Mimosa by Giselle Marrinan
“Your beauty is in your sensitivity. Don’t let anyone take it from you”
One day whilst visiting my local garden centre with a friend, we noticed this very fragile looking plant and were drawn to it by its name ‘Sensitive Rigoloto’; a member of the mimosa genus. My friend gently touched the leaves and the plant drooped as if it were dead. As we stood back and gasped with horror, the florist who had been studying our antics, drew up beside us and started laughing and informed us that the plant would recover in less than 5 minutes. You see, these plants leaves curl into themselves when touched and the stems droop. After a few minutes the leaves recover fully. It is thought to be a form of defence against attack.
What does it mean for us to be sensitive in this fast-paced world and what are our defence mechanisms? We all cope with stress differently and have developed our own protection strategies. But is it a bad trait to be, what some people call, ‘too sensitive’? Having done some research into this subject many years ago, I stumbled on the work of psychologist, Dr Elaine Aaron, on the ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ (HSPs) and yes, there is a test you can do to check for this.
It was a relief for me to discover her work as I always thought of this trait in myself as being negative, but it turns out that it is important to have people like us around.
Here are a few reasons why we are an important asset to any team at work:
- Emotional awareness
- Great empathy
- Dedicated to fairness & Justice
- Need space and time to themselves
I would also add, highly intuitive to this list.
Non- HSPs in business, find this attribute unsettling as they mainly make decisions based on the facts and figures. Amazing, how many times HSPs judgement about people, tend to turn out right! An important skill when recruiting new people as they can look great on paper but turn out to be a costly mistake, once employed.
So important qualities to have! But there is a price to be paid because we can’t cope (yes, I am a self-confessed HSP) with too much noise or stimulation and need time out to retreat and regroup.
When I worked in the corporate world, it was fast paced, and I was constantly bombarded by noise, people and deadlines. I had no idea why I found this rewarding on one hand but totally exhausting and invariably, overwhelming on the other. When I look back now, it all seems so clear to me. It is also makes sense why I eventually ended up working for myself, which apparently most HSPs do eventually, albeit in the second part of their life.
You see this is what HSPs find difficult about the work environment. It is like trying to write with your left hand if you are right-handed. We don’t thrive on huge amounts of stress, long hours or over stimulating, high octane work environments-bright lights, surrounded by high extroverts, constant noise, travel, office politics & pressured dead- lines.
I was somewhat lucky, because, as I progressed in the company, I had more autonomy in my line of work and could choose my team. I could also work mainly from home. When I saw clients, it was mostly on a one to one basis. Turns out, this was my forte, as I built strong relations with my customers and the sales followed on naturally.
I think it is important as adults, to be able to spot sensitivity in kids surrounding us. Watch how they interface and respond to their environment and other adults and children. I heard of a schoolteacher who spotted that a new kid in his primary school was not coping well with their new environment. The other kids were curious about her and would surround her in the playground asking loads of questions. The teacher noticed that the kid was being overwhelmed by these experiences and started to give her daily down time, where she could go off to a quiet room and zone out. In time, the kid started to flourish and settle in much better. Maybe teachers need this facility too!
How wonderful life would have been for me, if I had had such an observant and progressive adult in my world. I was too young to know why I behaved the way I did. I loved to defend the underdog; I counselled members of my family, young & old; when other kids were too boisterous and loud, I would take myself off to a quiet place and hide with a good book; I loved reading, writing and playing soft music; if there was an argument breaking out, I would try to diffuse it; I didn’t like to rush my homework or give answers on the spot – I always needed time to process my thoughts. I also hated loud noises, so you can imagine what it was like growing up at the height of ‘the troubles’ in Belfast with the sound of bombs and gunfire being carried across the city at night and the constant whirring of helicopters overhead. To this day, I still can’t listen to fireworks or football crowds chanting.
So, like my little friend the Sensitive Rigolote, I now have my protection mechanisms in place. I love walking in nature, spending time in my garden and being near the sea. I have long periods away from the TV and radio and I choose what hours I work, the degree of stimulation and what company I surround myself with.
I hope this blog starts you thinking about your own sensitivity and instead of seeing it as a weakness, maybe a signpost as to your future work and maybe how you can curl up your leaves when you need the downtime. By protecting, nourishing and understanding ourselves, we can minimize the stress of everyday living.
You are not crazy, just beautifully, sensitive!
 (Campbell.S: ‘8 Advantages That Highly Sensitive People Bring to Business’ Entrepreneur Europe: April 2015)