Have you ever been caught up in a fight and you get the response, “You’re just being sensitive!” when you tried to share why you’re upset and are asking for an apology?
Maybe you spent the whole day working up the courage to speak up, perhaps you’ve written down notes, or created bullet points to stay on topic to help you stand your ground.
I know I have. Any time I had to confront anyone I was covered in sweat and shaking from head to toe. The fear of losing that person for standing up for myself was massive, and sometimes it happened.
In hindsight, I recognize that some people are in your life for only a season, but as a kid, I drew a connecting line between being sensitive and losing friendships.
What I didn’t realize was that being sensitive is one of the best things about myself and makes me uniquely qualified for my passions in life and purpose on Earth.
It took me years to realize that my sensitivity was my secret weapon when it came to be a part of what makes me an awesome coach today but growing up, I felt a lot of shame around being a sensitive kid.
Sensitive people feel it all.
That’s not to say that I never overreacted or was in the wrong, I still get triggered and have those volatile reactions today, but when I knew I was right in calling someone out, it took all my courage to say anything and it didn’t usually go well.
I was told to “toughen up,” “the world doesn’t work that way,” “you need to get over it,” “build a tougher shell,” “just don’t let it bother you,” and “you’ll never make it if you keep taking things to heart like that.”
While there’s helpful truth in “don’t let the haters get to you,” as a kid I just heard that something was wrong with expressing what I was feeling, and being open and vulnerable was a bad thing. And as an adult, it translated into a total absence of boundaries and a fear of calling people out because I couldn’t tell if I was “being sensitive” or if they truly did cross a line.
You can get trapped in your sensitivity and trying to sift through what’s healthy for you and what’s not in your relationships.
Let me tell you, second-guessing yourself all the time will keep you in analysis paralysis and completely drive you up the wall. It’s a lot of energy to not have confidence in creating safe boundaries or to be able to have crucial conversations when those boundaries are violated.
I’ve found a lot of answers and insight through Brené Brown’s teachings and research around emotions, vulnerability, and shame. She champions healthy emotional responses, reactions, and habits so as a society we can have a genuine connection and sift through these deeper, intense emotions to have healthy communication with each other.
Recently, I’ve realized that being told “I’m too sensitive” means something entirely different than I thought as a kid.
What’s really being said is “What you feel isn’t valid, and I’m not going to accept you for feeling that way.” And that hurts. It violates our human need to feel like we belong and that it’s safe to show up.
That’s part of what drives sensitive people completely bonkers and creates a pattern of emotional obsession every time something happens that hurts us. Instead of pausing in the moment and having an honest, calm conversation about what just happened, those feelings get piled up.
If you find that you continue to run into conversations where you’re being called sensitive as a way to excuse another person’s harmful behavior, then it’s time to work on having healthy, constructive conversations.
Pausing in the moment to be quiet, take a deep breath, and use non-accusatory language will get you there. Instead of “You are making me feel x because you did this awful thing” you’ll say “I feel x right now about the interaction we had because it makes me feel x.”
When you keep it about what you’re feeling and what that means for you instead of pointing fingers, it creates a space where a resolution can be made. Accusatory language, regardless of its truth or lack of it, only creates defensiveness, walls, and effectively ends the conversation. People can’t hear us when they feel ashamed.
It will take practice, but over time you’ll find that you hit your stride and these phrases will come naturally to you. Instead of getting triggered and becoming an emotional volcano from that pile of hurt, you’ll be able to quickly put a pin in what you’re feeling, process it, and then create a conversation from it.
There’s truth in the statement “opposites attract,” and if you’re a sensitive person, you’ll probably draw in personalities that need what you have because they’re a bit out of balance in that area.
Together, you make a great team! But, as with everything, there’s a risk of being imbalanced. However unfair or uncomfortable it may sound, it’s up to the sensitive person to set boundaries and call that person out. Being sensitive is a good thing and it has incredible power and potential.
When you can learn to lean into your natural empathy and practice sensitive language, you’ll be able to open the door for deep, meaningful connections that will help you stay sane, and the people in your life will grow to understand you better and have healthy, crucial conversations.
If working on your sensitivity and the patterns and mindset you have is something you’d like to go deeper with, I can help. Set up a free coaching call on my website to get started today.
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