Have you ever felt that you were too sensitive for this world? Has anyone ever made you feel ashamed of being too emotional? Do you sometimes feel that your empathy for others makes your heart break too much, too often?
Throughout my life, I have felt too sensitive for this world and at times, I have felt very fragile. This sensitivity is an expression of my deep empathy for others which has enabled me to understand others and find the right words and support to offer. This is a great asset to have, a superpower as some would define it, and this feature is what made it obvious for me that life coaching was the right path for me.
But if my empathy is a superpower, it is also a source of pain as my heart breaks as it deeply understands the pain others experience.
At times, I have been shamed for being too emotional, especially by men, which made me feel like the ugly duckling. I thought that there was something wrong with me.It took me a long time to spot and join the flock of swans I belonged to in the first place. It helped to know that there were many sensitive souls out there.
The internet has become a place to acknowledge and claim our sensitivity but this display that makes us feel that maybe there isn’t anything wrong with us after all, falls short of truly empowering us except for the power that comes from being one amongst many. How does a sensitive soul survive in this world?
Sensitivity is a great asset because
- Our empathy helps us relate to others easily.
- It makes us approachable because we understand people and it feels safe for them to talk to us.
- We come across as well-mannered and friendly.
- It allows us to understand that there are many perspectives so we are better at considering different options. This is great for seeing the big picture and looking at various angles to solve problems.
- It also leads us, at work, to pay attention to detail whether we are dealing with a product or a service.
- We anticipate other people’s needs which makes us good mothers, daughters and friends.
- It makes us more likely to savour the moment, enjoy the arts and show reverence to nature.
Solitude is not an issue for us and we’d rather be alone than with the wrong person.
But sensitivity can also be a curse because
- Our feelings are easily hurt.
- Taking onboard other people’s feelings means our heart breaks too often.
- We weep at any soap story or ad.
- We get overwhelmed quicker than others and need to retreat in solitude which may be perceived as rejection from others. People find it hard to understand us at times.
- As we see different perspectives, it sometimes makes it hard to make decisions.
- We pick up moods around us and it can be destabilising and uneasy for us and others.
- To protect ourselves, we become either a recluse or a people pleaser, and neither is good for us.
Do not give in too much to feelings. An overly sensitive heart is an unhappy possession on this shaky earth. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Understanding and managing our emotions better.
- Understanding our emotions means that we acknowledge responsibility for them. They come from us, even if they are triggered by others, and therefore we need to deal with them not expect anyone else to makes us feel better. Taking 100% responsibility and giving up expectations of external help puts us right back in the driver seat.
- Understanding our emotions also means that we understand what triggers them and we can prepare ourselves ahead of time. When you know what situation or person is likely to generate violent emotions, you can build an arsenal of responses. My favourite response is to stay silent. I find that it gives me the inner space to become more of a spectator rather than overreacting. I remain grounded in self-protection and I find this very helpful.
- Being aware of our tendency to pick up moods means that we can manage them. As soon as we witness it, we can use personal tricks to shift our mood. Deep breathing, a little dance party or just listening to upbeat music, a nap, journalling, getting engrossed into a creative activity (even for just a few minutes), going for a walk, reading a few pages of a novel, listening to a few minutes of a podcast or audiobook, whatever works for you. The idea is that you reclaim your own mood.
- Knowing that we easily get overwhelmed, we learn to give ourselves permission to leave a party when we stop enjoying it, or even when meeting a friend.No explanation needed, we just say we need to go.
- Embrace who we are. We can be okay with some of our emotions such as weeping when watching television. If anyone is uncomfortable with it, that is not your problem.
- Managing our emotions means that we must create pockets of time when we can be by ourselves and find our inner balance again, either through rest, meditation or a favourite activity.
- Looking for positive experiences that are safe, will empower us. Go to places where people express emotions openly like the theatre, ballet, opera, book clubs or museums.
- We must make sure that we are in the right environment. If the city is too noisy and brash, is it possible to move to a quieter area? If we feel that work is like swimming upstream every day, is there a job better suited for our qualities? If our friends drain us, is it time to sign up for a class and meet other people?
- Managing our emotions, finally, means that we must replace any feeling of guilt or shame about it with compassion for ourselves.