I have always been rough and tumble. When I was younger, I played with the boys, and “acted” like the boys. I enjoyed sports and climbing trees. I welcomed scrapes, bruises, cuts, and scuffed knees.
To me, they were symbols of strength. They were bloody badges of honor.
But my rugged exterior was a farce. It was a facade — one I developed early on to shield my fragile interior and protect my sensitive soul. Because this tomboy — this hardened gal — was also very tense and touchy.
I was (and still am) a highly sensitive soul, and it didn’t take me long to realize that this was a “bad thing.” That my tears, thoughts, and emotions were a “bad thing.”
You see, my heart aches when others hurt. I literally cry when others are struggling, emotional, downtrodden, or sad; I am codependent to a fault.
Of course, there’s more to it than that — so much more. I shake every time someone raises their voice. I feel their angst, anger, sadness, and fear. I worry about things beyond my control because I want to help people. Because I want to save people. I am very affected by both the environment and the moods of those around me, because I feel, care, and give too much. I am also easily overwhelmed.
The constant motion, commotion, and energy exhausts me mentally and physically. So, like any child struggling to find her place and voice in the world, I “bucked up.” I “hardened up.” My skin and I “toughened up,” and I learned to play pretend early.
Make no mistake: I didn’t feel better. Inside, I was struggling and suffering. Even though I felt like I was dying, I crafted a fearless, stoic, confident, and strong persona that radiated bravery and courage. I became the person I “should be” by neglecting the person I was. After all, I hated the sensitive girl I was.
But at 33, I am finally starting to realize that maybe empathy isn’t so bad. Maybe my “sensitive heart” isn’t so bad. Perhaps my sensitivities actually make me stronger, more confident, and more capable than I ever imagined.
Because I am sensitive, I am better able to empathize with others and understand them. I am better equipped to listen to and commiserate with people who need me. Even if I cannot “fix” a problem or offer specific help or advice, I can offer my ear, my shoulder, and a safe place to fall. I can lift people up and help them stand.
My highly sensitive nature also allows me to appreciate the little things. For example, I don’t just hear music or see art, I breathe it. I feel it. And while this deep sense of appreciation can be draining, it also grounds me. It reminds me that I have so much to be grateful for each and every day.
My sensitive personality makes me a better parent in that I try to approach my daughter (and her tantrums) with calmness and tolerance. I have more patience and composure than I ever imagined.
And I genuinely love and care about people. I want the best for all people, and my sensitive soul allows me to nurture not only myself, but others.
I am a giver by nature and giving fills my heart.
Of course, it is hard to be so sensitive. It can be frustrating, heartbreaking, difficult, and exhausting. But that doesn’t mean that it’s something to look down upon. Sensitive people are loving and gracious. They are generous and tenacious. And they are powerful. Perhaps more powerful than you know.