Sensitive much? How to not take things so personally.

Sensitive? Feel like you take things wayyyyy too personally? Welcome to my world. I’ve spent much of my life feeling like there was something wrong with me because I am so sensitive and tend to take things too personally. Maybe you can relate.

girl sitting in the back of an SUV

Here’s what I’ve learned: Being sensitive doesn’t mean there is anything “wrong with me”. And if you can relate, it doesn’t mean there is anything “wrong with you” either. (Plus, how absurd is it that we are so quick to judge ourselves so harshly like that?!)

Some of us are simply more sensitive, and that’s okay.

Whether you’re just wired that way and always have been, or became that way through conditioning or trauma, it’s okay. In fact, I would argue that for most of us, it’s actually a gift. IF we are willing to accept and embrace it. (And that can be tricky, at first.)

Once we stop resisting this part of ourselves – the tender, sensitive part – we can learn to actually harness it as a powerful aspect of our identify.

Let me explain what I mean. Most of my clients, many of my friends and colleagues, and I identify as some or all of the following: introverts, empaths, HSPs (highly sensitive person), intuitives, or healers of various kinds. When we compare ourselves to the mainstream “ideals” that have been presented to us culturally about what success looks like (in the Western world), it’s not surprising that we have been taught to judge ourselves as weak, overly sensitive, or high maintenance.

We’ve been told to “get over it” and “not take it so personally” all our lives.

Instead of cultivating our gifts, we’ve ignored them and tried to mold ourselves into something else. Something more acceptable and comfortable to the rest of society. And guess what? It doesn’t work!

If anything, it shames us into playing small, attempting to atone for our apparent lack of value, and judging ourselves incessantly. NOT HELPFUL. Not only is it painful for us, but more importantly, it robs the world of our legacy, because we’re too busy trying to change who we are, rather than focusing on our unique gifts and the potential impact.

one person holding their hand out to another; the second is resisting

Luckily, I think modern mainstream culture is finally starting to catch on to the fact that some of us are different in this way and that it’s perfectly okay. We’re being heard (literally and figuratively) more in boardrooms. We’re being put in leadership positions. We’re starting to have a seat at the table (assuming that those who naturally dominate the conversation have learned how to listen and invite us in).

Ironically, this is nothing new. Rather, it seems to me more like the modern world is re-learning some ancient and universal truths again. Thankfully.

This is all great news. But in the meantime, daily life as an empath or HSP can be hard. We absorb the energy of everyone and everything around us. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. We feel everything. Deeply. It can be exhausting if we haven’t learned how to manage our own energy and the energy coming at us and moving through us.

But it doesn’t have to be. The more we learn about how to accept, embrace, and navigate these parts of ourselves the more we can not just survive, but thrive, in an extrovert’s world, in a still pre-dominantly patriarchal paradigm that values other things.

Young girl looking intensely into the camera.

Once we learn to be okay with who and how we are and figure out effective ways to navigate the outer world, that’s when the fun starts. From there, we can learn to harness our gifts. To not only not take things personally, but to use our highly tuned sensitivities to connect deeply with people (which the world desperately needs) and to heal and transform others. It’s bananas.

So, this one is for the introverts, the empaths, and the HSPs. Here are a few of the tips and tools I’ve gathered over the years that have helped me and my clients.

Here’s how to not take things so personally and to, instead, own who you are – ALL OF YOU – and to do what only YOU can do with the unique gifts that you have.

Because you are not only good enough, you are important and crucial to the world, and especially to what the world needs right now.

Breathe
It’s amazing how many of the things we get worked up about can melt away and become insignificant if we would just remember to breathe. Just pause and take a big ass breathe before you do anything else. It will help, I promise.

Slow down
Slow down and make space. Like, seriously slow down. Build time into your schedule to do things slowly and deliberately, so that you have space to charge your battery before being social, time to decompress after, and permission to process external circumstances and experiences at your own pace (which may be more slowly than other people).

It’s about them not you
Remind yourself that what other people think, say, and do (especially when it’s directed at you or is about you) is actually about them! I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s true. Whether what they say or think about you is true or not, they are seeing it through their own filter – through their own life’s worth of experiences, fears, insecurities, failures, wisdom, prejudices etc. Much of the time they will actually be projecting their own fears and judgments onto you. Let them have their opinion. For the advanced people: Acknowledge it even! Validate them in their right to believe what they believe. When you remember that you can have compassion for them and respect their journey. And remember that it’s not about you at all.

Stop making assumptions; instead, ask for clarification
In my experience, much of the time when I take things personally, I am actually making assumptions about what the other person is thinking. Let’s say for example, maybe they said something relatively innocuous, but I felt that their tone was condescending, so I assume that they are judging me and consequently feel bad. One of the easiest ways to avoid that whole situation is to simply ask what they meant. You might even be able to have a laugh with them about how silly your negative assumption was, once you hear that the intention was harmless.

Know your triggers
The more you become aware of your own triggers and insecurities, the more you can catch yourself in the act of being triggered because you’ll recognize the pattern. Instead of going into an unconscious knee-jerk response every time, you can develop a conscious ritual for handling those situations instead. Come up with strategies ahead of time for how you ideally would like to respond in the face of one of your triggers and make it a point to practice doing that instead.

