Being a troublemaker is not something we necessarily associate with highly sensitive people, those gentle souls who are loathe to hurt others.

The label, troublemaker, is not something that we usually generate for ourselves either. It is usually conferred by others when they encounter something uncomfortable in themselves courtesy of another person.

Have you ever been called a troublemaker or treated like one?

Highly Sensitive And A Troublemaker?

Highly sensitive people can be very conscientious, cautious, perceptive and empathetic.

Highly sensitive people often see what others cannot because they operate from an atypical perceptual reality. When people think differently, many assume that it is an ideological difference that is being expressed. In the case of HSPs, however, what is being expressed is a biological difference.

Highly sensitive people have nervous systems that absorb all the stimulus and energy around them. Their nervous systems are like sponges, which makes them uncomfortable and other people as well. Highly sensitive people notice when someone is uncomfortable, sad or angry no matter how much someone attempts to hide their feelings. They notice when something is not working very well, differences in perception and reality, mistakes of judgment and other energetic events.

Highly sensitive people necessarily have values that support their sensitive natures including kindness and fairness. They are able to see the pitfalls in a competitive social structure and are unlikely to support the destructive aspects of it.

People who do not understand the sensitive nature may feel uncomfortable around HSPs and even think of them as troublemakers.

Characteristics Of Troublemakers

Why would anyone be labeled a troublemaker? Aren’t we all in this together?

The label suggests that there is something to protect against. It suggests that the group is dependent on the existence of certain behaviors, beliefs, and ideas to sustain it. It also suggests that we each of us have the job of protecting the group, that protecting the group is our price of membership.

Troublemaker is a social label. Who gets the label?

Troublemaker is a social label. Who gets the label?

  • people who belong to another social group
  • people who look different
  • people with different customs and social habits

Those are just superficial reasons for labeling someone a troublemaker or potential problem.

There are deeper ones:

  • people who think differently
  • people with different values
  • someone kind and empathetic in a culture that is not
  • someone who notices disconnects
  • someone who notices that which is overlooked, devalued and deferred
  • someone who notices imbalances and inequities
  • someone who notices a need for change

When Awareness Is A Liability

When we are young we take in everything around us. We may not understand it, but we take it in nonetheless. In particular, we take in what is supported and what is not. We usually then adopt the supported behaviors and reject unsupported ones. This is how we survive. In fact, we have to fit in when we are young. When people wonder why prejudice survives this is why: each generation learns the accepted attitudes of their social group and rejects the unaccepted ones including the prejudices towards different kinds of people.

For highly sensitive people, the situation is not so easy. Our perceptual system is different so we cannot help but think and feel differently. We will also notice that our perceptions are often not supported and that will leave us with a quandary about what to do and think. It may increase self-doubt, cause depression and leave us feeling lonely. We will feel our conflict with our social group and not know what to do:

  • Do we speak our truth?
  • Do we say nothing when we know something is wrong?
  • How can we live in our authenticity when we are so at odds with others around us?

When we go along with the group we may compromise our integrity. When we live our truth we may be labeled a troublemaker.

It requires a lot of learning to know when to speak and when not to, how to support healthy change without being alienating, and how to be respectful and also disagree.

These are important challenges for highly sensitive people whose have much to offer the world and even if the world does not accept us. We may be labeled troublemakers sometimes but we may be far from it.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program of "sensory processing yoga" using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers the Emerging Sensitive Movie Club focused on movies and discussions about living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. Honey Apostos on September 26, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I am going through this situation right now. Thank you for posting.

    • Maria on September 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Good luck!


  2. Annys on September 26, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you so much for this great post, Maria. Yet another one!

    Pondering on it, I’ve had one of those A-Ha! moments … I’ve done this in at least two groups, the first being my birth family: I could see where things were going wrong and I had no idea how to tell people, but I felt it had to be pointed out. And I ended up making such a mess of things, not knowing how to approach the task in a respectful and open way, that they were able to make a lot of noise about the troublemaker I was, and I made myself effectively into the scapegoat.

    No wonder I don’t want to join any groups for the foreseeable future! This is called living and learning, I believe. But calling someone a troublemaker is often a quick and easy way of dismissing them, rather than stop and think about what they’re saying.

    Perhaps you’ve been somewhere similar, Maria?

    • Maria on September 26, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      Annys, how did you guess? It is very hard to be aware and know what to do with it. Many people will make you the scapegoat if you do not go along with their belief system. Unfortunately that is one of the reasons we HSPs have social challenges.

      It helps if you accept that many relationships will never be deep or close. It is harder when dealing with family because you are expected to go along and be supportive even if you see that someone or several people are on a destructive path. I think you can make some decisions about how you will be supportive and develop some skills at gracious disagreement.

      I hope this helps,

    • Annys on September 27, 2014 at 7:45 am

      Absolutely! I’m very slowly learning to accept my family as they are. A few years ago I was rash enough to suggest that two of them were sensitive, and I haven’t seen them since. Being supportive is a tricky one, but the principal issue right now is helping myself heal – with the aid of all the information and support now available with the internet and of course blogs such as this one – and hopefully during that process being some sort of positive role model for them.

      All the best for the weekend, Maria.

    • Maria on September 27, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Many people are afraid to admit they are sensitive. They are afraid of inviting macho bullies. I am glad that you are taking care of your healing and happy to help.

      I hope you have a great (and healing) weekend, too.