Highly Sensitive Refuge
A highly sensitive person feeling ashamed for her emotions

A Highly Sensitive Person, I Used to Be Ashamed That I ‘Felt Too Much’

Sensitive. I used to despise that word with all of my bruise-like-a-peach heart. I hated that the little nuances of life had the ability to pierce my heart to its core, while others were left relatively unscathed.

To be sensitive was vulnerable, painful, hard work. I was ashamed of my feelings, my sensitivity, and I saw nothing good in them.

As a child, I told myself that feeling too much was too much work — for myself and for the people around me. I quickly learned that it was easier and more comfortable for others when I was less emotional, less sensitive, less… me. I tried to emulate others who were blithe and carefree, but failed terribly. So I settled for building a solid shield around my mushy insides that would keep my overflowing heart from making others uncomfortable and protect it from feeling too much.

I remember the physical pain of being in social settings through my childhood and adolescent years. It was as if I would feel the emotions, thoughts, and stories of every person in the room. It was overwhelming. The sudden flood on my senses often rendered me paralyzed and unable to interact with others. I would leave early, then spend the rest of the night thinking about each person and what I could’ve/should’ve said or done to help them.

I could go for days in complete silence. In those times, I was in a whole other world, a perfect place where every tear and hurt in every heart had been wiped away.

I Tried a Revolving Door of Alternate Personalities

Once, a friend told me, “You’re so boring.” In reality, I thought, she was really trying to say that our peers weren’t looking for someone who could feel them. They wanted someone they could have fun with, someone they could talk to about the latest pop idol or TV show and not suddenly go all pensive on them.

In hindsight, they were probably right on some level, and I needed to learn to manage and balance my sensitive soul. Not to reject it completely, neither to let it control me. But mastery of the sensitive soul is another topic for another time.

So for years, I tried to fit in. I went through a revolving door of alternate personalities. I was the party girl, the girl-in-the-corner hiding behind a book, the flirt, the “wise one,” the airhead, the intellectual — the list goes on. I built an emotional shield around my heart with these masks. None of them lasted very long, and all of them left me feeling very, very tired.

There were days innumerable when I ended up in my room, crying and praying that God would forgive me for feeling too much. Having too many feelings was bad. I didn’t understand what it means to be a highly sensitive person, and I was under such a terrible weight of guilt for being too emotional.

My Sensitivity Isn’t Something to Be Ashamed Of

I am slowly starting to believe that my highly sensitive soul is beautiful. It is not something to be ashamed of, to be pressed down or contained, or to be cured by growing in spirituality. My soul was created by God the way it is. It is spiritual. It is beautiful.

I had previously been in a perpetual state of shame that my soul was weak and bad and therefore had to be shut down. But in doing so, I found that it was impossible to feel less. We either keep our hearts open or shut them down entirely. A hardened heart will keep getting harder, unless it decides to allow life to breathe upon it again.

I can choose to let my heart soar and my soul be free to be what it was created to be, even if that means some messy/painful/difficult days. Or I can choose to close my heart tightly and wear it like a locket around my neck — a pretty display to be sure, but heavy, inanimate, dead.

Either way, as a highly sensitive person, there is no sitting on the fence.

Sometimes, We Need Help to See the Light

In my pain and (admittedly) inward-looking struggle to find myself, it was easy to forget the moments of affirmation. The same week that I was called “boring,” another friend told me, “You have such an interesting mind. You are so imaginative and when I hang out with you, I see the world in a new way.” Looking back, I now see that those moments of encouragement were there all along.

Sometimes, we need a little help to see the light. My husband has played a big role in helping me see and accept the beauty of my soul.

Parts of my soul which I have always kept off-limits, he gently and lovingly coaxes out into the open. As I stand there trembling, deathly afraid that he will pull back in disdain and smash those vulnerable parts to pieces, he engulfs me with his arms. There, he just holds me and whispers, “I love you” over and over, until my heart flickers with the hope that maybe he really does.

Every time I allow a little more of my soul to escape, I find it wrapped in my husband’s unconditional love. And those moments of pain and fear lead to a deeper conviction that I am truly loved by him. As I start to see myself through his eyes, I begin to grow in the belief that my soul is precious, beautiful, and worth loving.

We Can Inspire Change in the World

I am starting to accept the realization — not just a knowing, but a deep knowing — that the world can take pleasure in my highly sensitive nature. It was created to bring love, compassion, imagination, magic, tenderness, strength, whimsy, and depth to this world.

Our sensitivity helps us see the nuances of color in this world that others may miss. What a blessing if we could stop rejecting that gift, and instead use it to invite others into the beauty that we see.

Our compassion is our strength. It takes strength of character and resolve to remain soft, tender, and empathetic in a world that can sometimes be harsh and aggressive.

I believe that we cannot demand change; we can only inspire it. As highly sensitive people, our ability to dream and create is our gift to inspire change in the world around us.

You and I were made for freedom. It’s time to let our souls soar free.

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