*photo by Sabrina Hill
"I have so much I want to say. But sometimes don't say it. I worry I won't communicate things as clearly as they feel in my head. But I try to not to let that stop me from using my voice. From speaking up when I feel that scratch in my gut, that urge to say something. And I usually feel a sense of freedom after sharing - even if my words stumble, or break me." - me
..I tweeted something similar to that a few days ago. The day had started out with some tears, but luckily, went up from there.
The day ended with a stroll through my favorite sunny park, and a bowl of smoky maple carrot soup, made by my husband. Gold star to him! And as the smoldering July sun settled into the powder blue horizon during my park stroll, I had five things crisply in my mind that I wanted to share with you guys..
Five tips that help me navigate life as a sensitive person...
Me. Getting a little personal first..
Being sensitive. I like to think of myself as an extroverted introvert with sensitive tendencies. I know I'm not the only one, I mean, Buzzfeed. I was a well-behaved, quiet kid. I did well in school and I had loads of girlfriends who easily brought out my silly, creative side. But I was super shy in large groups, around boys or talking in class. My mind was always spinning with thoughts, daydreams and things I wanted to say - but usually never did.
As an adult, I truly thought I would eventually grow out of that quiet nature. But to my surprise, it has not gone away, but rather morphed into something else. Something beautiful, yet often times challenging.
It would be so much easier to be someone with "thick skin" but so much less ... me.
"Highly sensitive" people (yes, that is a technical term in psychology) tend to feel things more deeply than your average person. This comes in handy at times like when being empathetic to other people or for creative projects. But can feel like a curse at other times. I love feeling like I have strong emotions and a big heart, but I hate when I just can't control my tears or let criticism or confrontation rattle me.
Summer Reading. I am currently reading "Quiet" by Susan Cain. It is about "the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking." I love it. Here is where she describes people who are highly sensitive in nature..
"Many introverts are also "highly sensitive," which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you're more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience. When you were a child you were probably called "shy," and to this day feel nervous when you're being evaluated, for example when giving a speech or on a first date." - Susan Cain, Quiet
Later in the book, Susan discusses how even the highly sensitive, "quiet" individuals in this world can become masterful leaders, visionaries, speakers and negotiators. (Shoutout to my cousin Heather for turning me on to this book!) You can follow Susan or Quiet Revolution on Twitter.
But for just about anyone, highly sensitive or not, one thing that can impact your sensitivity scale is STRESS. Life, money, job, relationship stress, health, grief and so much more. Basically me this year, raises hand, and again.
Stress hits you both emotionally and physically. And can definitely make you feel more fragile, sensitive. So it is important to take care of yourself: eat well, sleep well, exercise, have friends to cry with and laugh with and do things that make you happy. Make you feel good. (But not in a Cersei Lanister from Game of Thrones sort of way .. a la season 6 episode 10. Ha.) But I digress! The bright side of any challenge or increased sensitivity, is that you usually come out feeling stronger and more aware of your place in this world.
So back to yesterday morning's drama. Long story short, I had an appointment with a new doctor that did not end very well. I left the office blotting my eyes with tissues. It was just one of those situations where I had to speak up for myself, aka confrontation. And sometimes, confrontation can lead to tears, sobs, salty water creeping from my eyes, leaving tiny slip-n-slides down my cheeks. I just. can't. help. it.
I left the appointment, stumbling out into the sunshine, my body tired from the adrenalin rush and swell of emotions. I felt awful. I felt embarrassed that I cried. I questioned myself. When the situation wasn't at all my fault.
Later on in the day, after I pulled myself up and dusted myself off, I was meditating on something powerful: no one should ever feel ashamed of their tears. Their quietness. Their joy. Their silliness. Or any part of themselves that makes them human.
So anywaaaaays. The day ended well and I walked away with the inspiration to write this post.
(And update: The doctor called me that evening and then again the next day to profusely apologize for his disposition. So that was a positive thing..)
So where does that leave us sensitive, quiet, deep-feeling people? Are we the weaker ones in the confrontations in life? Are we always going to be manipulated by bullies or simply people with strong personalities? Sometimes, yes! But that does not have to be the case.
Society often sees quietness as a weakness. Well it all depends on how you look at things...
Susan Cain says in Quiet, "In the West, we subscribe the Extrovert Ideal, while in much of Asia (at least before Westernization), silence is golden."
Ghandi said, "My shyness has been in reality my shield and buckler. It has allowed me to grow. It has helped me in my discernment of truth." (quote from the book Quiet)
Now let me get to those five tips!..
So the Five Things I Have Learned From Being a Sensitive Person
1. Use Your Voice. This may go against what your sensitive gut is telling you. But using your voice is actually the best way to go! This way you never go home wishing you had said "such and such" to someone.
