As a psychologist specializing in helping people with the Highly Sensitive Person trait (HSP), I’ve observed that HSPs are prone to pushing themselves to do more, do it better, and make a positive impact on their own lives and the world around them. I love this quality of HSPs. This push towards growth is a sign of health, creativity, and being well-adjusted. But it can come with a dark side if we do not manage our HSP tendencies to overthink and to feel too deeply. We need an HSP growth mindset to balance our drive to grow and our need to do it sustainably.
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Building an HSP Growth Mindset Can Help Sensitives Thrive
Researcher Carol Dweck described a growth mindset as the belief that talents, abilities, and accomplishments can be developed through effort and support over time. We are not just “born with” certain limits on our accomplishments, as a fixed mindset suggests.
A growth mindset recognizes the importance of practice, hard work, and help from people who have already accomplished what you are trying to learn. With a growth mindset, HSPs can cultivate persistence in the face of challenges and use their creativity to overcome the inevitable obstacles that arise in life.
Even if you were raised to believe that people are born with fixed amounts of talent and capabilities, you can start to shift that perspective by recognizing how each of us can grow with time, practice, and support. In fact, HSPs have tremendous potential to benefit from even small amounts of positive circumstances.
Sensitives Need an HSP Growth Mindset to Offset the Internal Critic
Highly sensitive people can be sharply self-critical. We sense what perfection could be, but as humans, we cannot achieve it. We may get paralyzed by indecision, anxiety, and hopelessness, unable to start something we know we cannot perfectly accomplish.
Nurturing a growth mindset helps weaken the voice of our inner critic. We can give ourselves permission to experiment with growth and change, showing ourselves the same kind of empathy that we naturally feel for other people.
When the inner critic is quieter, we have the freedom to make changes that help us blossom.
How Can You Build an HSP Growth Mindset? (Yes, and here are four ways)
#1 – Connect with People Who Cherish Highly Sensitive People
Find people (in person and virtually) who understand what it means to be highly sensitive and want you to live your best life as an HSP. People who value the qualities that HSPs bring to the world want to see you develop a growth mindset and live in ways that fit who you genuinely are. These people will support your development, not judge you for being highly sensitive. As social animals, humans need to grow within a group, so do not try to do everything by yourself.
#2 – Watch Your Self-Talk
How does it feel to tell yourself “I can’t do that” versus “I can’t do that yet”? Adding the idea of “yet” can remind you that there is a possibility for growth. Our active HSP imaginations can run with those possibilities, instead of focusing on your current situation as if it is a permanent state. See how many ways you can find to develop your self-talk in ways that open up hope, options, and a focus on patience.
#3 – Take Some Breaks, But Plan to Start Again
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the process of change, take a break. Give yourself permission to pause your efforts to learn something new. Much like a weekend or a vacation can refresh us and allow us to go back to school or work with renewed energy, taking a break from the change process can help us in the long run.
Give yourself time to think about other things. Let your emotional arousal come back down to a comfortable level. Do things that you have already mastered, so that you reconnect with your sense of accomplishment.
Just be sure that you commit yourself to resume your growth work at a specific time. If you have someone who is helping you in this process, they can help you stay accountable.
#4 – Adjust Your Expectations (Humor Helps)
When we are trying to change or learn something new, it is easy to feel frustrated, demoralized, or embarrassed. We expect ourselves to perform competently before we have learned enough to be competent. It would be like expecting a baby to walk perfectly before they have mastered standing.
If we are learning to be assertive, and prioritize self-care or any other skill, we are going to make lots of mistakes. Try to anticipate that mistakes will happen, practice taking yourself less seriously, and learn to self-compassionately laugh at yourself.
It’s Worth the Effort to Build Your HSP Growth Mindset
I think that building an HSP growth mindset is probably a lifelong process. Our active minds will keep pushing us forward. Therefore, it is vital to create a growth mindset that can help us change without leaving us exhausted, demoralized, or burned out. Bring self-compassion, hope, some good support people, and a healthy dose of humor to the process, and see how a growth mindset can help you. And if you’d like to learn more about how my Singularly Sensitive approach can support your growth mindset, you can visit my website.
Be sensitive, be free
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