Monday, May 9, 2011

Are You Too Sensitive?

Have you ever been called "too sensitive"? Do you think you are? What does "too sensitive" mean anyway? Does it mean you feel too deeply about things? Or, is it meant to imply you're feelings are too frequently given more attention then they should? Whatever it may mean, it seems pretty clear it's not a compliment. More likely it's something negative. Bad or detrimental in some way. Like hearing the phrase.. "The problem with you is that you're just too sensitive".

Growing up, I was often accused of being "too sensitive". Losing at a board game, or the way I was being responded to, or somebody failing to keep a promise. These were just a few of the circumstances that I would get upset about. And, no sooner would I express my feelings than I would have my sensitivity to them challenged or criticized. I developed the assessment about myself that I'm just too sensitive. And, with this negative assessment, I began being on guard. I tried to avoid the feelings. Or tried to at least avoid any outward demonstration of having them. I was able, however, to define my feelings. I knew I felt hurt. Sadness. Fear. Loneliness. disappointment. And, each emotion reminded me of my failings.

I knew, however, that there were other feelings present also. Love. Admiration. Enthusiasm... And, more. But, I was at this point so self conscious about being too sensitive, I even found myself concealing these. I had basically come to think of whatever I felt as most likely inappropriate. And, careful not to feel too much of anything.

Until I began coaching.

As I developed my practice of coaching individuals to be more authentic I would often suggest that a prerequisite for authenticity would involve being able to know our feelings. Know them so well that we could distinguish each one from another. The idea that our feelings and emotions are somehow critical to our ability to live authentically began to evolve. I noticed that some of us are more or less feelings oriented than others. I found that those who were less in touch with their feelings were challenged more than others in developing a stronger sense of Self and the ability to express themselves authentically. In other words, I became aware of the connection between one's ability to feel and their ability to create a foundation for living life with self regard and satisfaction.

Maybe a good way to look at this sensitivity issue is to think of it as a commodity. Something that has value. And, as such, something to cherish rather than guard. Like a gift. And, as with any gift, the most profound experience comes from how it is received. We are certainly less likely to dismiss or negate what we think of as having value. And, we are far more likely to utilize something valuable in ways that contribute to our quality of life.

It is through our ability to feel and know what we are feeling that we are able to relate to others in the most intimate of ways. The closeness experienced between people depends on how each perceives the others ability to understand and empathize. And, a prerequisite for empathy is our emotional intelligence.

So, if you've thought of yourself as someone who is just too sensitive, remember.... You have a leg up on many others. Take time to distinguish your feelings. And, find a way to accept them. Whatever the feelings may be. And, in doing so, you'll find a deeper experience of Self acceptance. Honor your feelings and you honor yourself. By respecting you're feelings, you respect yourself. And, my guess is this will feel much more satisfying than finding fault with yourself.