When writing about this topic, I rewrote the title and first few lines many times in order to convey exactly what is on my mind. There are many of us who are very sensitive, and this makes navigating the waters of our society a little tricky at times. Below I will be making a list of what life is like for sensitives and how they can make it through life a little more comfortably. Maybe this post will even help those who have relationships with sensitives understand us better.
- Sensitives pick up on cues and feelings fairly easily. Once they know that something makes another person feel bad or stressed, they will do their best to avoid doing or saying what it is that causes the other person discomfort. This is one of the reasons why people like talking with us so much. It is okay to let go of guilt when you need to withdraw from some people who continue to engage in certain things despite repeated attempts at asking them to stop. In addition, it is okay to take a stand and/or to withdraw when someone tries to make you feel bad for asking for what you need or for voicing your feelings. It doesn’t make you less loving when you practice self-care and preservation.
- Sensitives care about those they love very deeply. They literally feel the pain of those that matter to them, making them feel terrible when there is nothing that they can do to help. When their friend suffers heartbreak, the sensitive feels it right along with them. When someone they care about is going through a rough spot, the sensitive feels the stress right along with them. Often, a sensitive person will not ask for help because they do not wish to cause stress for the people they care about. When a sensitive is asked for help by someone who they care about, it is painful for them to have to deny the request. Often, a sensitive will try to explain how much they hate it that they cannot help and ask for understanding. When this understanding isn’t given, the sensitive becomes stressed to the max and experiences pain that the person doesn’t seem to be respectful of them. This can sometimes lead to the sensitive needing to withdraw, because the amount of stress and heartache takes a physical toll.
- Sensitives can come across as indecisive due to the amount of time it takes to make a decision. When someone with a lesser degree of sensitivity is asked what they would like to do, they are often much quicker at answering. It isn’t that a sensitive is trying to be difficult by taking longer. It is that they are picking up on subtle cues and attempting to figure out which option would make everyone involved the happiest. When a less sensitive person gets annoyed with them for how long it is taking, the sensitive will often shut down because they feel badly that their attempt to make sure everyone was happy made someone upset. Sensitives will need to toy around with ways which will lessen the amount of time it takes to decide while still letting them feel good about their choices. In addition, they should understand that there is nothing wrong with the way that they are, and that they shouldn’t be subjected to mean-spirited ridicule or unkindness.
- Sensitives tend to be intuitive and compassionate. This often leads to others desiring to speak with their sensitive friends about their problems. At the same time, the sensitive can get burned out because of the depth and intensity of their feelings. Not only that, but people get so accustomed to speaking with the sensitive about their difficulties that relationships can slide into unhealthy patterns. There are people out there who will take advantage of the sensitive because they feel the need to have attention. This leads to the sensitive always being the listener or rescuer. Over time, the sensitive feels drained and realizes that things are imbalanced. They will often try to even out the scales and salvage the relationship. Sometimes this is successful, which is the desirable outcome. Oftentimes, it isn’t possible to balance things out. In these cases, the sensitive needs to understand that they aren’t doing anything wrong by pulling away. It is possible to still love and care for someone deeply, even when that person cannot be part of your life on a regular basis, or perhaps not at all.
- Sensitives need more time and space than many others do. Due to the intensity of their feelings and the impact of interacting with others (even when it’s good), the sensitive needs time to recharge their batteries a bit before joining the world again. For those less sensitive, this can feel like the sensitive is ignoring them or doesn’t care. The sensitive should to try to explain this at least once or twice. Many people, while they won’t be able to relate, will understand that you genuinely care about them. Some will not understand or care to try, which may lead to an end of the relationship. Sensitives should remember that they didn’t do anything wrong by simply being themselves, and that while they may spend less time with friends than many do, that their levels of compassion and caring make them desirable and worthy of friendship.
There are a lot of people out there, myself included, who feel called to help others. Speaking from experience, as well as countless conversations with others who have a similar calling, there is a pretty high incidence of what can only be called burn out or self depletion which happens-especially in the early days of doing the work. Anyone who has ever flown will remember being told that the first step to take in the event of an emergency is to put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help anyone else.
