Flip your emotions on their head and create a new perspective and resolutions that fit in with everyone. Think of the physical reaction you get when you’re excited. Now think of the physical response of being scared. Very similar, aren’t they? The difference is the label you are attaching to it. Can you flip it? Can you be excited instead of scared? This technique can be a super exercise for doing when you need to handle something out of your comfort zone.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Ando.
Chris Ando is a qualified Mindset Coach in the UK and the founder of CanDo Heart and Mind She works internationally online using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Broadband Consciousness Method. Chris speaks publicly about her own experience of hypersensitivity, including a recent talk for EntrepreneurFest 2021 on “Being Sensitive in a World Where That’s Considered a Put-Down.” She is someone who spent years trying to fix herself. Now she knows that being sensitive is a gift! She says, “No matter what people around us may say, we can use these gifts for a lot of good!” Chris helps women who find themselves second in their lives achieve their dreams and live fulfilling lives. Her website is https://candoheartandmind.co.uk/.
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 Heart and Mind based Mindset Coach, specializing in the sensitive woman who has got so caught up in every day that she forgot who she is and what her dreams were. She woke up one day and couldn’t figure out quite how she ended up where she is now, and would quite like to start moving towards a life she chooses, but isn’t sure how to do that.
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?
No, a Highly Sensitive Person is someone who feels everything MORE. All emotions and feelings are stronger and can be overwhelming when experienced at full force.
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?
Yes, Highly Sensitive People tend to feel more empathy, possibly because they feel everything so strongly themselves that they have an easier time understanding how it might feel for someone else. A Highly Sensitive Person is hurt by hurtful remarks made about other people. That doesn’t always mean offended; they are simply more likely to take a stand if they can. My clients find me because I’m able to empathise with them so greatly, which means we work well together. Their sensitivity is also a huge part of what I work with, helping them handle these feelings and put in protective practices to handle things better.
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?
A Highly Sensitive Person may indeed have greater difficulties with certain parts of society when they depict emotional or physical pain. This can be because their feelings are so intense, including when others are in pain, whether physically or emotionally. For example, I have had to stop watching the news, as they seem to take reporting to the furthest degree and show all the gory details, whether relevant or not. I found myself hurting too much because of the reports. So if I need to know what’s going on, I tend to go to a news site online, where I can choose how much to inflict upon myself.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
I sometimes have a hard time enforcing rules and regulations because it may affect others emotionally. I run a horse livery yard (boarding barn for the Americans), and everyone must follow the rules of the stables to keep everyone safe. When people don’t do that, it causes me immense stress to talk to them and remind them that they must. I still DO it, but it is so difficult, I’ve been known to avoid it in the past.
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’ve been described as being “too sensitive” most of my life. I’ve been bullied for it, taken advantage of and criticised for it for as long as I can remember. I’ve also berated myself for it because it seemed that that might be the reason I didn’t fit in.
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 love being Highly Sensitive now and consider it my superpower. I can see many points of view, understand how someone might feel in any situation, and empathise with other humans and animals. My sensitivity enables me to work with my clients, probe when needed, and create a safe and nurturing space where they can go as deep as they need. If the world were more sensitive, we wouldn’t have as much pain and suffering because there wouldn’t be as much anger and aggression.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
I have so many. I couldn’t do my work without sensitivity, enabling me to push when I need, and create safety. For example, I’ve been able to pick up on very subtle hints that my client has been abused. By sharing my own experiences, I’ve enabled them to feel comfortable and safe sharing their own story. I can gently prod them to continue sharing if they’re struggling to continue talking, using open questions based on the things they’ve told me but also the hints they’re giving through their body language and tonality.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
I think that being empathic and being sensitive are very closely interlinked, but not the only links. You can be sensitive in many other ways too. Sensitivity brings us art, music, an appreciation of the beauty in life. It brings us spirituality, reflectiveness, intuition. It can also lead to greater attention to detail, with a conscientiousness created by a need to help others. When you feel deeply, you can share that with others.
