Sensitivity is double-sided
W R I T T E N B Y Allison Mondel
“You are too sensitive.”
“Stop being so sensitive.”
“I am too sensitive.”
I have heard and said these statements my entire life. And for good reason: I am insanely positively heroically epically sensitive.
It takes a lifetime to understand that being sensitive is not a flaw or failing to overcome. It is a trait to be integrated healthfully into your experience.
This realization took a long time for me to understand, as I understood my sensitivity to be of the utmost inconvenience in just about every life situation. Early school experiences were particularly grim, as the little girl constantly crying in every class was perhaps a little frustrating?
“Allison is TOO sensitive.”
Well, cue adulthood (and music career), and learning how to fruitfully grow into the authentic, loving person and artist you were born to be, in spite of all the personal and societal conditioning that reminds you that you are faulty and you should definitely toughen up.
And by my estimation, being sensitive actually is a hindrance if past experiences have triggered a defensive response to, well, life.
Because being sensitive means you feel a lot when you take it all in. It means you have extra receptivity capabilities, and it means that you process the world around you in a way that is amplified emotionally.
Is that a problem? Of course not.
But when we are not taught how to manage this superpower (which we are not), it can lead to an automated response of over-reactivity.
Let’s put this in the context of our musical life and using our voice.
Can you imagine an experience when you were singing, and someone stopped to correct or criticize what you were doing?
Of course you can, there are a million.
But I bet there was one or two that particularly stung. What was your reaction?
Did that overcome you? Did that make you reel? Did that shut you down?
I would understand perfectly if it did. But why did that happen? What was it about whatever someone else said or did or thought that had such brute force to initiate such a response?
You were in a state of open and delightful vulnerability, following your heart’s desire and delight.
You were singing. You were open. You were brave. You were happy. You were you.
And then BOOM. Shut it down. Close the curtain. Turn off the lights.
Because if you are sensitive, any kind of perceived criticism is amplified to the nth degree. Unless we are taught how to emotionally manage or prepare for this kind of arbitrary feedback, we experience a blow to our system. And subsequently construct a defensive mechanism for our selves that allows for protection against future criticism.
Or perhaps even protection from ourselves.
Ah. I feel that. I also know many people who long to follow their heart’s desire and delight but it it just. too. painful. Are they too sensitive?
NO. If this is you, I am going to tell you that you are not “too” sensitive. But you are, in fact, sensitive. It is not a failing. It is a trait. It is best accepted as soon as possible, and waste no more time in wondering why you are not tougher.
That is not worth your time.
I invite you to conceive of sensitivity as one of your greatest strengths. What was once an absolutely crushing personality quirk is one of my greatest gifts: to feel.
To feel is not a sin. The work is to re-learn How to Feel when you step into any given situation, especially when you sing.
But hear me on this: you must set the parameters for yourself.
Otherwise, you are going to be awash in a sea of your own reactivity to external stimuli, even of the most benign variety. Your egoic fears and past conditioning will dictate how that is going to look and feel.
And we all know how THAT is going to go.
If you are committed to discovering your inner voice, and allowing that part of yourself to show up, and to thrive, I have some… not great news.
You are going to meet those previous reactions to criticism. You are going to encounter a version of yourself that conceives of this heightened reactivity as a problem. You are going to feel things. Not easy things. But manageable, nonetheless.
The things that you have encountered along your journey of singing are the very things I want you to reconsider as the most important reminders of why you love to sing.
Singing, using your voice, communicating through music, creative endeavors… these are the ways in which we access the deepest and most authentic aspects of our being.
Being sensitive is normal. Early responses to criticism are normal. Heightened reactivity to criticism is normal. Not knowing how to manage emotions is normal.
Until you realize that you want more and you want to feel better. Then the soul kicks in.
You learn how to accept your sensitive nature. You guide others who are sensitive. And when you have the capacity to understand how your experiences – no matter what they might be – shape who you are, you choose who you want to become.
Here is to your squishy, loving, gloriously feeling and sensitive self. (Thank God!)
IMAGE: Andreas Haslinger on Unsplash
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