On Being Sensitive

A few weeks ago I was told that I need to grow a thicker skin. I was battling a cold, a slow to creep up, sore throat, icky headache cold. I was scheduled to teach a workshop. The workshop was low in registration. I called to cancel the morning of. I was told that I should suck it up. And for a moment, I almost did.

The thing is, I have heard this type of thing my entire life. I have been called “too sensitive” from the time I was a child. I have been teased and ridiculed for my tenderness, laughed at for my lack of “strength”, and isolated because the world does not cater to sensitive people. In many ways, I have been told not to listen to my truest feelings, but instead to wear a mask and pretend to be something I am not, because that’s the only way I would “make it” in life.

I look at my son now, 18 months just around the corner. People already say that he is a “sensitive soul”. It’s true. He is gentle. He is slow to warm up to people. His voice is softer than most, unless he knows his audience well. He clings. He needs reassurance and the comfort of mom in many situations. My son, is a sensitive boy.

I worry for him. It was hard enough to grow up as a highly sensitive person, and be female. Boys… Men are not typically applauded for their sensitivity. They are all to often shamed, bullied, put-down, told to “toughen up”. I don’t want for my son to feel that his beautiful, sensitive heart, is anything to be ashamed of. I don’t want for him to feel the isolation that I felt, and often feel, from a world that does not value quiet, introspective, sensitive people. I do not want for him to learn that he shouldn’t listen to his body, his heart, that he shouldn’t follow what he knows to be best for him, even if it is different from everyone else.

I want for my son to show his strength, by standing up for his sensitivity.

So I stood up for mine. I made a decision that perhaps was “bad” for my business, because it was right for my body, and my heart. I am my son’s model, his teacher. I want him to value himself over any amount of money in the world. I want him to appreciate the gift of his tenderness, his gentle soul.

This world is harsh. This world can be unkind. This world is competitive, fast, demanding, loud, intrusive, and challenging. But who are we, and what are we creating, if we change ourselves to fit the mold the world wants us to fit? Do we not all love and proclaim Gandhi’s words “be the change”? And yet if we can not allow ourselves to be who we are, despite all pressures, what change will there be?

I want to teach my son that he can “be the change”, that he can love, and work, and be however he chooses. Choice. It all comes down to choice. I am choosing kindness, towards myself, towards my family, towards my neighbor. I am choosing to believe that this will make a difference. I am choosing my to stand up for my sensitivity, and his.

reading at table