Focus on your purpose
When you are tempted to let the words or behaviors of others bring you down, come back home to your WHY. Meditate or just think about what’s most meaningful to you, what you’re all about, what you’re here to do, and then notice how much bigger and more important that is than whatever that person was causing you to feel.

Two people laying on the grass with backpacks, looking at a map

Those are just a handful of my favorite tips and tricks. Choose one or two that resonate for you and practice. Be gentle with yourself because un-training our brain out of our unhelpful tendencies, like taking things personally, takes just as much time (if not more) than training our brains to adopt more helpful ones. Be committed, be patient, and just keep going.

The more you’re able to let go of the HUGE waste of time and energy that we sensitive types like to spend on taking things personally, the more you’ll have to invest in what truly matters to you.

How to (Finally) Stop Beating Yourself Up

Do you find yourself beating yourself up when you fail? When you were good, but not great? When you are progressing, but not fast enough?

This is a recurring theme among some of my clients – those with perfectionist tendencies in particular. If you are someone with big dreams and high expectations for yourself, I bet you know what I’m talking about. Beating yourself up is challenging habit to let go of, to say the least.

Some of us hold ourselves to impossible standards and then tear ourselves apart when we fail. This focus on our inadequacies also prevents us from celebrating our strengths and accomplishments. Maybe we understand, at least intellectually, that it’s not serving us. But how do we actually break the cycle?

Edward Norton punching himself in the face

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years. This is not a specific 10-step process, per se. It’s more of a collection of strategies in the approximate order I would use them. Feel free to use any or all of them in whatever order works for you.

HOW TO (FINALLY) STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP

1. Take responsibility
If you made a mistake, admit it. If you made a mess, clean it up. Whatever the problem is, own up to it. It feels great and it’s the right thing to do. Once you’ve taken responsibility, there is no need to dwell on it.

2. Let it go
Admit that, quite frankly, beating yourself up is a huge waste of time. It doesn’t actually accomplish anything for anyone. Kind of like holding a grudge against someone else. Remember that you always have a choice and decide to let it go and move on.

3. Feel your emotions
In order to move on, I believe we must go through our emotions, as opposed going around them (by ignoring or denying them), which may lead to dealing with the uncomfortable emotion in an unhealthy or unnecessary way. Find a healthy way to express your frustration / anger / disappointment to get it out of your system.

4. Forgive yourself
There is incredible power in forgiveness. There is also plenty of research that backs up the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of forgiveness. Make a conscious choice to forgive yourself (and others). It’s good for you.

5. Choose self-love and self-acceptance
Know that you are intrinsically valuable. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone to be worthy. You simply are. So, decide to love and accept yourself in spite of your failures and imperfections. Or, take it a step further and decide to love and accept yourself because of your failures and imperfections. They are part of what make you unique.

6. Practice self-compassion
Many of us are capable of showing incredible compassion for others, yet struggle to show that same compassion for ourselves. Try this. Remember a time that you felt compassion for someone else. Recreate the emotional state you were in. Imagine it vividly. While feeling this way, you certainly wouldn’t beat them up, would you? No. You would treat them with the love and respect they deserve. You’d be warm, gentle, and understanding. Now, take those same emotions and direct them at yourself.

7. Shift your perspective
Realize that every “failure” is actually an opportunity. Every time you fall, get back up, and dust yourself off, you gain something – like strength, experience, or wisdom. As they often say in yoga, “every time you fall you’re simply learning how not to fall.”

8. Embrace failure
Once you’ve shifted your perspective, you can go one step further and actually embrace failure. Celebrate the chance to grow! If you’ve ever taken an improv class, you may have learned the technique of following up a failure by throwing your arms in the air and yelling “TADA!” (If you’ve never taken an improv class, I highly recommend it.)

9. Have a sense of humor
Take your dreams seriously, by all means, but know that it’s really about the journey. The journey will always be full of surprises, challenges, and “learning opportunities”. Cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself so that you can recover quickly from those hiccups and bounce back with enthusiasm. Plus, you’ll be a lot more fun to be around.

10. Be patient
Changing old patterns takes time. It’s not a light switch that you can switch on and off. It’s more like a dimmer switch. Every time you bring your awareness to the old unconscious behavior (beating yourself up) and decide to replace it with something else (self-compassion) you are rewiring your brain. It takes time.

I Have a Dream

I believe with all my heart in the incredible power of dreams. Compelling dreams give us hope, inspire action, unite people, and empower generations. They give way to new technologies and innovation. They give us something to aim for, something to focus our attention and intention on as we stumble down the path of life, trying to figure out who we are and why we’re here.

I want to tell you about my dream. And I want to hear about yours. (If you don’t know what yours is, maybe I can help.)

My dream evolves as I grow and change. It takes on new and unexpected shapes and colors as the next steps of my journey reveal themselves. I don’t know if my life in the future will look anything like what my dream looks like now, but I know for damn sure that it motivates me to move in that direction.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." - Thoreau

Here are some things to think about while capturing your dream in case you’re inspired to do yours too.

