Two Big Reasons Why Being “Too Sensitive” is Completely Beside the Point

Other people need to stop telling you that you’re too sensitive – but they won’t. So, what’s left to do? You need to stop telling yourself that you’re too sensitive.

Because those are the things that really hurt: the things that others say, that match what we feel deep down inside.

If you truly didn’t believe it down in your bones, it wouldn’t get to you. Because if I told you your feet are not purple enough, you wouldn’t give three hoots, right? You’d look at me, bemused “what on earth is she going on about?”

But when someone says you’re too sensitive, or too emotional or too much or too little of something, it does get to you. When it does get to you, somewhere deep inside, far far away from your conscious mind, you believe it.

So, what to do?

We can take the criticism as feedback, not that there is something terribly wrong with us, but that we’re insecure, unsettled, confused and needing support around something.

When someone points a finger and it hurts, then that’s your body saying: there is a thorny lie stuck in your system, and it’s time for you to get it out!

Trying to make the other person stop saying it doesn’t do much good. It’s like telling little bored boys to stop throwing bread at ducks. It rarely works. And it’s also beside the point.

If I insist on wearing a dress made of paper, I can’t very well expect the rain to stop every time I want to go outside.

Just as we need to dress in a resilient way, we also need to manage our insides in a resilient way.

The solution is not to fake it until you make it (my dress is made of paper, but I’ll tell everyone it has a plastic coating!), it’s to get honest about what is really going on, and learn ways to heal. Get that thorn out.

For us Highly Sensitive People, there are a few key aspects to getting all the thorns out:

Key Aspect no.1 to getting the thorn out: We need to be mindful of our tendency to focus (only) on the good in others, and not work ourselves to the bone to make our relationships work.

Good relationships are cooperative.

Many thorns were born in bad relationships (whether romantic, family or friendships). Once the thorn is in, it’s often easier to leave it there to fester, than to do the work to pull it out. Because pulling it out also means facing that nobody should have put it there in the first place – not even your mom / dad / husband / childhood friend.

Pulling the thorn out requires seeing that that rose bush that looks so pretty has a prickly side. Whereas, if you leave the thorn in, you can just blame yourself for hurting, and only stare at the beautiful blooms, remaining oblivious to the prickly stems.

Yet, leaving the thorn in also means that you’re endlessly cleaning the same festering wound, you have chronic pain at the location of the thorn. The longer it sits there, the more strongly you come to believe that the pain is “just me”.

In that way, feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, depression, confusion, fear, panic, anger, and rage all become a story about “who you are” instead of what they were intended to be: a wake-up call that something needs to change.

These emotions are designed to move you into action: to move you away from what is causing the hurt, and seek out what is peaceful, or fun for you.

But what happens when you believe that all that pain is “just you” is this: you start moving away from what you think is causing the pain. Since you think you are the cause of the pain, you start moving away further and further from yourself.

You find ways to shut down your feelings, ignore your own yearnings and needs, you stop expressing yourself fully, and you look for rules “out there” about who you should be to make the pain go away.

All because of a core confusion: the pain is not because of who you are. The pain is a sign that something about your situation, your thoughts, your choices, your habits, your assumptions, is hurting you. None of that is who you are. Thoughts are learned, choices are made, habits are created, and can be re-created.

Key Aspect no.2 to getting the thorn out: As a Highly Sensitive Person you are more sensitive to stress.

You react more strongly. Your body doesn’t have as much incubation rubber around it as most other people do. This is why toughening up is such a bad idea for us. It’s like comparing a butterfly to a turtle.

You can make the butterfly sit still in a hailstorm to toughen up, but it will just damage it, not make it stronger.

If it folds its wings and crawls into a crack in the wall during a hail storm, then it will be just fine. No turtle shell needed.

Yet what a lot of us learn to do -to try and be a turtle- is we disconnect from our bodies. When you disconnect, you don’t feel the pain as much. You seem fine, even if your wings are damaged. You feel it less, so you tell yourself you’re fine. But what’s really happening is that you’re lacking a healthy strategy. A strategy that protects you and prevents damage.

There is nothing wrong with wearing a hat when other people don’t claim to need one. I do it all the time. I dress more warmly, I often bring a warm vest just in case. Why would using a strategy that works make you weak? If it stops me from getting a cold, then it makes me strong.

We are people, not bison. You can’t put us outside in a snowstorm in just our pyjamas and expect us to thrive. As people, we are all about smart strategy. We survived and evolved through our smarts and inventions, not our brute strength and sharp teeth. So let’s stop pretending that the “essence” of being a cool human being is being super tough. In the bigger scheme of things, we’re pretty wimpy animals anyway.

Circling back, you need a strategy that works for your Highly Sensitive Body, not one that denies or fights that.

A healthy strategy works because:

  • It keeps you connected to your body: you know what is happening there, what you feel and what you need.
  • It prevents damage, you are aware of your limits in all kinds of situations. You don’t push yourself to do things that don’t work for you.
  • You meet your life goals through smart strategy not brute force. (Brute force includes: working endlessly, sacrificing sleep, not eating well, never exercising because you have no time, never slowing down to check in with yourself, getting caught up in how things “should” be instead of how they are, pushing down or ignoring your feelings, trying to control everything).

Because when you’re stressed all the time, it wreaks havoc on your body and keeps you from accessing inner peace and clarity. The problem just gets worse and worse and even though you numb out and don’t feel it, you are hurting.

When you’re hurting like that deep down inside, it really hurts when someone tells you you’re too sensitive. Because deep down you know that something about how you’re dealing with things isn’t really working for you.

It’s not your fault, nobody taught you better, but it is up to you to decide to do something about it.

When you do, when you develop that sensitive-friendly strategy for doing everything, then you will know that you are strong in your own way. It won’t just be empty words. And other people will see that and be much less likely to try to make you trip over their words.

As to developing that strategy, you don’t have to do it alone, I can help. Because the toughing it out on your own – that too – is often part of the old “trying to be a turtle” problem – because someone, somewhere, believed turtles were better.

 

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