I used to think I was weak. After all, the events of my life would certainly point to that conclusion. I was a shy kid, homeschooled with my older brother until the age of seven.
My best childhood memories are from my homeschool days. We would get up, get dressed as if we were actually going somewhere, eat breakfast, and begin our lessons for the day. School lasted until early afternoon and there was no homework.
When we were done, we were done. My mom, brother, and I would often go for a walk in the neighborhood. We had a particular route we liked because it had “the wall.” The wall, which stretched across our neighbor’s front yard, was about two feet high and six inches wide. My brother and I would hop up on top of it and see if we could keep our balance all the way to the end. When you’re only four feet tall, the wall makes you feel like an Olympic gymnast on the balance beam.
In those days, my world was small, and I felt safe.
But everything changed when I went to school. When I was six years old, and my brother was ten, my mother took us to “interview” at a prestigious private school. My brother was accepted into sixth grade, but I was waitlisted. A few months later, we got a call that a spot had opened up, and I entered second grade in January.
All of a sudden, my world expanded from just my family and a few friends to hundreds of people. I was terrified. Everyday, I sat at my desk, mute and still. I kept my head down, did my work, and tried not to call any attention to myself. At recess, I sat on a bench, watching the other children confidently playing on the playground. I wished I could be like them. I wished I knew what to say or how to play games.
The rest of my school years went like that. I watched on the sidelines as other people socialized, too afraid to join in. Thoughts raced around my head, telling me I wasn’t good enough, I had nothing to offer, and no one cared about me. I spent countless hours over the years crying in a bathroom stall.
Even my first year of college, which I thought would be a new start, was marked with severe anxiety, insecurity, and over-sensitivity. The worst feeling was being alone in a crowd. I would walk into the dining hall and feel the panic rise in my chest as I went through the buffet line. By the time I sat down to eat, I could barely keep my composure long enough to finish my meal. I just knew everyone was thinking, “Look at that girl sitting by herself. What a loser. She’s so pathetic.” I thought they were right, so I started skipping meals. I just couldn’t handle another panic attack.
Then relief came. I began to get better. I began to have my own thoughts instead of the relentless stream of negative ones. I began to make friends and live life. I graduated from college. I got my first job. I met and married the love of my life.
Why My Sensitivity Is My Superpower
I didn’t know it then, but my struggles were helping me. My sensitivity, which I saw as my weakness, would become my superpower. Here’s how.
1. My sensitivity made me resilient. There was a point when I thought I’d never get out of that dark, lonely place I was in. And even after I got out, I feared going back. But do you know what I realized? Nothing has happened to me that has destroyed me. Yes, I’ve fallen apart. I’ve panicked, I’ve cried, I’ve screamed, I’ve been depressed, anxious, and lonely. But I’ve never been to the point of no return. So I stand on that strength, knowing that I have been through tough times and I can do it again.
2. My sensitivity allowed me to connect deeply with people. Because I’m highly sensitive and have felt like an outsider all my life, I see things differently than most people. I notice pain all around me, but I am not afraid of it. While others may squirm when someone begins to cry or share their deepest struggles, I am right at home. I listen with deep empathy and support. I walk with them until they are on the other side. It’s a privilege to see so intimately into someone’s heart, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
3. My sensitivity helped me find my purpose. I wasted so much of my life wishing I was more like everybody else. Wishing I was more outgoing, had more energy, or had thicker skin. I wished I could just confidently breeze through life like other people around me.
But then one day I had a thought, like a gentle whisper to my soul: What if you weren’t created for an easy life? Though it seemed crazy, I knew it was true. What if it was even true for others?
What if, as a highly sensitive person, you are not made to live a life of ease, but the life of a fighter? A fighter who sees something wrong and acts. Who comforts, defends, and encourages others. Who sparks change and creates new and better ways of doing things.
What if being different just means you’re positioned to make a unique contribution to the world?
And if you’re not ready because you’re in a dark place, know that you will get through this. Get support, do whatever you need to do, because the world needs you healthy and ready to fight.
When your time of suffering is over, make sure that it is not wasted. Take your struggles, your knowledge, your passion and put them all together. That is your superpower. That is how you change the world.
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