[Listen to an audio version of this blog HERE.]
I was too sensitive because I cried at old Hallmark movies and reruns of "Touched by an Angel" and that holiday song called Christmas Shoes. There is a softness in life called crying, and it is a favorite pass time of mine, not because I'm sad, but because crying fends off the sadness. One of my best friends and I sat watching a sad movie the other day, and as quiet tears ran down my face I glanced at her. She was crying too, and that made me laugh. That made me feel less alone than I've felt in a long time. The world is too hard for soft hearts, a lesson I've learned through ugly experience. Learned to wrap my soft heart in a sheath of concrete to protect it, learned that not everyone cherishes softness, that some will abuse it, some will use it, some will call it weakness.
I was too sensitive, because I cried as I stood on a podium, shocked that I'd won a race, in awe of myself and my body, surprised at my ability and in love with myself, really, for the first time. It is a disarming thing, to love oneself completely. We are taught and told and marketed to and lied to for so long, from so many angles, to dislike ourselves. We are taught that there must be something wrong with us. That we must hide ourselves in some way, or conceal some part of ourselves. But as I stood on that podium, exposed entirely, I felt tears sting my eyes, not because I was proud of what I'd done, but because I was proud of who I was, before anyone told me I shouldn't be.
I was too sensitive, because I let words hurt me, very deeply. Let the mouth of my lover tear into me, felt my heart actually bleed. Words are just words until somebody feels hurt, until somebody means to inflict a deep hurt. Words are not just words, I learned. Words are weapons, or they can be. "You're so sensitive," he said, right before he stuck a fork in my chest and twisted it hard, to the left. "Why are you always so sensitive?" I exited that relationship with deep bruises that took a long time to heal. If I were a peach, the bruises would have reached all the way to my pit. Luckily, I'm more durable than a peach, and not so prone to rotting.
I was too sensitive, because I listened to the voices of the coaches who told me I was not good enough. That my body was wrong. That my body was bad. That I would be better, inherently better, if I could just fix my body. Then the rest of me would be fixed, too. But no matter how much I shrunk, no matter how small my body became, I was still me, albeit a sicker version of me. I did not feel good in my body, because grown men told me not to, told me my body was wrong. And if you could imagine being a young woman, wanting to succeed, you can understand, maybe, how I might have believed them. They were in charge, after all. And when I voiced the deep hurt that their leadership caused, I was suddenly too sensitive. Had I not listened, I would have been rebellious, and rebellion, it turns out, is exactly what I needed.
I was too sensitive because on date #2, I said, "I don't want to sleep with you yet," as his hands worked to undo the zipper of my very cute pale pink jeans. I grabbed his hands and said "no." "It's not a big deal," he said. And I said, "Then it's not a big deal to wait." And he said, "You're so sensitive," and I said, "Thanks for the tacos," before removing myself from his very sad and very empty studio apartment. I never heard from him again, and I didn't even care, which goes to show how incredibly not sensitive I actually felt.
Every time I've been told I am too sensitive, the words are dripping from the mouths of men. Perhaps, I am too sensitive, sometimes. Perhaps, these men have not been able to understand my emotional depth, or perhaps my psyche was not strong enough to withstand their unrest. With great joy comes great sadness, said someone much wiser than I. After picking myself up and out of my eating disorder and up and out of bad relationships, I figured maybe I'd give my soft heart some breathing room, maybe take down my walls for a minute and take a break from all the people who tell me I am "too much" of anything.
For me, this has meant shunning romantic relationships for a while. I have no heart for men who wish to consume me. I am not expendable, like a pair of shoes or a croissant. I am not too sensitive, either, for feeling this way. Sometimes women get caught in an unhealthy dynamic of attaching their worth to whomever they're with, as if they don't have worth on their own. There is a time and season for everything, a time to nurture oneself and a time to let someone else do the nurturing. A time to put the guards up and a time to take them down. A time, always, to cherish soft hearts, especially my own.
P.S. Did you like my diatribe? I've been reading Ryan Holiday's The Daily Stoic, which encapsulates 366 days of Stoic insights and exercises in bite-sized doses. Read it every day and thank me later. ❤️