Ever been told you’re too sensitive? Being too sensitive can leave us with a lot of emotional baggage to carry around. These feelings can be triggered seemingly out of the blue and then hang around like a little dark cloud. I first started to feel overwhelmed by sensitivity in my thirties. I was a working mother and the struggle to get it right was something I thought I must aspire to. I held myself up to an impossible ideal. I would crumble if my efforts were met with a sideways glance. Even a simple comment could be misconstrued into criticism. I felt it was leveled right at me. I felt judged. I was trying too hard and for all the wrong reasons.
Looking back, it had a lot to do with trying to meet expectations. My own, and what I thought everyone else expected of me. I became a people pleaser, running around trying to make everyone happy and losing myself in the process. This can strain our closest relationships, and change how we see ourselves.
I remember if my expectations weren’t met or I wasn’t validated, I was crushed. If my kids didn’t act as they should, make the right teams, I felt judged. If I wasn’t part of the right mommy crowd, I didn’t feel accepted. Crazy how we do this to ourselves. I got caught up in a cycle of suburban nuttiness. I opened myself up to hurt feelings, all the time.
What happened? I tried to be something I wasn’t. In the process, I lost touch with what was truly important; finding peace in the imperfect. Instead, I was consumed with perfection and things I can’t even remember now, that held importance.
Believe it or not, when I hit my forties and found myself raising teenagers, they taught me about how imperfect life can be. It was time to toughen up as chaos reigned during these years. This was good, because it propelled me right out of this overly sensitive mindset. Those years helped me get my priorities straight, and I let a lot of stuff go. As unraveling as it was, my teens helped me move forward.
Being sensitive can be tough to get past. It takes work and planning. People will hurt other people. It’s that simple. I took a look at the relationships of people I allowed in. Who builds us up and who tears us down? We can’t get rid of everyone, but we can armor up with a plan and learn some lessons.
Here are some ways to address being overly sensitive and avoid falling into the trap:
- Recognize patterns. There are people and situations that can trigger an overly sensitive response. Learn coping strategies to help maintain inner peace. Here’s a great link on deflecting those incoming comments: Source
- Remove myself. This can be difficult if the perpetrators are family. Learning to set boundaries and avoid conversations littered with mine fields, is a good place to start. There have been situations where I have politely left the event or gathering, to avoid what was coming.
- Realize it’s not entirely you. I repeat this to myself all the time: It’s not me, it’s them! There are people who feed off being mean and getting a reaction. I continue to learn and try not to be one of them. When things get dicey, I take a deep breath and change the conversation. I heard a great quote the other day: Don’t attend a fight you’re not invited too. My take: don’t take the bait!
- Embrace your feelings. I honestly found this so healing. Spend time reviewing what these feelings mean. I journal or go somewhere quiet. I have learned not to react in the moment, like I once had. This helps to make the situation pass and gain clarity.
- Let go and let God. I love to let the Lord take the reins when a situation becomes unbearable. Psalm 55:22 says: “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” God has made this promise to us, we need to take Him up on it. There is no reason to suffer and continue to be weighed down by this.
- I don’t have to be right. Do I really need to drive my point home and have everyone nod in agreement? No. Thrusting my opinion on others will often backfire and create more animosity. It’s an art form to walk away from an opinionated person, and if that person is you (guilty as charged), be vigilant in recognizing why the need to be right is also wrapped up in seeking approval. This was huge in protecting my overly sensitive self.
The great by-product of addressing this negative, fun-killing habit, was my mood improved and so did my outlook. I am not suggesting that we stuff our feelings, we do have a right to react appropriately and respond when necessary. These pointers have helped me to shrug things off. I have come to realize, I don’t need to absorb anymore feelings than what I already own. Addressing sensitivity allows us to get comfortable with all sorts of situations, and react less. I have also given those who hurt, less room in my life, which opens the door to those who really belong.
“Triggers are a blessing. They allow us to lean in and listen. Work through to find the truth and meaning. Don’t run, they are there to heal us.”—Connor, yoga instructor at Funky OM.