“You are not a mess. You are a feeling person in a messy world.” ~Glennon Doyle Melton
I can recall crying myself to sleep at night when I was a little girl. Not a loud bawl, more of a soft weep.
My mom would tuck me in goodnight and as soon as she turned the lights on her way out, I would be left with a feeling of fear and sadness. Not because I was afraid of the dark, but because I was afraid of my dark.
The thoughts that entered my mind that kept me from falling into a peaceful slumber as an elementary school kid were rife with pain and suffering.
Mom would say, “Think good thoughts, honey.” But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was too affected by all the suffering I saw.
I cried for all the injustice in the world.
I cried for all the pain I couldn’t necessarily see but could sense in others.
I cried for the kids getting bullied at my school.
I cried for myself getting teased at school.
I cried because people died and I didn’t get why they had to.
Somewhere along the way I received the message that it wasn’t okay to cry, or feel anything other than fine. That it was somehow bad to feel emotion. That to be a good little girl, I had to conceal and go along.
The only problem was, I had a lot of feelings. All the time I had them, intensely strong ones.
The world is not set up to honor sensitive people. When we see someone crying, we also usually see someone rush to their side and say “Oh, don’t cry.”
My question is, why?
Why can’t we cry? What is so bad about crying?
I want to scream from the rooftops:
I reserve the right to be sad if I’m sad.
I reserve the right to be mad if I’m mad.
And I reserve the right to cry if I feel like crying. It’s my life and I’ll cry if I want to.
Crying is a sign of life, by the way. It means you are alive. It’s the first thing we want to hear when a new baby is born—their cry. It is one of the most natural human reflexes we have.
But growing up as sensitive or empathetic, we learn that we are oversensitive, too much, too emotional, cry babies, wimps, too fragile, over-reactors. So what is given to us as a gift—our sensitive nature—is often squashed, repressed, and stifled.
And when we don’t know how to use our superpower sensitivities for good, the weight of the world’s suffering will most definitely crush us. My sensitivity felt like a wicked curse for a long time, before I learned how to treasure it like the blessing it is.
Some things I have learned:
Honor your sensitive nature.
Do this by affirming yourself and realizing that this is how you were made. Make the best of it and turn it from a commonly perceived negative trait to your biggest asset.
Maximize the strength of being highly sensitive by making sure you have a creative outlet. It is essential to have a place for it all to go. Whatever it is for you, go there as much as you can to release the myriad of emotions from any given day. Find it, do it, love it, and let it rejuvenate you.
Find your fellow heart-bleeders.
It can be alienating to feel like you’re the only one feeling so deeply. But there are so many of us out there, I assure you. There’s even a book called If You Feel Too Much.
Kindle up friendships with these people and create your tribe. There is such strength and power in connecting with like minds. You will know who they are by the way you feel around them—they see and accept and love your depth of feeling, they do not shame you for it or tell you to change your nature.
Reserve the right to cry.
Crying is a release and a ritual of mine. I love when a good, hard cry sneaks up on me in yoga. It’s just so healing. My emotions can overwhelm me, from unbearable grief to overstimulating joy. I cry to help release that energy overflow; otherwise, my heart might explode. I am moved to tears on a regular basis and let them come and go as they please, even welcome them now.
You do not have to be the suffering-holder and pain-keeper.
Just because you are acutely aware of the pain and emotional nuances of those around you doesn’t mean you need to take it on and make it your own. In fact, you really can’t. It’ll bring you down with them.
There is a beautiful word in the English language known as boundaries. Compassion is also a beautiful word. Boundaries and compassion can, in fact, co-exist. The way to be compassionate and have boundaries at the same time is to show your love and caring for others without taking responsibility for their pain and problems by trying to fix them.
Being born extra-sensitive is a gift, so long as we choose to see it that way. It was my fatal flaw until I learned what to do with it. When we can learn to work with it, rather than against it, we can undoubtedly make it our greatest strength and the source of all the magic and richness in this life.
Woman with heart image via Shutterstock