Perhaps you can relate to this: I am the kind of person who does well in the professional world but fails miserably in the social sphere. I was a recluse as a child; I had only one friend, who was my next door neighbor. I didn’t initiate conversations with anybody, but only spoke when spoken to. Growing up didn’t change things much. I was so insecure about my social life that I basically didn’t have one.
As I pursued a career as an engineer, I wasn’t making any progress in my social life. I sensed that my reclusive nature need not be permanent, but I didn’t have a clue on how to change it.
Life, being what it is, took its toll. Struggling through the death of both my parents, a failing economy, bankruptcy, divorce, moving 500 miles to start a new salaried position…all these things would be a burden on anyone! But I was coming to realize that I was reacting to these situations with a great deal of emotion, resulting in bouts of depression and feeling numb to the world. This was new to me—or so I thought. It had never occurred to me before that I have powerful emotions, and that my emotional side is an important part of who I am.
I came to realize what I had to acknowledge to myself: I am a highly sensitive person. This was a watershed moment. I looked back over my life—one of those moments when your whole life flashes before your eyes—and considered how I had struggled with my sensitive nature. I thought about how many times I have blown a fuse, exploding like a powder keg, out of control, experiencing far more emotional output than the situation warranted.
I Had Been Denying My Sensitivity
Suddenly I realized why I was acting this way, time and again. It was because I was denying my sensitivity. I was attempting to suppress my emotions, because I had thought it was the right thing to do. Up until this moment, I had thought that an intelligent person should not—or cannot—be a sensitive person. Time and time again, when experiencing these intense emotional overloads, I had told myself that it was just a passing phase. I was only reacting to an unusual experience, an abnormal situation, etc. Somehow, I didn’t figure it out until now.
I suddenly realized how sensible it was to accept that an intelligent person can also be a sensitive person. To acknowledge that this was possible and in fact occurs often enough was a major breakthrough for me. As examples, I considered famous intelligent people I was reading about: Michelangelo, Mozart, Sir Issac Newton, Picasso, as well as various contemporary rock artists, etc. I began to understand that there have been many people who were quite intelligent and were also quite sensitive. And, no doubt, there are many such people plying the Earth today. Not to say that I am somehow as intelligent as these famous people, but if they struggled with their sensitivity, then I can understand how I, in smaller measure, struggle too.
I then came across the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. After a few tries, I have determined my personality type: INFP-T. This is a rare type, consisting of only 1.5 percent of the male population and 4 percent of the total population. This assessment stated that I am 85 percent introverted (having to do with how I interact with my environment), 78 percent intuitive (where I direct my mental energy), 83 percent feeling (how I make decisions and cope with my emotions), and 60 percent prospecting (or “perceiving”—how I approach work and planning), with a 75 percent turbulent identity (represented by the “T” at the end of the personality type initialism). I imagine that the turbulent part is largely due to only recently coming to terms with my sensitive nature.
While I am not the kind of person that takes to labels, I find this description fits me well. I encourage you to take the test and find your personality type. It is the first step towards understanding yourself a little better.
What’s your personality type? Knowing your personality type can help you leverage your natural strengths. Take the free personality test from our partner Personality Hacker.
So, suppressing my emotions just wasn’t the way to go. A change of tactics was in order: I had to learn to manage my emotions rather than suppress them. This meant—as I had to acknowledge to myself—that I must allow for appropriate means to express myself. And I slowly came to realize how I can allow emotional expression in every part of my life—even in my professional life—to the extent that I find comfortable as well as enjoyable. I have slowly come to embrace my emotional character, learning how to nurture beautiful feelings, feeling good about myself, guiding myself in the direction where I desire to go.
My Advice for Embracing Your Sensitive Nature
So, drawing from what I have learned about myself, here are a few pointers for dealing with your sensitive nature:
1. Be your own best friend. This is very important. I spent a great portion of my life getting down on myself. One day, I told myself that if I can expend so much energy getting down on myself, then why not just turn that around and nurture good feelings about myself? Take good care of yourself. Love yourself! Yeah, easier said than done—believe me, I know. But I think you can agree that this is “job number one.” No one else can do this for you, and no one else really knows how to do it better than you.
2. Nurture good habits to promote your self-esteem. Try this: every morning, look at yourself in the mirror. Yes, I know the image staring back at you is not what you want to see before you have a chance to wake up. But look past the surface. Look yourself in the eyes and sense the very center of your being—and tell yourself that you are beautiful! You might be saying, “What? That’s crazy!” I know it sounds simplistic and even childish, but it works. You are nurturing a good habit that promotes your self-esteem.
3. Allow yourself to explore your feelings, both the good and the bad. Learn to appreciate your sensitive nature. Enjoy the moments that you are feeling good, and struggle with the bad times as well. To say the least, what you gain from this is experience. Life looks so much better as we gain perspective.
4. Talk to yourself. Go ahead, it’s alright! This is actually a common habit among people of similar traits, and I think it is very beneficial.
Realize that you may well be a highly sensitive person. This means that you are experiencing emotions of a higher caliber than the average person—and that’s okay. Other people might not understand and appreciate this about you, but it’s important that you understand and appreciate it.
Interacting with people online that have similar traits and who are struggling with their sensitive nature has helped me tremendously. You may want to check out the Introvert, Dear forum or Facebook group.
Life is full of opportunities both joyous and painful, but there is no need to hide from it all. Just take in what you can, and enjoy the journey.
Read this: 12 Things a Highly Sensitive Person Needs