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Three Stages of High Sensitivity

Hey there, Highly Sensitive Person!

I’ve been bubbling over for a while with ideas and stories about high sensitivity that are really going to help you not only manage your high sensitivity but turn it into a superpower. It truly is a gift, even though it comes with a unique set of challenges. 


What I’m going to share with you is going to be extremely helpful if you know you’re a highly sensitive person (aka an HSP), if you had some kind of nudge from the universe to find out more about high sensitivity, or if you love a highly sensitive person and want to learn about the trait.


If any of those sound like you, you’re in exactly the right place.


I’m a highly sensitive person too, and a certified life coach, so I know what it feels like to go through the three stages of living with high sensitivity - surviving with high sensitivity, managing highly sensitivity, and thriving with high sensitivity.


I’ve designed my life to completely support and enhance my high sensitivity, and I’m so grateful that I get to wake up pretty much every day feeling like I’m living my life on purpose with a lot of passion and intention.


Most days, I wake up naturally after about 8-9 hours of sleep, I set my own schedule with plenty of downtime, I wear super comfy clothes, I have a dedicated workspace with all my favorite supplies, and I’ve built a career and business around having deep conversations where I get to guide my clients and students with my empathy, insights, and deeper listening skills. My relationships are rich and connecting, my energy levels stay balanced and consistent, and I take really good care of my body and spirit.


There are always things I’m refining and improving because I love to learn and grow, but for the most part? I’ve built exactly the life I want.


Sounds pretty awesome right? I 100% believe you can build a life around your high sensitivity that you love - because I’ve done it!


But it wasn’t always like this for me.


In fact, there was a time in my life when I had all the worst symptoms of having a dysfunctional relationship with my high sensitivity. I was surviving.


I soaked up other people’s emotions and stress every day and then felt them in my body, sometimes for days or weeks after the conversation or interaction. I was a high achiever - always looking for the A or a “nice job!”- so I was constantly working and pushing myself way past my limits, burning out, feeling either resentful or numb, spending days recovering, and then restarting the cycle over and over again. I let my perfectionism and my inner critic take over every aspect of my life so I constantly felt like I wasn’t doing enough, that I wasn’t enough. And I literally didn’t know what boundaries were until I got into therapy. There was even a time when I was anxious about going outside for walks in my neighborhood because I was worried about people seeing me and judging me.


My life now is like night and day from that previous version of me, and I regularly send her so much compassion and love for doing the best she could at the time.


I heard about highly sensitive people fifteen years ago when a friend and I were talking about our experiences, and she said she’d started reading about the trait, that she was pretty sure she was one. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but it planted a seed that grew slowly for a few years until I was ready to own it about myself too.


My Phoenix moment happened ten years ago, after I’d spent half a year living abroad in Italy. Living in another country was a huge eye-opener for me, let alone the fact that it was Italy - come on! But besides just being in such a beautiful place, speaking a different language, it got me out of my routines and the rut I didn’t know I’d gotten myself stuck in. I got to see my life from a different perspective (which is one of the best parts of travel, in my opinion) and literally live in a more free, open, and creative way than I had back home for my entire life.


None of this is to say I had a bad life or a troubled upbringing. It isn’t anyone’s fault that I didn’t have healthy coping skills and didn’t know how to decide, let alone communicate, what I wanted. And It wasn’t my fault either. I thought at the time that I was super mature and healthy. I simply didn’t know that my brain worked differently, so I had developed the skills I could to get by, like people-pleasing, deferring to other people’s preferences, and observing from the sidelines until I felt absolutely certain I would be good at something before trying it. I thought that’s how I was supposed to live.


Things changed when I started doing the deep healing that I needed in therapy and then taking that to the next level with coaching and studying highly sensitive people. 


Coming back after my wake up call in Italy meant I had work to do. I experienced a deep depression and a lot of anxiety for those first six months after I got home. I found a counselor, and Ann’s office was my safe container off and on for about four years. 


