Happy HSP couple in the ocean who have discovered how to deal with a highly sensitive person.

Ever wonder how to deal with a highly sensitive person? A great majority of suggestions out there work – if you’re not highly sensitive too.

If you’re highly sensitive, knowing how to deal with another highly sensitive person can be …. challenging.

It can be confusing when it comes to understanding what you’re bringing to the interaction and what they are.

Let’s unpack this.

As a Highly Sensitive Person, you are very aware of what is going on around you. You feel your own and others’ emotions deeply. Both of you have a knack for being able to identify subtleties and have been referred to as deep thinkers. You are used to being called “intense”.  And maybe even ‘too sensitive’. 

You know that your shared high sensitivity trait is based in biology,  hard wired from birth. 

Your experience of how to deal with a Highly Sensitive Person when you’re highly sensitive too will include ease and challenge. Be it in the workplace or a social gathering.  Or with your child or parent. Or even in your relationship with your partner,

Taking time to reflect on how to deal with a highly sensitive person when you’re highly sensitive too makes sense.

The million dollar question is, does having this trait bode well for 2 HSPs in a relationship with each other? 

In a dating or marital relationship, talking with your partner about how to deal with a highly sensitive person when you are one too is essential. Especially if your partner is not familiar with the trait despite having the trait.  

Both of you appreciate intimate conversations, value intimacy, and detest small talk – so this is right up your alley.  

An HSP couple discussing their relationship

Here are 5 ways dealing with a highly sensitive person when you’re highly sensitive too may be tricky. 

  1. You are both prone to stress and overwhelm  due to your high levels of awareness of nuance and deep processing of information. One overwhelmed person in a relationship can be taxing to both parties.  Have a general plan for how to handle both of you feeling overwhelmed at the same time.
  2. You two are aware of subtleties that other people completely miss. Examples include tone of voice and facial expressions. Add to this the naturally high level of empathy you both have. The result? Emotional exhaustion. Feeling your own AND the other person’s emotions so intensely is very tiring! Just recognize  and remind  yourselves of this tendency. 
  3. Deep processing of information is the hallmark of being an HSP. This means you both do a lot of reflecting on your experiences. It also means both of you are prone to overthinking. Negative overthinking in particular. You may both obsess over events and spiral into worry thoughts. Give each other space to process thoughts and feelings and permission to provide feedback if welcomed. 
  4. Conflict avoidance is common among HSPs. Why? One reason is you feel your own  and the other HSP’s emotions. As a result, you may end up doing or saying things to keep the other person happy –  because conflict hurts and you both prefer to avoid it. However, swallowing your true feelings and thoughts will backfire. Your partner will likely sense it anyway, and a worse conflict could then ensue. 
  5. In dating or marital relationships, knowing each other’s love language is a good idea. For HSPs, it is especially important so that each of you feels understood and validated by the other, especially if you two have different love languages.  

Talking directly about potential areas of conflict with one another means your relationship is less likely to be derailed by any of them. Even if  neither of you is  a fan of confronting potential conflict. 

Here are 5 ways dealing with a Highly Sensitive Person when you are highly sensitive too might just be natural. 

  1. Intense emotions, including love, passion, and integrity go hand in hand with being highly sensitive. You will never have to worry about his loyalty because his love runs deep.
  2. You two share common experiences and approaches to life and to problem solving as Highly Sensitive People.  At the end of the day, humans tend to seek a long term partner who thinks and even acts like them.  Having a partner with similar underlying personality can translate to greater relationship satisfaction. 
  3. HSPs are used to being thought of as quirky, and maybe even weird. Being in a relationship with someone who totally gets you is one of the most refreshing gifts. You may feel a levity and sense of connection to yourself that is unprecedented as a result of the validation your partner provides. 
  4. Strong couples share many similarities and nuanced differences. Even as HSPs, there are differences. One of you may be extraverted (as are 30 percent of HSPs) and the other introverted.  Or you may be a high sensation seeker HSP (30 percent of HSPs are), and he is not.  While you two may have slight differences, your overall wiring is similar and you naturally ‘get’ each other. 
  5. Both of you benefit from downtime and self care activities after socializing. You know this about each other and are thus less likely to take the other’s need for ‘me time’ personally.  Both of you recognize the other’s need to regroup and recalibrate because you have the same need. And your partner taking time to unwind on their own makes it easy for you to do so too, sans guilt or justification. 
HSP couple spelling LOVE with their fingers

How to deal with a highly sensitive person when you are highly sensitive too is often easier once you have an understanding of how you are similar and what the differences are.