For some reason, while it makes sense to just about anyone that the advice is sound for those flying in an airplane, there seems to be a stigma around tending to self first in any other arena-especially when it comes to spiritual practitioners, healers or when it comes to doing any kind of service work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re flying, helping others spiritually, working as a healer or even in your personal relationships with others-if you aren’t caring for and tending to yourself, your efforts with others will not go as smoothly as they could. Not only that, but you will be setting the stage for exhaustion and even physical illness.
While this is true for everyone, those who have high levels of sensitivity and empathy should be especially vigilant about holding space for themselves on a regular basis. There will be people who will attempt to induce guilt, because they will feel as though they aren’t getting what it is that they need from you when they need it. Plus, chances are good that you’ve spent a lot of your life not tending to your own needs and when you change that, there will be some who will resent it. As with all things, we have to use discernment. There are always exceptions, such as when someone is in a true crisis or has a real emergency. As long as self-care and development are a regular part of our routine, the rest typically falls into place.
As time goes by, many begin to recognize that caring for ourselves and caring for others are not exclusive of one another. Culturally, there is a lot of training which takes place that tells us that we are selfish for tending to our own needs and even pleasures. The interesting thing which I have observed over the years is that it is often the ones which preach this concept of selfishness the most who look out for themselves the most. By getting others to do things on their schedule and according to their desires, they free up a lot of time to do what they want to do.
The important thing to remember is that not only is making sure that you are okay not selfish, it is the first step in being able to effectively help others. Not only that, it will ensure that we are not using service to others as a reason to avoid things that may not be all that easy to resolve within ourselves and in our own lives. As time goes by, caring for yourself gets easier as you begin to see the difference in the two ways of living. Not only will you feel better, but you will see that your ability to help others increases as you help yourself. The hardest part is giving yourself permission to let go of the feelings of guilt long enough to get started.
I’d like to leave you with one last thing to think about, to put this in perspective for those who really struggle with thinking about themselves or putting themselves first.
When you neglect yourself, how do you think that impacts the people in your life who truly love you and have your best interests at heart?
Taking time out for ourselves is something which many of us struggle with. Between professional and personal demands on our time and energy, it is all too easy to get lost in the shuffle. Even when a person has a logical understanding that carving out time just for ourselves is very important, many people still feel…or are made to feel…as though they are being selfish.
Not only is making time for self care important, it is crucial to our health and well being. After all, it’s impossible to get a drink from a dry well. Remember that…it’s not possible to get a drink from a dry well. This is why it’s vital to not just try to make time, but to make it a priority. Having your energy stores depleted is a very unpleasant position to be in.
What happens when we don’t take time for ourselves? We run ourselves down to the point of exhaustion, compromise our immunity, allow others to manipulate us or control our time, our priorities fall to the wayside, and needs do not get met…just to name a few. These consequences impact not just our own personal well being, but our ability to truly be of assistance or service to others.
Each of us has an inner voice which lets us know when we need to slow down. This inner voice tells us lots of other things too…important things. Listening to this inner voice is often discouraged or dismissed. We are told the we are being silly, selfish, judging a book by its cover, and countless other things. This inner voice should not be ignored or dismissed, because it is the voice of our higher selves…guiding us toward what we need or away from what isn’t in our best interests. Do not permit anyone to make you feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
While this is true for everyone, I wish to add a little more for those who are empaths, introverts, and sensitives. Not taking time to rest and recharge is especially dangerous for you. As much as you desire to be there for others, as much as you feel as though you aren’t being nice when you need to say no…you cannot nor should you expected to be there for everyone at the expense of your own well being…nor should you feel as though you should say yes to everything. You have a lot to offer to the world, and you have your own unique set of talents and requirements. Respect yourself, and expect respect from others in regards to your own value and needs.
No matter what your personality type or set of attributes are, the key is to ask yourself regularly if you are taking good care of yourself. Those who would discourage you from doing so are trying to fill a hole within themselves. This is not a judgement. It is actually something to be compassionate about…without falling prey to it. Being a good partner, friend, service provider, boss, teacher, or whatever else you might fill in the blank with is not to be equated with turning yourself into a sacrificial lamb. Listen carefully to that little voice of yours…it’s a lot wiser than many people would like you to believe.
Special thanks to the person who inspired me to write about this topic. I’m so grateful. You know who you are.