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Sensitivity Is a Gift: How to Thrive with a Bleeding Heart

Woman with Heart

“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.

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About Sasha Tozzi

Sasha Tozzi is a holistic health coach & writer. She helps people get free of their addictive patterns so they can get back to the joy of living over at www.sashaptozzi.com. As far as labels go, she is also a lover, a yogi, and a lioness. She really loves the ocean and the Oxford comma.

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  • Peace Within

    Thanks for sharing! I used to think I was too sensitive and weak when I cried. Now, I am embrace my emotions. I believe it takes strength to be in touch with our emotions.

  • Eric O. Nelson, III

    This was well written, and is a beautiful insight to how we feel. I believe all humans feel and are sensitive, but how we express those feelings or internalise them is what separates us. There is no doubt that we naturally internalise first, but what a great gift to share. It is the sharing in life that remains long afterward.

    Thanks so much for the post.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Thanks for reading, Eric! I think you are right about the defining quality being to externalize or internalize, but that we’re all innately sensitive beings. Sharing is what life is about, I think. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    I’m so glad you embrace your emotions now! I’m right there with you. Thanks for reading and commenting 😀

  • Paula Tozzi

    Beautiful Sasha! You are incredibly insightful. Love your posts.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Thank you, Mama. I mean Paula! <3

  • Sophia

    I love this article Sasha, being a fellow hyper sensitive being. A couple of months I responded to a person who told me, “stop being sensitive. You need to change that”. I responded how I am not going to alter who I am. I like your note on transferring the energy into creative outputs. I do this via my lifestyle and mindset writing. I’m an inspirational mentor.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Sophia!! Thank you for your comment. I love that you stood your ground. It’s so empowering. We gotta stick together, us sensitive souls. Connect with me on FB!

  • Patty Chambers

    Fantastic article Sasha!! I still have a hard time accepting my sensitivity sometimes, and I think it is because I spent such a long time trying to avoid those feelings in the past. Very inspirational!

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Patty, thank you. Yes, it can be habitual to avoid strong feelings/emotions. Start letting yourself cry it out without apologizing for it. <3<3

  • Joanne

    Thank you for this article, Sasha! Love this. I’m the same. For so long I believed I was ‘too’ something (serious, quiet, sensitive, weird). But it is a gift to be this connected to the world and care this much!! Thank you xo

  • David G Stone

    Sensitivity is such a great gift. Even the most sad of circumstances can promote gratitude. Smiles usually follow the tears because as much as i notice the pain everywhere in life i will also notice the joy. People like us are actually more naturally in touch with the divine… How blessed are we? Having Sensitivity can inspire others to be less insensitive and help them connect or unsubconsciously give them permission to do the same.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    You speak the truth, David. As deep as our sadness is as high as our joy. WE ARE so blessed. Thank you for reading, commenting, and honoring your sensitivity.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Hey Joanne! Thanks girlfriend. I also thought I was totally weird. It’s so funny how backwards that is. Now we know better 🙂

  • Tania Lynn

    Really great article. Thank you for sharing. For all my growing up years I heard from my mother ‘you are too sensitive’, ‘don’t be so sensitive’, and I too began to feel it as a sure flaw. I learned to feel shameful for crying over the the hurt someone or something else was feeling. I bottled it up and carried it (false) shamefully. I am in my forties now and learning in therapy who I really am. I won’t lie and say it’s not messy sometimes. I learned My parents did the best they could in raising three girls and yes I cry over silly commercials and get sideways looks from my well intentioned husband, who has learned over the years to not tell me not to cry. There is a glimmer there of still seeing my sensitive side as a weakness. I am learning and thats all I can do. Thanks I will be re-reading and passing your article along.

  • Bravo! From one feeling person to another …I remember those late night weepings when I was a kid. I thought I was a weirdo…not so! I only wish that kids these days could get that message…

  • fabercastell

    I’m also very sensitive and I cry a lot whenever I see some injustice happening. But, I can’t feel like I’m not avoiding it when I don’t try to help solve it in some way. I understand it’s a burden but I feel selfish whenever I have this wonderful gift of feeling empathy but deciding to keep on with my life…(because I’ve felt all my life that it’s up to us, the people who actually care or feel the pain in someone else’s eyes to do something about what’s not working for them). I have a very big sense of justice and I know sometimes life can be more unfair than fair… So, should we just accept that? I mean, sometimes the truth really gets me down, but other times, admitting that to myself makes me feel so sad and I can’t really find peace between the two. I know I can’t carry the world on my shoulders but I also feel selfish when I don’t… I guess what I’m asking for is advice for how to discern between what’s our responsibility and what isn’t. How not to feel guilty about it, when to actually let that feeling move you towards helping solve other people’s problems and when not to. Thank you for reading the long post : )

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Hey gentle traveler! Thanks for reading & reaching out. There’s so many of us and I’m sure glad I’m not the only one.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Hi there, Tania. I think sometimes people just don’t know how to best respond to our sensitivity. Which is why awareness & consciousness is so vital. But I am so glad to hear you are learning to view it differently in therapy. I love therapy! And it sounds like your husband has been groomed well 🙂 Thank you for reaching out.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Hi Faber. I think that there is a level of acceptance that we need reach as sensitive people. But it’s different for every person. For me personally, I do what I can to help people that want or need help, but I always try to take care of myself first. I do sometimes still feel guilty and in these instances I really have to ask myself if it’s something I can control, and if not, I need to begin the process of letting it go. It is hard. But it can be done. The Serenity Prayer helps. You are strong!

