As a highly sensitive person, perhaps the greatest bane and boon in life is maintaining boundaries.
On one hand, the empathy of HSPs is one of their greatest strengths, permitting them to connect with and understand people. HSPs can often break past people’s walls. Many are capable of drawing out those who might normally be ignored or marginalized in ways that others cannot not.
On the other hand, to be an HSP is to be constantly inundated with unwanted stimuli that it’s nearly impossible to shut out: coworkers, partners, strangers at Dunkin’ Donuts. Further, empathy often leads to compassion and can create considerable confusion for the HSP who may be hurt or offended by someone while simultaneously understanding the motivation or the misfortune that led the offender down such a path.
The stimulation can be endless and crippling, resulting in the draining of all of an HSP’s emotional resources. If an HSP reaches a breaking point they may resort to creating physical boundaries to stand in for emotional ones. When that happens, the only option is to shut oneself up in a dark room and avoid the world until recovery.
The Secret to Building Healthy Boundaries
Step #1: know yourself.
Step #2: embrace yourself.
These two steps don’t cure all ills, but they do give you the tools to create the space you need to survive and thrive. It is far too common for many HSPs to internalize the message that their sensitivity is some sort of defect or disability. They may feel that the best thing for them to do is to try to fix themselves, which involves permitting others to trample the boundaries that they need for health and wellbeing.
When HSPs know and embrace themselves, they can see when they need time away from the world and take it. They can turn their compassion and sensitivity inward to realize that those who don’t accept, respect or understand them — or worse who take advantage of them — don’t add to their lives and so seek to limit or eliminate the stimulus.
Knowing oneself can help an HSP understand when connecting with others will actually help them. Many HSPs feel both the good and the bad far more deeply. In light of this, an HSP who tunes their sensitivity in to their inner self can grow as a person by learning when and how to connect with others in meaningful ways. They can learn when it is safe to open up.
The importance of erecting proper boundaries for anyone is quite great, but for the HSP, it simply cannot be overstated. Although it would do no good for an HSP to completely isolate him- or herself from the world, the inner life of an HSP is an intricate and beautiful thing and so it is in their interest to create a gatekeeper to let in those things and people that add life, to guard against attacks and to usher out those things that have worn out their welcome.