This was inspired by confronting someone, then being accused of sensitivity in response. I denied it a little too vehemently and then pointed out that that’s a shitty thing to call someone who’s trying express that you’ve upset them. I felt like they were saying my feelings and perspective were irrelevant, due to this alleged “sensitivity.”
I was upset due to greatly valuing this relationship, but also because having developed a much thicker skin is something that I’m proud of. I was 16 the day I decided to stop making excuses and to own my shit. A coach called me the weakest link, I cried and explained (excused), and she called me out right there in front of everyone.
I did listen that day, but I was 16. And not a super mature 16 either.
Luckily when we don’t get the message, life tends to repeat the lesson. (As many times as we insist.) Over the years, life just kept teaching me how to not take things so personally. I went to college and majored in fine art, where each piece was evaluated by a large group critique. I was in marketing for about a decade, a field where people really aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. I’m a writer, finally broken in from years of editors’ red pens. I temped for a couple years; so often playing “the new girl,” starting from scratch over and over. (Always learning. Always fucking up the new shit.)
For the most part, life’s taught me to take a critique effectively and I’m down with constructive criticism – which just looks like good advice, when done with style.
But I am (a) sensitive.
This topic is one of those that kinda have two meanings. There’s a science-based official definition, and there’s new-agey definition. The official definition: sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait, a high measure of which defines a highly sensitive person (HSP), has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity. But in the world of woo, it means being an empath; basically being very sensitive to others’ energy and having great intuition.
Sensitives feel extremely deeply, both the good stuff and the bad stuff. We care. Immensely. Doing all of this takes a lot of energy. I’ve learned to prioritize, to accept that spreading myself all over and being weaksauce with my boundaries makes me feel like poo. We’re highly affected by others, I’ve learned that I’m happiest when I’m with people who make me feel understood.
Crowds can be miserable-making. Before, I couldn’t go anywhere crowded without feeling like I might have a panic attack. My hands would get all sweaty, and I would feel like I was getting pulled a million directions at once, and I would then find the bar as fast as possible, haha. Watching violence is unpleasant for sensitives. Recharging is very necessary. (Sensitivity shares a lot of traits with introversion.)
Like many sensitives, I’m not super great at dealing with negative emotions. I spend the vast majority of my time being pretty darn happy-go-lucky, feeling all sparkly, and when negative emos come in I’m like, WTF am I supposed to do with you?! Bleeeerrrrrrg. I’m getting much better though. (One explosion at a time.)
A couple strategies for sensitives: Take a minute and ask yourself what there really is to fear in that situation. Is it really so terrifying? If you ask yourself these questions, moving to the core of the issue, whilst focusing on your breath – you’ll probably find that the thing you’re afraid of really isn’t so horrible and find yourself much calmer. (And more rational.)
And while I pride myself on doing my best to not take things personally, staying solution-oriented, and owning my shit – I am sensitive.
And you can be both.