What Does it Mean to Acknowledge, Affirm & Promote our Sensitivities? Tips for the HSP

By: Gaia Staff  |  September 24, 2015

What does it mean to acknowledge, affirm and promote our sensitivities as highly sensitive people (HSPs)?

The following definitions are from Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, 1996. The examples following the definitions may help us to rethink what we have been taught, what we have internalized, and what we can do differently when it comes to being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).


To belittle, demean, ridicule, discredit

Believing: “HSPs are weak, irritable, inferior, fearful, too emotional, too nervous, too intense.”

Beliefs often associated with this stage:

  • There is something wrong with me
  • I am a disappointment
  • I am powerless

Feelings often associated with this stage:

  • Dejected
  • Hopeless
  • Depressed
  • Ashamed
  • Overwhelmed
  • Fragile
  • Vulnerable


To refuse to recognize or acknowledge

Believing: “You’re too sensitive, you need to toughen up, bite the bullet, suck it up.”

Beliefs often associated with this stage:

  • My needs are not important
  • I cannot trust my judgement
  • I am weak – I am a failure
  • I have to be perfect

Feelings often associated with this stage:

  • Stressed out
  • Irritable
  • Angry
  • Resentful
  • Guilty
  • Heavy-hearted


To admit to be real or true; to recognize the existence of

Believing: “Yes…your needs and mine are different…help me to understand you, so I can help you to understand me.”

Beliefs often associated with this stage:

  • I can be myself
  • I can get what I want and need
  • I have choices

Feelings often associated with this stage:

  • Relieved
  • Intrigued
  • Inspired
  • Absorbed


To state or assert positively

Believing: “HSPs have a unique way of being in the world; we have a more finely-tuned central nervous system, and we process things deeply and purposefully.”

Beliefs often associated with this stage:

  • I can trust myself
  • I can be myself and make mistakes
  • I can learn to take care of my sensitive self

Feelings often associated with this stage:

  • Proud
  • Relaxed
  • Passionate
  • Hopeful
  • Optimistic


To further, advance, or exalt; put in a higher position

Believing: “HSPs are not ‘better than’ non-HSPs, nor are we superior…yet, knowing that HSPs have unique gifts, talents, and skills and much to contribute to the world around us, our families, our workplaces, relationships, etc.”

Beliefs often associated with this stage:

  • I deserve love and respect
  • I am fine just as I am
  • I can trust my judgment
  • I can choose whom to trust

Feelings often associated with this stage:

  • Appreciative
  • Grateful
  • Inspired
  • Empowered
  • Excited

From: Dr. Evonne Hedgepeth, Ph.D., “What Does It Really Mean to “Affirm” Versus “Promote” A handout used in cultural diversity training. Modified for HSPs by Jacquelyn Strickland, LPC. Use only with permission.

Stages of Cultural Awareness and Acceptance

Questions for Reflection

  1. Which state of Awareness & Acceptance do you identify with?
  2. What keeps you from moving forward to the next stage?
  3. What kind of support do you need to move forward?
  4. What is your biggest need as a HSP? What kind of support do you need to help address this need? Who can help you?
  5. Finally, an interesting and important question for journaling: “What am I actually afraid of?”


Jacquelyn Strickland

Jacquelyn has been a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) since 1993, and has worked exclusively with Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) since 1999. She co-founded the HSP Gathering Retreats with Dr. Elaine Aron in 2000. Her background in Social Work, Women’s Studies, Psychology, and a graduate degree in Counseling, has empowered and informed her work with highly sensitive people since first finding out about the trait in 1996. She been certified to utilize the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory since 1991. Her counseling and coaching practice combines therapeutic orientations, and coaching principles with a spiritual foundation. She is also a Level II EMDR therapist and has been trained in hypnotherapy, and has a small private practice which offers education, mentoring, coaching, counseling and psychotherapy to clients around the world.
Jacquelyn has been married to a non-HSP introvert for 37 years and is the proud mother of two grown sons, one of whom is an HSP. You can sign up for her online newsletter, HSP Highlights & Insights by visiting her web site at www.lifeworkshelp.com and connect with her on Facebook. You may reach her at (970) 484-0840, or email jacquelyn@hspgatheringretreats.com.


Recommended Articles

Mind. Blown? Elevate your inbox with weekly articles from Gaia

There's More To You Than You Think

Travel down a new road with Gaia, a member-supported conscious media company. Join our community of seekers, dreamers, and doers to empower your own evolution. Discover over 8,000+ ad-free, streaming videos to inspire and encourage curiosity. Everything is waiting for you; which path will you choose?

Why Does A Conscious Company Charge?

Provide an ad-free experience, no exceptions!
Pay the bills without selling your personal information.
Produce, edit, and share thought-provoking original shows and videos.
Bring scholars, scientists, and even shamans into the studios.
Make Gaia accessible on your favorite devices.
Keep our community active and support its growth.

Choose your plan

2 Week Trial
Select Plan

See plan details

  • /month after Trial
  • Stream 8,000+ Films & Original Shows
  • Ad-Free Streaming All Year
Select Plan

See plan details

  • Stream 8,000+ Films & Original Shows
  • Ad-Free Streaming All Year
  • Save Over Monthly
Live Access
Select Plan

See plan details

  • Livestream All Gaia Events
  • Watch Live in English and Spanish
  • Ad-Free Streaming All Year
  • Unlimited Recorded Event Streaming
Prices in USD