When I was in Kindergarten, I watched the fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling. I sat with 60 other kids on the floor of the classroom, and was completely moved by the story. I didn’t relate to the ugly duckling- not really. At that age, I had always stood out for reasons I perceived to be positive- like having little curls or writing stories.
Before the movie had ended, me and a boy in my class were absolutely bawling our eyes out crying. There were two teachers in the room. One, my incredibly sweet teacher, and another- the teacher we were all afraid of! My teacher, Miss Owen, gave the boy a hug and some tissues and reassurance, just through her caring presence. The other teacher told me to stop crying and wash my face. It was the first time a teacher spoke to me like they were angry at me.
That was the first experience I recall when it was obvious I felt things with a certain intensity that others didn’t. It was also the first time I saw two approaches to sensitive people. One is to be dismissive- that ‘harden up’ mentality. The other is to allow it to be, to nurture it and validate it. We were only in Kindergarten, so this fantasy probably seems impossible to my Primary teacher friends, but wouldn’t it be lovely to stop the film and ask, ‘Why does this make some people feel so bad, seeing the Ugly Duckling being left out?’. What an important conversation that could start. If any such discussion took place, I was probably so hurt and angry at being ‘yelled at’ that I wouldn’t have processed it. That can happen when you’re sensitive.
These days people use the word ‘empath’ as a bit of a sexy term to describe people who just get how another person is thinking or feeling in a given moment. But for now I just want to give a shout out to that broader category- sensitivity.
I haven’t had to do any guesswork around whether I am sensitive. People just tell me. And I have worked it out for myself. Mostly because I cry for other people unless I’m helping them deal with it. Because I eventually have to escape loud places. Because the news has the potential to bum me out for weeks. Because I avoid saying goodbyes. Because sometimes I just hop into bed and close my eyes, hoping for sleep, but content with an hour of zero stimulation.
But here is where it is the coolest to be sensitive.
You can feel the love in any room.
This is what makes me more productive. In a karate class I get hit with these huge waves of affection, combined with the sense of other people’s ambitions, the mental fight they are winning in that moment and the respect and love exuded for each other and our instructor. This connection through little jolts of energy help me stay energised.
You can ‘get’ other people and respond in a way where they feel understood. That’s why people are drawn to you.
Occasionally I guide people use the stories of their past as a way of gaining a better understanding of themselves and their present. Going ‘by feel’ (which could literally mean feeling their pain in moments) helps us navigate when important insights reside. When students and clients have ‘breakthrough moments’ I understand the significance because the tears will well up a little in my eyes. It brings the world a little closer when we feel understood.
You feel connected, even when you feel alone.
I think this sums up the above. This connection gives you greater purpose. Whilst it can be overwhelming at times, for me it reminds me that we all have an important role to play in each other’s lives. We all have the power to heal each other, in a moment.
The world is a vibrant, stimulating place- where adventures and miracles are everywhere.
Sensitivity is fun. You can go outside and just be blown away by the beauty of nature, when you look at a leaf or a bug, not just a mountain. You can save lives in seconds, by reaching out to someone who seems to be a little different- energetically. You can express yourself more freely, in the understanding that the more real you are, the more you strike a chord with someone else. You see poetry everywhere. The grand contrast between light and dark that leads to a gratitude for it all.
Sensitive souls, if this is you reading this, I invite you to see your sensitivity as your strength. There are ways to take care of yourself that we can talk about further. In the meantime, share what sensitivity means to you and how it has shaped your life and your impact.
Lots of love,