You more often than not  intuitively ‘get’ each other, and you know when you don’t. At the same time, when in doubt, ask your partner. 

For  HSPs, authenticity and consistency are two predictors of long term satisfaction in a relationship. You share this understanding, which protects again feelings of rejection or doubt.  

You two have a history of  experiencing the world differently than non-HSPs.  Now you can share the exquisite gift of High Sensitivity. 

You both value understanding and appreciating your partner’s traits,  the things that get in the way,  and what you need to thrive. 

The result? 

An extraordinary,  passionate,  satisfying relationship. With humor, gratitude, and awe.

I am a clinical psychologist specializing in helping Highly Sensitive People flourish. If you would like to learn more about me, please visit me here.

In a perfect world, poor body image would not exist. An article about subtle signs you have poor body image would be silly. Or at least of little interest.

The world we live in is not perfect. (Newsflash, right?)

Historically, there have always been people (mostly women) dissatisfied with their body.  And, cultural definitions of the ‘perfect’ body  change every decade or so, keeping us on alert for the next body ideal du jour. The value of beauty ideals depends in part on the high costs of achieving them.

For the last 30 or so years,  poor body image has become so common that it has been dubbed  normative discontent

And by the way, there is waaaaaaay more to  poor body image than “I hate my body”.

Subtle signs you have poor body image involve more nuance than the outright declaration of body hatred.

There are sociological, racial, historical , cultural, ethnic, and political factors that contribute to body image. The origin of poor body image is complex.

What is body image?

Body image refers to the relationship you have with your body. 

If you have a body, you have a body image. 

Body image has more to do with cultural, political, racial, peer, social, and family values than it does about your actual size, weight, or shape.

Messages from family, friends, social media, advertisements, coaches, and lots of other sources contribute to the relationship you have with your body.

It doesn’t take long to internalize a negative image of your body. Especially if you are a frequent social media user.

As is true of relationships of any kind, body image can be complicated.

Your relationship with your body includes thoughts, feelings, sensations, perception of size and shape, and behaviors.

Dissatisfaction with your body can range from mild to severe. 

Some signs of poor body image are obvious, such as avoiding the beach due to shame of body size.  

Other behavior due to poor body image can be more subtle, such as frequent, casual glances at yourself in the mirror for reassurance that your body is ‘ok’.  

Subtle signs of poor body image can be hard to identify, maybe even for you with your own body. 

One of the reasons subtle signs can be hard to recognize is because poor body image IS considered ‘normal’, as if it is just how it is, of no concern. (The ‘normative discontent’ we talked about in the beginning of the article.)

Actually, subtle signs of poor body image are important to identify so that you can work on improving your relationship with your body. 

After all, just because something is common does not mean it is ok. Nor does it mean that you have to comply with the normative discontent. 

Body image and self esteem go hand in hand, so having subpar body image automatically means low self esteem.

(Children as young as three have poor body image. Scary.)

Here are five of the most common subtle signs you have poor body image. 

  1. Self-critical thoughts about your body, even if you keep them to yourself. Just because you don’t say them aloud does not mean they are benign. The self criticism interferes with your ability to feel confident and worthy.  Or to have any genuine fun.

    For example,  imagine you’re at the beach with friends or family. You are wearing a new bathing suit, and the sun is shining.  All you can think of is the disgust you feel toward your body.

    You continue to think about your body negatively and say mean and hurtful things to yourself that you would probably never say to a friend or loved one. (Or maybe not even to a stranger or to someone you dislike!)

    When it is time for lunch, you say you are not hungry. (But you are.) When everyone else gets ice cream, you again decline. Or maybe you get a low calorie alternative. All because you think you are ‘too fat’ and deep down feel unworthy of partaking in the fun. 

    If your children are with you at the beach, they are likely aware of your stated or unstated body image related self criticism.  Children pick up on messages and internalize negative body image for themselves.  

    Even looking at yourself in the mirror and frowning is a subtle sign of poor body image and something children pick up on.
  1. Ongoing comparison of your weight and shape to other people’s. This may be something you do in your head, or that you say out loud.

