Recently, one of my beloved former clients sent me this question:
“I was looking at your website and see here that you wrote: I am deeply sensitive. I used to see this as something to change. Now, I see it as something to honor and protect… How did you learn to embrace your deeply sensitive nature?”
I sat on it for a few days – mostly because I was hustling to prepare for the conference. But, also, because I like to let my answers percolate – rather than answer them quickly and off-handly.
So, while it’s a week or two late, here goes:
Let me start by keeping it real: I still get all caught up in the moment sometimes – and forget everything that I’ve learned. Like that I am deeply sensitive and that this is not a negative thing.
And when I feel especially vulnerable, my first instinct is almost always to run to someone else, who might tell me all the right things and make me feel better.
In other words, I don’t have this totally handled yet.
But, most of the time, I am able to not act on what I’ve dubbed my flight urge – the desire to escape those very uncomfortable feelings swirling within me.
While it gives me temporary relief (sometimes), I know that it doesn’t really serve me. It leaves me feeling needy and vulnerable – and, well, flighty.
Instead, I’ve learned to engage in a motherly-like conversation with myself.
(Wait. Did that just get weird?)
But, really, I do.
And I try to be the most loving, compassionate, patient and wise mother a girl – because that’s how I feel at the time – might have.
It’s not an out loud, seat-switching role play – though maybe that might work for someone else. It’s a quiet and conscious inner dialogue.
Because we’re constantly having conversations with ourselves anyways, except that it’s usually unconscious and fear-driven – and rarely the kind of loving pep talk or empathetic, soothing voice that we truly need.
I start by tuning into what I’m actually saying to myself and the underlying messages – and noticing where the pain is.
And then, going there.
I don’t try to fix it, but I do tell myself that it’s ok, that I can handle it, and that it makes sense. All of these things, by the way, are true. And when I remind myself of them, I almost always feel their truth.
Sometimes this works wonders. Other times it just helps soothe me enough to be able to be with whatever I’m feeling – and not run to someone else to fix it, save me, or make me feel better.
And then there are the times that I still want someone else’s love. And then it’s about finding the right person with whom to talk — the kind of person who can be with discomfort, pain, fear and other messy feelings.
But even then, I know that picking myself back up again is an inside job. It’s how I respond to the pain or insecurity that’s been triggered.
And, in the process, I try to remember this: The world is full of goodness and love and beautiful things, but there are also tremendous pain and hurt and ugly things within it. Because of this, we all have some sharp edges and unfinished business. And, sometimes, we take it out on each other. When I leave room for this – and not make it always about me – I am more tolerant and resilient and able to make better choices for myself (like being aware of those jagged edges, rather than walking right into them over and over again.)
I’m not sure if this all makes sense, but this is what came up for me. And to S, who sent me this question: the world needs your sensitivity. So don’t dull it down or cover it up with thicker skin. Be responsible for it, yes.
And keep using it to make the world more beautiful.