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Hi Marc! Oh thank you so much for your thoughtful & vulnerable remarks. I can definitely relate to the media issue. I don’t partake in most of the news and current events. I also get triggered by certain songs/music.

    I am so glad you are finding writing again. Writing is such an amazing art form & therapeutic tool.

    One of the things that helps me move forward and not get stuck in grief, or whatever feeling, is my yoga. The practice of yoga is meant to move energy and feelings/emotions are really just different energy frequencies when it comes down to it. I can walk into my yoga practice feeling sad or lethargic, and walk out completely renewed because the practice of breath and movement purifies and releases stored up emotion. I think all exercise does this to some extent, but I really like yoga. It’s a similar kind of transmutation to that of writing.

    Love and light to you ALWAYS, TOO!

  • Rosemarie

    Hi Sasha, I felt immediately connected after I read this, though I have had a lot of help with this. If loving and caring for people makes me a weirdo, than that’s what I’ll be… 🙂 I’m laughing along with all the weirdo’s because it’s good to laugh. Thank You So Very Much! Rose

  • Dawn Roth

    Thank you for this article and the reference to the book If You Feel Too Much. It opened my eyes and my amazon wish list to a few more reads my heart needs.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Oh Rose! Thanks so very much for sharing. It’s SO good to laugh and it’s SO good to care. We’re weirdos together 😉

  • Sasha Tozzi

    You’re welcome, Dawn. Take care of that loving & tender heart of yours.

  • Rosemarie

    I’m sooo happy right now… Going for a bike ride… Thank you Sasha… 🙂

  • Sasha Tozzi

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Rosemarie

    Hi Sasha and Faber, the injustice of the world was not caused by you. I use to think everything was my fault and I took the blame for all of the others. When I realized the injustice that was done to me as a child, it helped me to understand why I feel this way as an adult when I see it happening to others. It’s hurt me when no matter what I do or say is not heard or accepted but I have to accept it because other people have to get there themselves. No matter how much I want the suffering for all of humanity to stop, all the hurt I’m having about it doesn’t make it stop. I so understand and work on me everyday. I have to or I’ll go insane. I say the Serenity Prayer too Sasha but just realized not near enough. Later I’ve been overly sensitive. I’m working on it. 🙂 Love sharing here. Thanks so much.

  • Rosemarie

    Thanks Tania for sharing this. I too was told and am still being told but my sisters who haven’t gone through working theirs out yet. I’m not too sensitive. I’m delightfully sensitive. 🙂

  • Mary

    Wow, I really feel like I could have written this myself. It wasn’t until I hit about 30 that I started to realize I needed to accept my sensitivity because after years of therapy it was not going anywhere. Thankfully, I (slowly) learned to accept that this thing that I always considered a curse, the bane of my existence and a really embarrassing problem to have during a sad movie was in actuality and huge blessing and a gift. Funny how life works because once you stop trying to run from something and learn how to cope with it head on, all of a sudden your perspective on what you were running from completely changes. I once said it was something I wanted to carve out of myself. There was a time that if I could have taken a knife and a melon baller and gotten the sensitivity out of my soul that way, I would have done it in a heartbeat. Now I wouldn’t trade that part of me for anything in the world. And I LOVE that you point out that the words “sensitivity” and “boundaries” don’t have to be mutually exclusive. That is so true. It is not all or nothing. There is always a balance and the best way to find it is to embrace your sensitive side and stop trying to hide it away. Thanks for writing this! Just what I needed today 🙂

  • wodiej

    thank you. I am working on the boundaries part with my counselor.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Oh you’re welcome. Thank you so much for reading my dear.

  • Sasha Tozzi

    Mary! Thanks for your remarks. Thank goodness you never got hold of a knife and a melon baller before you changed your mind about your sensitivity. I totally understand that feeling though. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of us out there too, but we’ve been socialized to hide that part of ourselves so they might be harder to spot in public. In any case, thanks for sharing your insights and im incredibly happy to hear you are loving the sensitive side of yourself these days.

  • callaina70xo

    Good article. Emotions make most people uncomfortable, so they just want us to stop crying. Then they think it’s fine. Little do they know that stuffing your feelings is a great way to ensure problems for yourself in the future. For me, depression is not sadness, more like numbness. I believe Brene’ Brown once said something like, “You can’t selectively numb emotions. If you get rid of the bad ones, the good ones go too.”

  • Sasha Tozzi

    YES! Thanks for your comments. Depression is like numbness. And that Brene–such a wise teacher!