THE MISUNDERSTOOD GIFT OF SENSITIVITY
A couple of months ago, I met this vibrant young woman, Julia. She contacted me to have coffee and pick my brain about being a helper person here in Baltimore. We hit it off right away - I was so impressed by her knowledge, her understanding, and her vulnerability. Immediately, I proposed we do a workshop together. Before we do that, though, I wanted to introduce you to her so you could get to know her a little better. I'm so excited to share this guest post from Life and Wellness Coach, Julia Flaccavento!
'You're so sensitive.'
I can't begin to count how many times I've heard this phrase before. I've heard it from friends, family members, significant others, you name it. Just about everyone in my life has called me sensitive at one point or another. And more often than not, it's said critically, as to describe a subtle [or major] flaw in my personality.
Since my early childhood, I have been intensely aware. I have heard every sound, I have seen every color, I have felt every word. I have even heard, seen and felt what others didn't. A sound too loud could make me lose my balance. A color too bright could make my eyes burn. A word too harsh could make me cry. I used to feel very fragile, unusual and alone in my way of relating to the world.
By the time I got to high school, I made a vow to myself. I would do whatever it took to make my sensitivity disappear; or at least disappear to those around me. That way, I could blend in and merely exist, unaffected, like everyone else.
With time, I successfully [so I thought] managed to bury my sensitivity far below the surface, hidden from the world. I finally felt like a functioning 'everyone.' I could laugh at others' expense. I could brush off a person's rude remark, even throw back a crueler rebuttal. I could stand in the middle of a pulsing, crowded concert venue, surrounded by flashing lights and screaming fans, and feel completely numb. Finally, I was living.
However, something strange happened. Despite my newly hardened emotional exterior, my body felt weaker. I was highly anxious and had trouble sleeping. And suddenly, it seemed like I was contracting every passing virus. Over the span of about 4 years, I had Mono, Swine Flu, Shingles, Pneumonia (twice), neuropathic pain, and various bouts of crippling stomach upset, just to name a few. One illness trailed into the next, and I was sick far more often than I was healthy. In the [joking] words of a dear friend, "If I get a cold, you will catch it and somehow end up in the hospital."
At first, I didn't make the connection between my emotional state and my ailing physical health. I just hated myself and my body more because I thought it was ‘failing’ me; as if, somehow, my mind and my body were separate entities. It took a 6 month bout of debilitating migraines to finally kick my butt into self-reflection mode.
And once I was really paying attention, I started to put the pieces together. By burying my emotions for so long, I had managed to cripple my once strong immune system. My innate sensitivity was still there, just deeply repressed and trapped within me.
Since then, I have been on a journey to live my truth. I am finding the balance everyday between freely expressing my sensitivity (without absorbing or getting overwhelmed by everything around me) and listening to the reminders of my physical body to be stronger, healthier and more self-aware.
I have been able to shift my thinking to see that my symptoms and my sensitivities are my teachers. They are not something to fear. My pain is merely my body communicating with me that something is trapped, and my ‘sensitivity’ is actually my source of power; creative, intuitive, empathic, etc. Now, when I feel a pain in my body, I know it is a reminder to express my creativity (by playing music or painting, for example), to connect with a loved one, or just to take a deep breath and relax.
I have also learned to recognize that the way I relate to stress is aggravated, and controlled, by my thinking. With awareness, deep breathing, and a great deal of practice, I have started to harness my own power and control my anxiety. When things feel overwhelming or don’t go my way, I can get upset. But I also don't have to. It’s my choice. And that’s pretty damn awesome.
Since I’ve been practicing mindfulness with diligence and honoring my body instead of loathing it, I hardly get sick anymore and I cannot remember the last time I had a migraine. But if/when I do feel something physical flaring up, I don't hesitate to listen because I know now it’s leading me somewhere.
Through this journey, I have come to be a proud, sensitive person. So for all of my fellow feelers struggling to find their place in this often stoic world, I want to offer some kind words. I want to create a space to embrace and empower the amazing gifts unique to highly sensitive people.
Here are just a few things that make the ‘sensitive’ folks some of the most vibrant, wise and compassionate beings on earth.
-Pick up on nuances in meaning
-Feel everything more deeply
-Have higher levels of emotional intelligence
-Are more creative
-Have a greater capacity for empathy
-Are basically superheroes <3
Oh man, I can so relate to a lot of what Julia said here about being super sensitive. How have you dealt with being an empathic, creative, sensitive person throughout your life?
If you want to learn more about Julia's techniques for feeling balanced as a sensitive person in an ever-changing world, join us for our workshop, Self-Care for Empathic Creatives, next Saturday, February 4th!