Your sensitivity can be your greatest strength but you have to honour it. Trying to do things a way that doesn’t feel good in your body will inevitably lead to burn out. Sensitivity can be your greatest gift which I will go into, but first you have to honour your needs. Listen to all parts of your being — body, mind and soul, and give it what it needs. Rest and look after yourself in your way, and the way that makes you feel good, not according to someone else’s way of doing things. This might mean doing more gentle exercise, or spending more time in nature — whatever it is, listen to yourself.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Jackson, a proud highly sensitive, introverted, empath.
Tara once saw these traits as negative and did everything she could to numb and escape them, through highly destructive patterns and addictions. Having turned that around she learned that these are actually her greatest strengths, and today she is on a mission to support empaths and other sensitive souls claim the gifts in their sensitivity and use them in their lives and businesses, to help others and this planet.
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 am a business intuitive and mentor, Colour Mirrors alchemist, and the founder of Empathpreneurs®, a business service for empath entrepreneurs supporting them to align and ground their businesses with the chakras.
Practically this means I support empaths and highly sensitive people with the elements of running an online business from systems and processes to PR and marketing, done in a way to honour their sensitivity, as well as releasing blocks to business impact and success through ancestral and past life healing, and colour therapy.
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?
About 20% of the population is highly sensitive and it is biological i.e. something you are born with. Those that are highly sensitive process information differently from others. They pick up on cues and subtleties (coming from all over the place) that others don’t, which can feel overwhelming and stressful. This is why highly sensitive people often get labeled as weaker or people think they get easily hurt or offended. Highly sensitive people are incredibly attuned to what is going on around them, even if it can feel like too much at times, which makes them pick up on situations more acutely than others.
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?
A highly sensitive person usually has a higher degree of empathy towards others as they pick up on other people’s emotions and expressions, tone of voice, body language etc. As a result of this a highly sensitive person may feel emotionally invested if someone else is offended as they can relate to the experience vividly.
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 absolutely, as you are able to really pick up on the emotions that the person/animal is experiencing, feeling them deeply. I find it incredibly hard to watch news which depicts war torn countries, suffering people, poverty or illness. It hurts so much and I can feel the pain being experienced. Also if there is a lot of noise or stimulation going on, this feels overwhelming as it’s like a sensory overload.
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 first really noticed it when I was working full time in central London. I seemed to find the day-today commuting and office experience much harder than my colleagues. I am also an empath which added to the situation, but I would get easily offended about things. I would pick up on the energy in the office and it often affected my own mood, I got overwhelmed if there was too much going on and I felt like it was all too much for me, and the only way to get through was with large amounts of alcohol during the week, then sleeping all weekend.
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, being highly sensitive means you pick up on what is going on around you acutely as you are highly perceptive and can therefore empathise with others more, or provide wisdom beyond your years.
Being able to receive information at this detailed level often means you can focus in on an area is a lot of detail. For example you may be really good at analytical work, or even drawing things with lots of detail.
Highly sensitive people need to honour their needs more and take time out and rest or just be away from stimulus, I find that this encourages a more gentle approach in life, which is something this planet (particularly the western working world) needs more of.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
My high sensitivity is one of my greatest assets (on an ongoing basis) in my business and life today. As a coach and mentor I am able to tune into my client’s needs more acutely to support them as they need. I am able to pick up on what’s needed so that I can create it. By honouring my body’s needs I am creating a way of working for myself (and those I come into contact with) that is gentler, kinder and more in tune with the seasons and cycles of the planet.
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 can mean that you are empathetic, as you relate to others’ experiences. Being highly sensitive also means you pick up on all the cues that affect your senses so you might feel overwhelmed by it all, and less likely to feel empathetic.
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 can affect highly sensitive people, yes in terms of people’s offhand comments and hurtful remarks, but also in terms of too much usage (as it does all humans, but highly sensitive people even more so). I would limit use and really curate the spaces you are in. Only join spaces and follow people who inspire and uplift you. Perhaps have private profiles, or if you can, higher someone to deal with all the comments, messages etc, so that this part doesn’t bring you down or overwhelm you. I personally use a scheduler and go on social media to engage and interact when I feel like it, so that my energy doesn’t get pulled down.
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?
These days I’ve learned that not everyone is going to see things my way and fortunately I have a large number of highly sensitive friends that I can confide in, if I need to vent or share something that has affected me. But, previously I used to bottle it up and think that something was wrong with me. I would love to say to that younger version of myself that it’s okay to feel that way, do what you can to support yourself through it and know that you are here for a reason.
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?
Honestly, I don’t these days. I am proud to be highly sensitive and I don’t see it as overly sensitive or something that I want others to see differently about me. I am happy being who I am, it is a gift and one that serves me and supports the people I work with powerfully.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
That highly sensitive people are weak. Highly sensitive people are actually incredibly strong and intuitive, and able to take on a lot as they pick up on so much. Just because they may not fit the masculine paradigm of strength, it doesn’t mean they are weak.
Another is that there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t able to do as much as others. I do feel the world is waking up to this as there’s a health crisis from pushing too hard and overdoing it. Actually there’s so much to be gained from the inward, quiet times — the times of rest, and when you do take action it is much more aligned and effective.
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?
High sensitivity is something that people are born with, it isn’t about being able to turn it off or on. It’s the way the individual perceives the world. I think more information needs to be shared about what it means to be born highly sensitive. I think highly sensitive people need to stop apologizing for themselves and trying to fit into a way of working/living/being that doesn’t fit them. Start being who you are and claiming it, and the world will catch up.
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.
- Your sensitivity can be your greatest strength but you have to honour it. Trying to do things a way that doesn’t feel good in your body will inevitably lead to burn out. Sensitivity can be your greatest gift which I will go into, but first you have to honour your needs. Listen to all parts of your being — body, mind and soul, and give it what it needs. Rest and look after yourself in your way, and the way that makes you feel good, not according to someone else’s way of doing things. This might mean doing more gentle exercise, or spending more time in nature — whatever it is, listen to yourself.
- Trust yourself and what you are feeling. You are highly perceptive in many ways and just because others don’t see, feel and experience the world in the same way as you, doesn’t mean you are wrong to feel the way you do.
- Reach out and find a community of other highly sensitive people. Knowing you are not alone in how you perceive the world is the biggest support.
- Sensitivity is a gateway to creativity and intuition. Feeling and being in tune with things on a more acute level can be harnessed as an incredible gift to help others. As you look after your needs first and foremost you’ll be able to start to see your sensitivity as a gift and use it to support others and yourself.
- Sensitivity is a gift that can help create a kinder, more compassionate world. As you can feel things so much you are able to pick up on what’s needed to help more people. The world needs you to help it come back into balance after we have pushed on for too long.
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’d love the world to honour sensitivity more, and not see it as a weakness, especially in business. Even if you aren’t highly sensitive it fosters a more inclusive, gentle approach to working which is good for us all and this planet.
How can our readers follow you online?
The best place to connect with me is my website www.empathpreneurs.org, here you can also find a free ebook I put together with stories and interviews from 31 sensitive entrepreneurs, sharing why sensitivity is in fact their greatest strength.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Tara Jackson: ‘How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.