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?