I’ve never been an ambitious gardener. But that changed four years ago when my friend Ruhi gave me a dahlia plant.

It was an unassuming-looking plant at first, a single stem with four or five green leaves. Then it grew up and exploded.

We discovered that with dahlias, the more blooms you cut, the more you get. That summer our house was graced by a succession of over four dozen dessert-plate-sized blooms–all from that one plant.

Then fall came, and I learned why you don’t see dahlias in everyone’s garden. You have to dig up the tubers, divide them, cure them for a week, store them a temperate place, keep them moist (but not too moist), replant them, and stake them–more effort by far than I’d ever put into a plant.

But how could you turn your back on a plant that gives back so lavishly? I committed the effort without a moment’s hesitation.

Why highly sensitive people (HSP’s) are like dahlias

Being a highly sensitive person can be very challenging, as you know if you are one. You find criticism crushing, you easily get overstimulated and exhausted, and you may suffer from a chronic feeling of being different or weird or “too intense”.

The fact is, sensitive people do need special care to flourish. But the effort is lavishly repaid by the greater well-being we feel as a result, and by the gifts we can then give back to the world.

Think of yourself as a dahlia. And don’t hesitate to commit to the self-care you need.

Be an attentive gardener to your highly sensitive self

Make and keep these four commitments so you can flourish:

  1. Educate yourself about high sensitivity so you understand how it affects you. This will have a big effect on your well being. There’s lots of information online, and look out for regular features here about specific aspects of life as a highly sensitive person.
  2. Own and celebrate the unique strengths the trait gives you. I’ll explore this more in the coming weeks in the series called Emily’s top ten perks of being an HSP. When you appreciate yourself this way, it’s much easier to let it roll off you when others judge you for “taking things too personally” or for being “too emotional.”
  3. Make a point of including other highly sensitive persons among your friends and practitioners. Not everyone can or should understand how different life is for an HSP than for the non-HSP extroverted majority. But it is an incredible relief to have someone in your life who completely gets and effortlessly accepts this central aspect of you.
  4. Learn how to Focus. Focusing is the HSP’s emotional and creative Swiss army knife. It’s a practical, elegant, versatile, and portable–a way of being with yourself and your inner world uniquely suited to your deep-thinking, deep-feeling nature. Ongoing Focusing partnership is an HSP playground: deep connection without overwhelm or overstimulation. Watch here for announcements of upcoming Focusing classes.

References on high sensitivity:

Aron, Elaine (2010). Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person. New York: Routledge.
Aron, Elaine (1996). The Highly Sensitive Person. New York: Broadway Books.