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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.