Sunday, February 23, 2014

Being Sensitive is a Gift

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.


  1. Great post Sarah! We are very alike. I have been told that I'm too emotional and intense. It's a gift! I'd rather be emotional and intense than numb and unresponsive.

  2. Exactly. I would rather be able to feel deeply than be a robot. Not that there's anything wrong with robots. They're cool.

  3. This was awesome! I'm sensitive, too. I've always been told to stop crying or to stop being so emotional. But I've learned that it's helped me be a great writer; because I know those feelings all too well, I can put them on the page.

    Sensitives unite!

  4. So true. Sensitive people are the ones who keep the world's humanity alive... because not only do we feel it, but we feel the need to share it or express it somehow. Also, with sensitivity comes empathy - one of the greatest gifts of all.


  6. This was a great reminder. I'm pretty sensitive, but I mostly hold it inside. Lilah is OFF-THE-CHARTS sensitive, and also extremely intense, which makes for a challenging combination in a 4-year-old because pretty much anything and everything sets her off (with extremely dramatic outbursts), and it is very hard for her to calm down. The best approach I've found is to just sympathize, empathize, and be with her through it as much as my own sensitivities (and patience) will allow. Sometimes that is incredibly hard. I love that your mom encouraged your sensitivity and didn't let you shut down. I've been told that there are incredible upsides to having such a sensitive child, but during the preschool years, I'll admit, I've often struggled to find them. Her sensitivity makes her anxious a lot of the time because she doesn't miss ANYTHING and is constantly taking everything IN. And where and when does it come OUT? When she feels safe and secure. Which is pretty much any time she is with ME. So that's fun. :)

  7. This is such an important post. Thank you for your bravery.

  8. I think it's wonderful that she's that sensitive and tuned in to her emotions. I could see how it would be overwhelming for a parent though. It's great that you're aware of it.

  9. Empathy is to be treasured for sure.

  10. I have never been on a subway except for the subway where you can get subs haha. But it's an interesting take. I don't think you're doing it to be mean, just to get a seat.

  11. HAHA! I got a good laugh out of this. I love you Sarah. Use whatever works. Especially when you feel bedraggled and tired and angry and stressed out. Mama needs a break. It's not just about race. It's about strategy. Black, white... we're all pawns on a chess board, right? But it's somebody else's game. Just don't expect people to start moving in L shapes and you'll be fine.

    Prejudice ain't always bad. I look at tired moms and I know they might need help with something. I'll give up my seat for somebody who needs it. So why not also feel free to look for somebody who will soon not need it? I call it functional prejudice. If a kid gets attacked, I want him to know, just by looking at me, that I can and will defend him. If I notice an older person struggling to sit, I may offer an arm.

    But you're right, there's something wrong with the race thing. It's not that you recognize or use it. That's not the problem. The problem is that we live in an isolationist world. When destinations of entire ethnic groups can be basically categorized by geography with a good deal of consistency, it means we segregate as a society. So yes, there's something wrong with that. But it's not you. It's all of us.

  12. Hold up. You've never been on a subway? Not even the TTC?

  13. Totally agree with Trauma Dad's last point. The harm is not that you notice these things -- so what? It doesn't sound like you're making value judgments, just observations. The truly weird part is that we are still pretty tribal.


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