My whole life I've been told things like "you're too intense" or "you're so dramatic" or even "I can't handle you."
These words were spoken to me "you need to learn to modulate your emotions."
I was left wondering what that even meant when I heard it. But the truth is, as I said, I've heard it my entire life. People seem to believe that emotions are scary and when I express anything that feels like an emotion often I've frightened people.
I'm not a scary person, I promise you. I am, however, a sensitive person.
When I was a little girl and I would cry, my mom would hold me and say "It's okay Saree, you're very sensitive. You're an artist. Artists are sensitive." She would speak into my ear while she stroked my hair.
"I hate it." I would say. "I wish I wasn't sensitive. I wish I was like everyone else."
"But it's wonderful to be sensitive." My mother would tell me. "It's a gift. Not everyone feels like you. Cherish it."
I wanted to believe her so badly, but I was so overcome with emotion most of the time that I felt the exact opposite. I felt ruled by my own sadness, anger, guilt and so on. I wasn't able to predict when I would cry or when I would scream.
It did, however, make me an excellent writer from a very young age. I was able to transmit all those overwhelming feelings from my heart onto paper. The other thing that helped me with being a sensitive person as a teenager was acting.
When I attended F.H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts, I was able to put all my emotions into The Diary Anne Frank or The Rose Tattoo. I now had a perfect excuse to be as emotional as I wanted to be and was actually praised for my emotional expression. This was something new and exciting. Rather than being told to stop feeling, I was encouraged to keep feeling, feel more, in fact.
Still after I entered the "real world" and realized that not everybody is an artist, writer or actor, I found myself in the same predicament. Every time I would express genuine emotions I would be shamed. I've even lost friendships because my "friend" didn't understand the way that I expressed myself.
This year of my life, when I turned 34, I had an epiphany. I mysteriously turned a corner and I no longer feel ruled by my sensitivity. In fact, quite the opposite. I do feel (finally) as my mom has been trying to tell me all along that being a sensitive person is actually an asset to me.
I am sensitive so I feel my emotions deeply. This makes me a great writer. It makes me a great actor. It also makes me a wonderful listener. It allows me to be there for my friends. Being a sensitive person is a gift. It's nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. Quite the contrary, it is something to take tremendous pride in.
Sensitivity is (above all things) unappreciated by our world. The sensitives are a rare breed of people. If you are a sensitive person, own it. Use your sensitivity to create beautiful things. And if people do not understand you, it's okay. YOU understand YOU. That's what's important. Value your gift and appreciate that not everyone is able to feel so deeply. But you can.