like this, and it caused a lot of problems in my life because I wanted to please them but also knew that I was betraying myself at the same time.
I would let things slide like; accepting a lower pay because I was too afraid of the repercussions of speaking up for myself and knowing my worth. I know better now.
When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?
It was at a very young age. I remember crying very easily if I saw someone eating alone, or when my Uncle would play songs by Michael Bolton (ha-ha). It was as if I could feel their pain, even if I didn’t know them or had never met them.
One very specific memory that I remember was being in 6th grade, and my Aunt had died suddenly at the young age of 29. It was such a devastating and shocking loss to the family. One night, our whole family (including extended family) was praying in a family member’s living room. We had been praying for hours, and I could literally begin to feel the pain and the deep loss that everyone in that room was feeling, and I suddenly started crying uncontrollably. I remember my mom noticed me and mouthed “stop it”, but the tears wouldn’t stop. That’s when I really knew something was up with me.
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 think the biggest advantage that I have, aside from being able to connect with people on a deeper level, is being able to call someone on their B.S. I know that sounds strange, but it’s really easy for me to now see through someone who might be trying to gaslight me or take advantage of my team in a work situation.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
Yes, totally. I don’t think I realized how truly empathic I really was until I gave birth to a Highly Sensitive Person almost 5 years ago. I would watch how my son couldn’t fall asleep until it was pitch black and quiet, or how he would need enormous amounts of physical touch and affection. He was so opposite from my daughter, whom I had 7 years before. My son would cry and cry until I did things like to embrace him or sing to him. I would literally sweat, panic, or have an uncontrollable physiological response to his cries. We had him checked and tested for things like autism and developmental delays and found that he was mostly fine.
It was then that I realized that he’s simply a Highly Sensitive Person and that my heightened sensitivity to him has helped me be a more compassionate and caring mother for his very specific needs. Even to this day, at almost 5 years old, he needs extra physical care and affection, and we do our best to meet his needs with compassion rather than frustration.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
I think if it’s to the point that you can’t function in your day to day life, or if you can’t do your daily tasks at home or at work, then that’s where the line is drawn. I would say that there is such a thing as being overly empathic, and the main thing is knowing how to manage and maintain your energy.
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 great question, seeing that my whole career in marketing relies on social media. As a Highly Sensitive Person, I’ve come to use the “create more than you consume” rule that was taught by Marie Forleo. Highly Sensitive people need a creative outlet sometimes, to let some of that excess energy out. The way that I use social media is mostly in that way. Sharing mostly quality and intentional content that I feel is helpful, that the world needs, and most of all, doesn’t add to the existing noise of social media.
I also try not to use the actual native apps of social media to post. For example, I schedule and plan out my posts for the week using a scheduling tool, so that I don’t have that heavy burden of having to do it daily within the app. I also have a team member who monitors the comments, so that I don’t get bogged down with all the different energies coming through on our social media pages.
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 think as an empath, it is important to maintain your energy because it’s very easy to be overcome with other people’s energy or opinions. That being said, I set clear boundaries and give myself permission to feel the way that I feel; regardless if it is minor or not. My response usually is, “I’m allowed to feel this way, and I can only be responsible for the way I feel- not how you feel about me.” I’m also usually very unapologetic about it because, at the end of the day, my own well-being comes first.
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 truly see my empathic gifts as a superpower. I have morning and evening rituals that sort of prepare me for the day and allow me to preserve and protect my energy. This includes meditation, journaling, and imagining a protective bubble that surrounds me and my energy.
Sometimes, if a situation gets too intense for me, I’ll excuse myself and go to the bathroom (or any quiet place really) and just focus on breathing in and out of overwhelming feelings. This usually takes just a couple of minutes and helps me process the energy to quickly get it out of my system.
I also take baths regularly at the end of the day, to help decompress and sort of “melt” the energy away from that day.
While it has taken me many years to mature as an empath, I know that this gift allows me to truly connect with others and transcend past their obstacles to see the other person for who they really are.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
I think the biggest myth about a Highly Sensitive Person is that they are crybabies or complainers. I’ve had former friends accuse me of complaining because I had to leave a noisy club full of cigarette smoke to get some fresh air. Certain situations can trigger an empathic person, and often times, people who don’t understand that can see it as a weakness.