Social Media can often be casually callous. How does Social Media affect a Highly Sensitive Person? How can a Highly Sensitive Person utilise the benefits of social media without being pulled down by it?
As with anyone, too much social media can be harmful to the Highly Sensitive Person. Too much negativity or even too much reliance on dopamine from social media can be detrimental to anyone. When you feel more deeply, that harm can be more obvious. It’s essential to set yourself limits that work for you. For some, that might be time limitations. For others, it may be limiting which groups/people they interact with — or not reading comments, for example.
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?
Nothing is ever petty or minor just because others say it is. It’s entirely possible to stand up for something no matter what others say. And that can be helpful for the silent ones out there who feel the same way but don’t have the courage to speak up themselves. Not feeling so alone, because someone dares say “no”. But it’s also okay to recognise that this isn’t a battle worthwhile fighting today. That it’s too much right now, and bow out. There is no absolute in this. Whatever is suitable for you in that situation is right.
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 embrace my Highly Sensitive Person status. I recognise and talk about the fact that I’m sensitive and use that to be the best I can be. If others think that that’s negative, then they are not part of my Tribe and don’t need me to change their mind necessarily. They’re allowed to believe what they like; I don’t have to change anything to fit into their idea of who I should be. I love helping my clients connect to their sensitivity and stand proud in their whole “me” with everything this includes.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
Being a Highly Sensitive Person doesn’t mean you’re “just offended” or “a millennial”. There are Highly Sensitive People everywhere, and we can do just about anything. We recognise hurt easier, perhaps, but that’s not a bad thing and doesn’t need others to criticise. Embracing being sensitive can be the most powerful thing someone can do. We aren’t weak just because we feel deeply.
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?
I think an understanding of peoples’ differences starts in school. If schools were more geared up to the reality that not everyone is the same, it would make a huge difference to how everyone behaved around difference. And being sensitive is just a difference. As more of us talk about being sensitive and how amazing and strong we can be, more people will come across that, becoming more accepted. It may take time because social consciousness doesn’t change overnight, but the more we spread the joy of sensitivity (because joy is a feeling, too!), the more people will see it.
Okay, 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.
- Stopping overwhelm and learning to master bombardment of sensory overload. For myself, I’ve learned to wear headphones (in one ear) when I go food shopping. I listen to an audiobook, and it takes away some of the otherwise very overwhelming sensory impacts of being in a supermarket or mall, which otherwise is very hard work. For example, I’ve also helped clients find their limits with big events.
- Accept your viewpoint with compassion. One of the first lessons my clients start learning with me is to love themselves unconditionally. We learn that there is no such thing as “broken” and that even if you want to learn to do things differently, that doesn’t mean that who you are now is wrong.
- Accept your strengths and positivity to see the beauty of the world around you. I spend a lot of my time looking for the positives, no matter what. I love searching for the learnings, and both myself and my clients have as an exercise to regularly find the “pearls” (things to be grateful for) in life. Like a pearl diver, you are far more likely to find them if you look for them.
- Release your creativity and passion for music and art and love. Two of my clients have recently started painting — something they used to love doing but were discouraged by teachers at school because they couldn’t do it the “right” way for the lesson. They find their style and love spending time each week winding down with some painting.
- Flip your emotions on their head and create a new perspective and resolutions that fit in with everyone. Think of the physical reaction you get when you’re excited. Now think of the physical response of being scared. Very similar, aren’t they? The difference is the label you are attaching to it. Can you flip it? Can you be excited instead of scared? This technique can be a super exercise for doing when you need to handle something out of your comfort zone.
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.
You are amazing, exactly as you are. Sensitive or not, you don’t need fixing. You might at times need help finding the real you and the skills that will bring you to the ultimate you, but you are perfect, exactly as you are.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Chris Ando of “CanDo Heart and Mind”: 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.