    Let’s continue with the beach example. You are wearing that new bathing suit, and the sun is shining. Your main focus, though, is everyone else’s body, and comparing theirs to yours.  You miss out on the fun your kids are having building sandcastles. 

    Or how about another example.

    You walk into a room (at work, at your kids’ school, at the bank – anywhere really). You immediately scan the room to see if anyone’s body is bigger than yours. Or where you fit on the body size continuum among people in the room. The comparison is so automatic that you may not even realize you are doing it.

    More often than not, social comparison worsens, rather than improves, body image.
  1. Jealousy due to the lower weight or ‘more attractive’ shape of a family member, friend, celebrity or even a stranger. Maybe you automatically dislike someone, even if you do not know anything about her, because her body more closely meets the cultural ideal. The resulting envy/jealousy of her body size may be a subtle sign of your poor body image.

    If you notice wishing you could look like that person, be curious about why your body is automatically deemed inferior.
  1. Cancellation of social plans is another subtle sign of poor body image. A common example begins with getting ready to go out with college friends. Someone at the last minute decides not to go because ‘nothing looks good’ on her.

    Because she can’t find something she feels comfortable wearing, she would rather stay home. She becomes self-critical, caught in a thought loop of how ugly she is. Then feels irritable, jealous, and definitely not in the mood to go out. So she misses out on fun with friends because she is dissatisfied with her body. Those feelings spill over into other areas of her life.
  1. Perpetuating body shame, racism, sizism, and weight discrimination are often indicators of poor body image. None of the “isms” is benign.  Participating in these behaviors affect us all, regardless of our weight or size.

    Fat stigma has been referred to as the last acceptable form of prejudice.

    When you laugh at jokes about weight or you snicker at people in larger bodies, you are perpetuating weight stigma. 

    And, doing so may indicate you have poor body image yourself. 

    I offer this explanation with compassion. After all, we live in Diet Culture, where normative discontent is…..the norm.

    Let’s say you feel judgey about the character of larger bodied people. (Despite the fact that not all people in a particular body size are the same. Just as people of a certain descent or height are not the same.)  

    You create an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dynamic.

    Maybe the belief is something like you will never “let yourself go” like ‘those people’. As if body weight  is under complete voluntary control. (It isn’t). Or that we are all obligated to be in a certain weight range. (We aren’t) Or that health and size are causally linked (nope).

    But what may perpetuate the stigma and discrimination is fear of your own body becoming ‘fat’.

    And living in fear of becoming ‘fat’ suggests a conditional relationship with your own body. 

    That just one wrong move and bang! You will ‘get fat’ and then really be dissatisfied with your body.

    One of the many reasons recognizing even subtle signs of a poor body image is important is that body dissatisfaction can lead to restrictive eating, over-exercising, purging, and other eating disorder behaviors.

    Plus, feeling bad about the one and only body you will ever have detracts from quality of life. 

    So what to do?

    Moving somewhere off the grid isn’t realistic for most of us.  Nor is permanently unplugging our electronic devices or eliminating all social contact. 

    1. First, recognize that body ideals are always changing. Standards changing as often as they do suggests that the standards are really just temporary. 

    Someone will always be more beautiful, regardless of the amount of dieting, self starvation, exercising, applying makeup, or expensive plastic surgery

    2. Remain empowered. YOU have control over the social media you consume. Curate carefully. Appearance oriented social media platforms such as Instagram cause more body dissatisfaction than social media that contains more informational content. Limit your consumption of social media that makes you feel bad about your body.

    3. Beware of spending time scrolling on accounts of people who may trigger your body dissatisfaction thoughts or behaviors. Instead, check out other types of accounts. Or, even better, take a break from Instagram and/or other social media platforms.  

    Your body is not a billboard. It does not represent success/failure, goodness/badness, morality/immorality. 

    Your body IS  where you live, and at its foundation are roots from your family tree and the accumulation of  lived experiences. Everyone has a different combination of a family tree and lived experiences. So of course there will be body diversity! And thank goodness for that.

    If you notice subtle signs of poor body image, please have self compassion.

    You are not alone. There are definite ways to improve body image. For many, feeling neutral about their body is ultimately the goal. And that is a wonderful place to start.

I am a clinical psychologist specializing in body image, eating disorders, and Highly Sensitive People. I am dedicated to helping people live comfortably and happily in the body they have. Click here to contact me.