I Know I’m an HSP Because… I’d Rather Be Barefoot

I’ve always hated restrictive clothing – clothes that cling, clothes that bunch, clothes that bind, lady shirts with sleeves set so you can’t raise your arms above 30 degrees from your side, tight cuffs, and shoes. Especially shoes. I lose the shoes the minute I walk in my front door, and shed additional uncomfortable clothing all the way to the bedroom.

Luckily, the Asian/hippie-inspired 70s, and the mysterious popularity of fragile water-based floor finishes begat a new convention of leaving shoes at the door in many American households, so my barefootedness isn’t weird anymore.

A middle-aged woman in a business suit and bare feet sits and reads a book at the beach

I Know I’m an HSP Because… I Can’t Ignore a Thirsty Plant

No matter what else is going on, if I see a wilted houseplant, I have to water it immediately. And those poor plants in front of grocery stores, tended – if you can call it that – by people who have no concept that they are alive. Don’t even get me started!

I joke about how I can’t stand to hear the screams, but it’s kind of true.

Photo of houseplant dropping leaves with thought bubbles saying "HELP!," "Please?," "I don't mean to be a bother but I'm dying here," and "Literally."

This is not my photo. No plants were stressed for this post.


Here’s a Ted Talk on sensitivity you will want to bookmark. Elena Herdieckerhoff’s description of sensitivity as being “in permanent osmosis with everything around you” is so right! Not only is she informative and entertaining (with a charming accent), but she embodies the subtle strength of HSPs. I’ve been feeling it for awhile, but I haven’t found the right word to express the power that lies in accepting ourselves even as we openly acknowledge our lack of armor. Maybe the word I’m looking for is “courage.”

Elena’s talk also reminds us that many of the negative reactions directed towards HSPs, whether they be men or women, are firmly rooted in sexism. The notion that emotion and reaction are feminine, and therefore an expression of weakness, is wrong on all counts. Emotionality and reactivity are not weaknesses, there is nothing inherently female about them, and last but not least, there is nothing weak or inferior about women!

But it’s hard to find words that express vulnerability AND strength. Impossible in fact. Check a thesaurus. All of the synonyms for vulnerability reference weakness and/or helplessness. And the lack of a conception of vulnerable strength is as bad for strength as it is for vulnerability. The synonyms for strength reference force, violence and domination. Before the world becomes a better place for HSPs, I think we will have to coin some new terms.

A dewy spiderweb against a background of evergreen boughs

HSP Videos

Here are a few of my favorite HSP-related videos for your viewing enjoyment, or to share with people in your life who may not be ready for the whole movie yet.

Signs You Might be a Highly Sensitive Person

Signs You Might Be Highly Sensitive video- Ane Axford
Ane Axford & friends act out traits of HSPs. This list has some things I hadn’t heard elsewhere – it was the first place I heard that HSPs are often perceived as flirting when they’re not, which explained a lot. I think my favorite is #7. Or maybe it’s #9. Or is it #8?

I most enjoy this video for the list (from 1:50 to 6:00), which is bookended by text that won’t be news to anyone who already identifies as HSP. However, the opening and closing verbiage and humor of this video makes it a good one to gently introduce someone to the sensitive trait. Continue reading