I remember specifically having a conversation with her where I was complaining about someone else overreacting and how I wished they wouldn’t get so upset because it was stressing ME out, and she said, “You don’t have to feel other people’s emotions for them.” I was literally stunned into silence. I gaped at her, mouth open, and I said, “I don’t even know what that means. How do you not feel other people’s emotions??” Then we had our first conversation about boundaries.


That was one of many turning points that helped me rebuild my life from the ground up and one of the conversations that stuck with me. 


A lot of my relationships changed or ended during that time, and I chose new relationships based on the way I was learning to be - more mutual, more vulnerable, less codependent. I took full responsibility for myself and my own wellbeing instead of getting caught up in other people’s lives, trying to “fix” their stuff so I didn’t have to deal with mine. Spoiler alert, that never worked!


I moved into phase two - managing my high sensitivity. I learned how to balance my trait by planning for recovery time on a regular basis, not ignoring signals until I’d gotten burnt out and had to stop. I took more care buying comfortable clothes and healthy skincare products because it makes such a big difference to feel good, even in small ways. I asked my partner and friends for help and support because I realized I couldn’t do it all alone.


I also started looking for a new career path and opened my first business as a professional organizer and certified KonMari consultant. I was a declutter expert because I wanted to help people feel calm and relaxed in their spaces without all the stuff weighing them down - physically and mentally! I knew how important that was for me as a highly sensitive person, and doing that work was the first step in fully owning my own time and doing work that lights me up, not just brings in a paycheck.


During that time, I studied highly sensitive people for really real this time. I read Dr Elain Aaron’s books, starting with The Highly Sensitive Person, which is basically the go-to manual for HSPs. I listened to podcasts and read articles about self-development from other highly sensitive people. And after I’d graduated from therapy, my first coach specialized in HSPs too.


Throughout the years, I started seeing the trait in others - getting overstimulated by crowds or loud noises or too much busy work, stuff other people thought was totally fine and normal. Caring about things like hobbies or fandoms and going super deep with them. Soaking up other people’s emotions and drama like a sponge and carrying them around. 


When I shared about highly sensitive people with them, a lightbulb would go off. Something would click into place and they’d say, “oh my gosh, that’s me!” Or “I thought it was this other thing, but that actually makes way more sense.”


I felt so passionate about self-development and helping others in these new, healthier ways that I started exploring life coaching. It took years to finally build up the courage to go for it, but two years ago, I made the leap to join a certification program and it has literally changed my life and my clients’ lives too.


Now I’m in stage three - thriving with high sensitivity. I walked away from a successful organizing business because I was so passionate about helping highly sensitive people go from spinning their wheels like I had to balancing their high sensitivity - and even thriving with it!


It all came full circle when I was coaching an HSP who was picking up his client’s emotions. He had a rule that “You show you care by feeling other people’s feelings with them.” I asked him, “How is that rule limiting you, that you have to feel other people’s emotions to show you care?” and he realized that it actually makes his job more difficult and less effective to take on all that extra stuff and try to be fully present for the work. It actually serves his clients more for him to protect his own energy and to show up fully as himself so he can hold space for them. If you’re weighed down by other people’s emotions, you don’t have any energy left to actually support them to grow for themselves. I got to use the same wisdom I’d learned almost a decade ago to help another HSP change their life too.


There’s nothing else I would rather do than help my clients level up with super focused attention and energy - our highly sensitive superpowers - and I do monthly classes and webinars to help share new skills and techniques that every highly sensitive person can benefit from. Now you have this free resource too.


Quite the journey from barely surviving with high sensitivity to managing it to thriving with it - right?


That’s why I want to help you thrive with it too. I thought I was just a nerdy weirdo who cried at books and tv shows and loved getting lost in a good fantasy novel. I thought I was pretty much alone until I became a magnet for other HSPs and realized that there’s not only a place for all of us, but the world needs more highly sensitive people in it. We need more people like you and me who can empathize and understand others easily, who can pull ideas together in new ways, and who care deeply about the world and making this a better place than we found it. The world needs highly sensitive people to share our voices and to thrive, now more than ever. You’re part of the club, and you’re definitely not alone.


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