Bottling up your story is an awful way to live. Tell it. Every day. To anyone. One person. Or the whole internet. *raises hand* Take an Uber ride and talk the drivers ear off. They like that! Someone out there is listening. It doesn't have to be loud, it just has to be heard.
I hope we can all find ways to project our sparkly, glistening beams of light, our voices, out into the galaxy. And feel good about it! You can be a voice for YOU and a voice for others. Acknowledge that you have something to say and figure out how to say it.
2. Keep Your Heart Safe.
This world can be harsh. And scary. And challenging. And while stepping outside your comfort zone can be a good thing. There is also something to be said for knowing what places, spaces and people make you feel GOOD and which ones make you feel BAD.
Stick to places where you feel safe. And spend time with people who have good energy. Especially if you are feeling extra fragile. Spend time with people that lift you up, rather than bring you down.
3. Have a Backup Plan!
Sensitive people can crash when something upsets them. So when life gets you all jumbled , frazzled or just plain sobby, have a backup plan! A lifeline, an escape route like James Bond in his flashy getaway sports car.
Have a list of five or so things you can do that will bring you back to a happy space, back to feeling a bit more shiny on the outside and warm and fuzzy on the inside. Here are a few of my back-up plans..
- Friends. I have a few lifelines on my phone. Friends I will call or text for different challenging situations in life. Those friends who I know I can vent to (and vice versa!) without being judged. Those friends who I will be crying to and then suddenly laughing my head off with.
- Bubble Bath. So simple and easy, but I am instantly 'reset' in a positive way from a warm bath with salts, oils and mountains of Pretty Woman-movie style bubbles.
- Kitty Cats. When I am working from home and something stresses me out, I take a cat break. I can scoop up a furry creature and get kisses and purrs than heal. Actually a kitty purr really does heal!
- Art. Cooking, painting, photography. All those things help bring me back to center. Bring my feeling full again.
- Nature. The awe of nature can distract you from a bad day or mood.
Get all of my Ten Ways I Help Myself Feel Better.
4. Cry it Out.
If you feel the urge to cry, cry. Pretty simple, yes? Studies show that crying just might make you feel better!
5. Read. Read. Read.
Hey, look! You are doing this right now! I find that reading books like Susan Cain's Quiet and personal or informative blogposts about what it means to be a sensitive person, really helps me better understand myself, my emotions and my reactions to life. I used to think I was the only 'extroverted introvert' but clearly, according to plenty Buzzfeed articles, I am not alone. Ha. I mean this Buzzfeed article basically says it all, yes?
...this little sensitive squirrel is going for it! :)
Bonus #6 + #7...
- Show yourself compassion. You are sensitive. That's ok! That swell of emotions will calm eventually.
- Smile it out! If your not feeling the "use your voice" route. Or if all else fails and you are in an awful confrontation or critical moment with a bully or someone well-meaning that is just making you feel bad, just sit there, pause and smile. Do your quiet thing, we are so good at that! And just smile. "Talk less. Smile more." - Aaron Burr in Hamilton
"One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat." - Woodrow Wilson
Bonus #8 Look for the Good! I totally forgot to mention how blogging for me factors into being a sensitive person. BIG time! I have had more than a few harsh comments or negative blogging moments over the past nine years writing here at HHL. And as I confessed to a blogger group once, this is my biggest tip: Look for the good. I actually keep an email folder where I store allllllll the nice comments or emails I have received over the years. I rarely even look at it, but it just really helps to know it is there! So even when something hurtful happens, the key is to look for the good. Remember the positive things and people in your world.
*photo by Sabrina Hill
Closing it Up. So that's my personal post of the day. I hope you guys enjoyed it. Part of what makes blogging so exciting for me is these vent-style posts where I talk about all the things swirling inside my head. And as my opening quote said, I may not get all the words perfectly on paper (or screen) but at least I am getting them out into the world. And for me, that is a huge gold star for my day and my personal growth. So thank you for listening.
I would love to hear from you on anything I talked about today. I would love it if you shared some of your sensitivity story with me!
Happy Wednesday everyone ~ Kathy
Links to Try:
* Purchase Quiet or The Highly Sensitive Person on Amazon (affiliate links)
* 18 Struggles Only Socially Outgoing Introverts Understand - Buzzfeed
* Tips for Sensitive People to Protect Their Energy - Psych Today
Topical Note 7/7/16: I just had to add something that was topical today. About five minutes after I posted this blogpost I ran across the story on Diamond Reynolds and I was floored. This is a woman who stood up, used her voice when she needed to. And on a grand scale. I cannot even compare the small events in my day to atrocities like what happened to her. You can read more about what happened here or here. Or on the twitter hashtag. It is awful and heartbreaking and all I have no words.
*photo by Sabrina Hill