I think the more dangerous “myth” about a Highly Sensitive Person is that they can turn it on or off. Usually, I hear things like, “you should just get over it” or “something’s wrong with you, stop it.” It’s really not that simple, and it makes the Highly Sensitive Person feel resentful and isolated.
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 appear that it just doesn’t work that way?
Sometimes it’s tough to change someone’s mind, especially if they were raised to be a certain way. It’s really hard to plead your case to this type of person because they literally can’t wrap their heads around it.
I think publishing an article like this is such a huge step. I mean, I’ve sat with myself for YEARS wondering what was wrong with me, not knowing that there are other people out there who are just like me. If 20 years ago, I read an article like this one, it would save me from years of self-doubt and insecurity. Awareness and education are key, I believe. It’s really exciting to see something like this coming to the light.
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.
- Above all things, protect your energy first. There are very simple ways to do this, and even though they are “imaginary”, for me it makes all the difference in the world. For instance, if I know I’m going to be around a lot of people that day (like going to a conference or seminar), I do some meditation in the morning and imagine a protective bubble around me. This bubble goes around the top of my head and below my feet, and completely surrounds me and protects me and my energy.
Some people might also imagine an imaginary cloak that covers them and preserves their energy, or you can do a “zip up” technique where you’re pretending to close a zipper that starts at the bottom of your feet and goes up and over your head.
No matter what you choose, this exercise is meant to keep your energy in, and other outside energies out.
- Embrace your sensitivity and you will begin to see it as a superpower. I think the natural reaction to being Highly Sensitive is to shy away from it, or to feel like it’s something you need to outgrow. The truth is, if you’re an empathetic person, your sensitivity to others will only grow more and more as you get older. I used to shy away from telling others that I was empathetic or Highly Sensitive, but I learned that the more I opened up about it, the more I realized that I was attracting other empaths out there just like me. It was even more refreshing to hear that some of my closest friends were also Highly Sensitive, and had been living their whole lives as empaths, but disguised it as being super cool or standoffish.
- Stay away from consuming forms of toxicity, as much as you can help it. The foods that I eat have changed a lot based on my Highly Sensitive realization. Yes, the foods that you eat can affect you greatly if you’re Highly Sensitive. I always wondered why certain foods would make be bloat, make me dizzy, or make me feel sick. So, I changed what I was eating to reduce the toxins I was consuming, and it has made all the difference in my energy levels and focus.
I am a beauty and cosmetics lover, so I was really excited to see that the industry was beginning to shift to more non-toxic and “clean” beauty products about 10 years ago. It was really important for me to use moisturizers, soaps, shampoos, and lotions that helped remove toxins from my system rather than add to it. I love that I work for a skincare company that fits the “clean” beauty standard and is also making a difference in the industry.
I am also very mindful of how I consume social media. I’m not afraid to block, mute, or unfriend toxic accounts that don’t add value to my day. I make it a point to post uplifting things, and also follow accounts that uplift me in a positive and inspiring way.
- Find ways that help you release your energy. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean exercising (although yes, it does help), it can mean something easily accessible like breathing in and out or taking a really nice long bath to decompress. Find what works for you.
When I’m super exhausted from a long day, I’ll have my husband watch the kids so I can take a nice long bath. For some reason, the heat of the water and the stillness of it all helps to release a lot of the tension and stagnant energy that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to shake off.
- Crying is okay.Let’s face it, we all feel better after a good and ugly cry. I grew up believing that crying was a sign of weakness and dreaded the nights when I would cry over something because I knew it meant that my eyes would be puffy the next day- which meant that everyone would know I was crying, and that felt like THE worst thing. As an empath, feeling your feelings is the best line of defense because it forces you to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Crying has been the best detox for me- it has released and processed old feelings and energies in my body. More importantly, it has allowed me to feel comfortable with vulnerability. After a good cry, I feel rejuvenated and have the energy to get back to my daily tasks and duties without carrying a huge weight on my shoulders.
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 the movement is happening right now, my team is launching a clean and gentle skincare brand that fights chronic skin diseases- because Highly Sensitive people aren’t just sensitive to their emotions, they are also sensitive with the foods they eat and the products they put on their bodies. I’m proud to be a part of a team that is combating the antibiotic crisis with technologies that won’t deplete our physical body’s strongest line of defense- the microbiome.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me and my team on social media @phylabiotics or visiting www.phylabiotics.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.