How many times have you thought to yourself "I wish I could be different, I wish I could be more tough, open, strong, organized....." you fill in the blank here. How many times have people around you told you that you needed to change, toughen up, get a grip, etc.? How many times have you actually tried to change? Did it work for you? If so, how? If not, you are not alone!
I was recently reminded of my life-long struggle with my sensitive side. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told by well-meaning people that I was too sensitive and I needed toughen up. You see, I was born a sensitive person and being sensitive is not highly valued in our culture. My mother often tells me the story that when I was a baby, the nurse at the doctor's office noticed that I was easily startled by a loud noise and the nurse saw it as a sign of me being a sensitive person. Maybe she was a sensitive person too and recognized herself in me, who knows? She did promptly warm my mother, however, that I was going to have a difficult life. Like I said, maybe she was speaking from experience.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been told by well-meaning people that I was too sensitive and I needed toughen up. I listened and tried to change, thinking it was what I needed to grow as a person, but it never felt right. Deep down inside I knew I was going against my nature, yet, I thought that the outside voices had to be right. I needed to change, if they said so. It took me years to realize that what and who I am is a gift, not something to fight against. This insight has helped me embrace that part of me and realize its value in my life. Being a sensitive person allows me to be intuitive, to read people, to enjoy art and beauty, go inward, reflect, feel other people's emotions, have empathy, sit with those in pain, feel deeply and most importantly, to love deeply. I could not do what I do without these gifts.
I can now respond to those outside voiced telling me to toughen up by saying to them (and to myself) that who God created me to be is a gift and therefore not something to work on changing. God also made you who you are as a gift to this world.
It is, however, true that our greatest gifts present us with our greatest challenges. I recognize now that I get overwhelmed with too much going on in my life, too many people's demands on my energy and time drive me crazy, and while others handle stress easily, I fall apart. I feel too deeply and take on other people's stress. This has especially been a lesson for me in the last month when my body was talking to me in a way that made me stop and re-evaluate the way I have been handling my stress. This is the challenge for sensitive people like me. Dealing with stress, maintaining good boundaries, saying no, realizing when we feel too much, when we get overwhelmed, and get too affected by what is going on around us. That is the time to stop and rest, pray, meditate, do yoga, or whatever else works to take care of that sensitive side. Not by fighting it, but by nurturing it.
As much as there are a struggles included in our gifts, there are also gifts included in our struggles. I certainly think working on those areas of our personality or behavior that cause us trouble or pain to those around us are something we need to address. Do you find yourself in this situation? Do you see what gift or invitation for growth might be in there? Or are you having a hard time finding it? You may not yet see the gift that you bring into this world, but I promise you it is there. And maybe one day, you will find it and embrace it, even if it takes years.