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How HSP are Portrayed Are you an HSP? Do you spend your days in tears and clutching your head?
No? I didn’t think so. Yet the media seems to think that we do.
The collage above is only a fraction of the articles I found illustrated using these images. It didn’t matter if the article was positive, in fact most of them were, yet all had the same stereotypical photos in common.

Blogs and articles without images are almost unheard of. This is because you can get 94% more total views with them. More than that, online media and blogs live and die by their clickability – so of course the picture editor or writer will be looking for the most attention grabbing photo even if it is at odds with what the article is saying.

While I completely understand the reason behind it, I still get frustrated when I see images like these because as that 94% stat shows, images *are* important. It creates a visual connection with what you are reading which cements itself in your brain. By continually to illustrate articles, however positive, in such a way, you are adding to the stereotype that works against the whole concept of being highly sensitive. Part of the problem is that an authentic, empowered HSP looks… just like any other person and that simply isn’t dramatic enough.

22 signs you're a highly sensitive person (and that's OK!) Hello Giggles a "positive online community" being positive there

22 signs you’re a highly sensitive person (and that’s OK!)
Hello Giggles a “positive online community”

I did ask fellow HSPs how they would like to be represented in a couple of HSP forums and the variety of suggestions reflected the wide range of people who are sensitive. Some preferred the esoteric, featuring chakras and mystical signs, or pictures of nature and abstract images. Others wanted bright colours while some found that too much of a distraction and wanted peaceful tones instead. One thing that was agreed on, was that no-one felt that people were the best image to use. I imagine this is also why many HSP specialists tend to refrain from using pictures of people on their books and websites.

Of course HSPs do cry and get overwhelmed, but there is far more to us than that. It just seems like the writer/picture editor has got stuck on the ’emotional’ aspect of high sensitivity, probably because it fits in with the popular definition of ‘sensitivity’. Yet that’s only a very small aspect of highly sensitivity, but is sadly more ‘grabbing’ than things like greater depth of perception.

I wonder if there will be a change in how HSPs are portrayed, especially given the Sensitive film which will be released soon, or if the stereotypical image will prevail. Maybe it is also time for HSPs to make a stand. That when articles with these inaccurate images of highly sensitive people are published, we make an effort to point out “That’s not an HSP”. How can a stereotype be broken if we aren’t willing to lend our voices to correct it?

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Below is a list of the articles with links featured in the first collage, moving clockwise from the right.

  1. Elephant ‘Why being sensitive could be your greatest gift’
  2. Rebelle Society ’13 Awesome Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People’
  3. Bustle ‘”Highly Sensitive Person” Is An Actual Scientific Diagnosis, So Now You Have An Excuse’
  4. Huff Post ‘Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? 8 Strategies to Help’
  5. Psych Central ’10 Tips for Highly Sensitive People’
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