Often, highly sensitive people struggle with consistent self-care. It can feel like an uphill battle to stay on track with the basics of taking care of yourself. We hear from clients that they are frequently overwhelmed but don't know what they should do to reduce overwhelm.
So why do highly sensitive people find it difficult to do what we know is good for us? What are some specific challenges that make it difficult for HSPs to take care of themselves?
In this blog post, we will look at five common challenges/blocks that get in the way of HSPs being able to practice effective self-care consistently:
1. A core belief that you don't deserve love and care
Highly sensitive people struggle with consistent self-care because they hold core beliefs such as “I'm not good enough” or “I don't deserve to be taken care of.” These internal messages are likely to stem from messages that you received in childhood, such as “don't be so sensitive,” “you're such a crybaby,” or “you're overreacting.”
These messages led to core beliefs that our wants and needs are “too much” and that we need to suppress them.
The foundation of self-care is love and care for oneself. When a highly sensitive person struggles with believing that they deserve to be loved or cared for, it can make the process of taking time out just for themselves challenging.
Embarking on a journey of self-exploration and self-acceptance is the first step in healing old wounds and building a solid foundation for self-care. When you accept yourself for who you are, you can begin to build compassion towards yourself. Over time, you can start to change your core belief to one that recognizes that you deserve love and care.
2. You're unwilling to let go of the past
One of the reasons highly sensitive people struggle with consistent self-care is because they're unwilling to let go of their past. HSP's may feel that by letting go and moving on, they betray themselves by forgetting about what happened in the past.
This belief can happen at a very subconscious level. You may feel that by letting go, moving on, and creating a better life, you acknowledge that what happened in the past wasn't that bad or that it didn't count. This belief leads you to hold on to grudges, hurt, anger, and resentment. You're afraid that by letting go, you lessen the impact of what happened to you.
When you hold on to the past, you treat yourself the same as you were treated in the past. You continue to punish yourself for what happened to you internally.
You can change this pattern by learning self-compassion and self-acceptance and changing core beliefs and internal self-talk.
3. You're numbing your feelings
Numbing is probably the most common form of self-sabotage for highly sensitive people. You numb to avoid or minimize feelings that are too difficult, that you're afraid to feel.
It's easier to scroll through social media endlessly, play video games, take substances, or escape into music rather than take time to face those uncomfortable thoughts/feelings.
But here's something you might not realize: By shutting, ignoring, and numbing the difficult and uncomfortable feelings, you're also numbing the good feelings. You're blocking the full range of joy and contentment that you could be feeling as well.
The way to begin caring for yourself in this area is to engage in regular check-ins. Take daily time to ask yourself: How am I feeling? What do I need? Over time, you will develop a sense of self-awareness that will allow you to recognize your needs.
4. You have poor boundaries
As a highly sensitive person, you want to be there for other people and do things for other people. You don't want to disappoint people or feel rejected. And so you tend to always show up for people, even if it's not good for you. When you are constantly giving to others, you don't leave room for yourself.
If the mere thought of saying “no” to a relative, boss, or friend is anxiety-provoking for you, it's a sign that you aren't effective at setting boundaries. And therefore, you're not good at self-care.
To grow as a person, you're going to have to work on your fear of disappointing others, fear of confrontation, and fear of standing up for yourself.
5. You think self-care is selfish
As a highly sensitive person, you want to do good in the world and help others. You likely have an internal belief that it's not okay to take time for yourself because that takes time away from caring for others.
But here's a hard truth: Not taking time for yourself is selfish.
Not taking time for yourself leads to irritability, overwhelm, and tiredness. And whether you mean to or not, if you don't take time for yourself, you will eventually push those thoughts/feelings onto others. You will consistently show up for others as the lesser, more stressed-out version of yourself.
Your internal belief system makes you think that taking care of yourself is selfish. But think about what it's like to spend time with other people who don't take care of themselves. Do they make you feel guilty for how stressed out and overwhelmed they feel? Do they blame or resent others for their constant need to “be there” for them?
Start by examining the messages you received as a child about self-care. Then, you can begin to learn self-compassion and change the core beliefs that are keeping you from genuinely care for and loving yourself. Because when you care for and love yourself, you can show up for others as your best self.
Want to learn more about how you can turn your sensitivity into your superpower and practice more highly effective self-care?
A dysregulated nervous system could further exacerbate your highly sensitive symptoms. Take our FREE nervous system quiz to find out the exact state of your nervous system, and get a free personalized report detailing what's holding you back from a more calm and connected life.