1. Practice gratitude. Before (and during and after) envisioning what you hope to create,  remember to be grateful for what you have, right here, right now.

2. Be present. While being inspired by your vision and letting it pull you forward, remember to live your life in the present, conscious and connected to the world around you.

3. Invest in the process, let go of the outcome. While going confidently in the direction of your dreams, remain open to new information and opportunities. Course correct as the next steps of your journey reveal themselves to you. Let go of having things show up looking a certain way. Be more interested in the essence of what you want and the journey toward it.

4. Think outside the box. Let go of any limited ideas of what’s possible and dare to let your imagination run free. You might be surprised what you come up with.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." - Albert Einstein

5. Take bold inspired action. Once you get clear on your dream, don’t forget to get out there and do something about it. Action creates energy and puts the wheels into motion.

Here is my dream as it stands now. I’ve divided it into categories and written it in the form of affirmations (i.e. in present tense statements, as if they’re already true.)

Family
– My relationship is a badass partnership. We are committed to authenticity, kickass communication, and living our fun, crazy lives to the fullest.
– I am deeply connected to my family, despite geographical limitations. I travel to see them often and we embrace technology to keep us close when we’re apart.

Career
– I have a killer team of talented people who believe in my mission that help me run my global business (e.g. virtual assistant, accountant, coach, mentor, PR, web design etc.)
– My business is an expression and an extension of who I am at my core. It reflects my purpose, values, passions and what makes me unique.
– I inspire, empower, and challenge people. The value I create for them is lasting and transformational.
– I have clients who fly me across the globe to work with them.
– I have written a book (maybe several) that tells my story and shares my message in a clear and compelling way, inspiring those who need it most.
– I positively impact large numbers of people not just through my own writing, speaking, coaching, videos, workshops, and retreats, but also through appearances on radio, TV, and live events.
– I surround myself with movers and shakers who believe in their dreams, rule breakers who challenge the status quo, and change makers who are quite literally saving the planet.
– I spend a lot of time outside my comfort zone, embracing failure, stretching my limits, and doing things that scare and excite me.

Money
– I attract and create more wealth than I personally need and am able to donate time and money to supporting and empowering the people, organizations, and causes I believe in.
– I have reached my milestones of being a 6-figure, and ultimately a 7-figure business.
– I spend money mindfully, creating a fun and fulfilling – yet sustainable – lifestyle for myself, my family, and my friends.
– I have a great money team (accountant + financial advisor + money coach) who help me make smart decisions.

Mind-Body-Spirit
– I eat clean 80% of the time (leaving 20% of the time for enjoying the delicious “bad” stuff), drink a ton of water, and get lots of sleep.
– I love and accept my body as it is, celebrate its uniqueness, and playfully test its limits.
– I seek out physical activities and types of movement that make me feel alive.
– My skin is radiant, my hair is healthy, my body is strong, I am glowing with happiness.
– I shine brightly from the inside out. I feel grounded, confident, and at peace.
– I regularly engage in mindfulness practices (e.g. yoga, meditation, gratitude) that quiet my mind, center my spirit, and open my heart.
– I stay intellectually stimulated and pursue continued learning and experiences by reading voraciously and attending classes, workshops, conferences etc.

Lifestyle
– I spend most of my social time doing fun and interesting things with people I love, creating meaningful connections, laughing often, and loving fiercely.
– I host frequent dinner parties, cook delicious food, and consciously create community.
– I travel the world for work and play. I am a mobile world citizen, always seeking to broaden my horizons, become familiar with the unfamiliar, and spread joy wherever I go.
– I make time to honor my passions (e.g. dance, music, languages, culture etc.)
– I am solar powered + water inspired, so I spend plenty of time in the sun and water.
– My wardrobe is a reflection of who I am: simple, classy, fierce, and playful.
– Though I travel often, I have a home base somewhere beautiful, near water, that is warm and welcoming, where friends and family eagerly come to visit.

Our World
– Through our collective wisdom, new technologies, and social responsibility we are finally figuring out how to save the planet from our own ignorance and overconsumption.
– A new brand of leadership is emerging. People are stepping up, working together, and love is winning over hate.
– Discrimination based on gender, sexuality, race, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. is outdated and nearly obsolete. We are experiencing a shift in consciousness and evolving into a more heart-centered and open-minded people.
– Western and Eastern medicine are being integrated into a more holistic healthcare approach. Doctors are in partnership with their patients. Quality healthcare is available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
– Common sense, respect for mother nature, and compassion keep us grounded as we develop new technologies and enter an exciting new era of rapid innovation.

This week on The Fierce Leadership Call we were talking about taking radical responsibility for ourselves and our world. Someone made a comment about random acts of kindness and I’ve been thinking about the invisible impact and the ripple effect of kindness. It reminded me of the “Kindness Boomerang” video below, which captures the essence of my dream for our world: love, respect, compassion.

If you take nothing else from my sharing my vision with you, take this: Be kind to each other. Protect each other. Help each other. Love each other.