How I Made Peace with Being ‘Too Sensitive’

I fell into a state of depression a few days ago. I did what I always do when I tread rock bottom: sneak into the shower and allow the water droplets to wash away my tears. It’s a way of hiding my own feelings of sadness from myself because deep down I don’t want it to be real.

All my life I’ve had thin skin—thinner than those around me. I’ve always been incredibly empathic and in tune to other people’s feelings. So empathic in fact that it’s easy for me to sense what others think even when they try to hide it. Despite my parents’ efforts to get me to man up, I always fell back.

As a teenager I was worried about making other people happy because when they were happy, I was happy. I channeled their positive energy as my own. But the second I came out of the closet and moved to the big city, I once again became a slave to their opinion—a role that was too familiar.

Feel, with every ounce of your being.

There’s a social food chain we have in society and people like me are usually bottom dwellers. Sensitive guys take things personal, often becoming an easy target for bullying and corruption. In the back of my mind I knew I was being taken advantage of. I also knew it was my fault, so I tried to change.

I became conscious of my feelings toward the world. Instead of embracing my feelings, I tried my best not to feel. I attempted to change so that I would feel nothing—to get the voices out of my head weighing it down forcing me to please the world. I envied the men who were able to walk straight and not care what other people thought. Then, it hit me.

After years of trying to change my heart and mind into something I thought would be stronger, I realized how much strength is required from a man to feel. To be able to have compassion is to connect with another life; to surrender ego, fear of the unknown and willingness to preserve what’s comfortable. I was actually braver, stronger and more courageous than those who were afraid of feeling.

I am the unexpected hero.

Someone said something that hurt my feelings a few nights ago and I fell into the usual track. I smelled the venom in his words and couldn’t help but take it personal: “I’m worthless,” “I’ll never amount to what he expects me to be,” “I’m nothing.”

As I stood in the shower obsessing over it, I thought about other dramatic moments in my life and how it altered events—relationships that didn’t work out, friends I pushed away, opportunities I gave up on because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I allowed words to shift my self-perception, which changed my destiny.

I turned situations that could have been full of potential and beauty into a narrow hollow sh*t show. I threw my own pity party, invited only myself and watched as spectators threw rocks at my expense. I felt alone and isolated not because of what he or she said, but because I believed them.

Retrospect has shown me what was said was harmless and meant nothing, but at the time it struck a nerve because there was already a hole waiting to be filled with negativity. Where did this hole come from? Why was it there? I asked myself afterwards and realized it was there because I wanted it to be there.

I was waiting for someone to say something hurtful when all this time I thought it happened against my will. I felt empty inside so I was anticipating moments for others to see it too. Everything anyone said was proof that the emptiness was real—things missing from my life that made me worthy of love. Whatever he or she said reflected my own feelings of inadequacy. It started with me, not them.

It wasn’t that I was too sensitive. It’s that I was already broken inside and I used other people as tools to convince myself I was right. I felt like they were seeing through me as if they saw my emptiness. My self-perception inspired me to be sensitive, not the other way around. It began with me.

Looking back I realized that all the wonderful things I gained in life were because of my sensitivity. We’re quick to call someone “sensitive” so we might feel more secure, but the truth is it’s a our sensitivity that allows us to show ourselves, without which we could never trust, hope, appreciate or love.

The minute I realized how valuable my sensitivity is was the second I found strength. I felt stronger because I knew it all started with how I view myself. When I felt empty, I would always need strangers to fill me up. My sensitivity had never been an issue. In fact, my sensitivity was the only thing that filled my emptiness with healthy doses of compassion.

I am who I am.

I can’t change myself and because of that fact, I no longer expect things to go wrong. I don’t seek opportunities to take things personally. I don’t anticipate the world to hurt my feelings because I don’t gain my identity from it anymore. I know the truth and I present myself as such. The sensitive part of my personality allows me to spread the love I have inside—I’m abundant with life and I intend to share it with those willing to embrace me for who I am; not for what I think they expect.

 

David Artavia

Writer

David lives in New York City, where he acts, writes and lives vicariously through his friends.

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