*sorry this is so long; I have a hard time condensing my thoughts on this subject*
I've been sensitive as far back as I can remember. There's things people said to me as a little girl, growing up, that still stick in my mind and hurt my feelings at 22 years old. I don't feel like you choose to be sensitive or not: you just are by nature. It's drove me crazy over the years to have these incredibly heightened feelings that seem to be offended at the slightest criticism or offhanded comment that's not even maliciously intended.
The moments in which my sensitivity especially bother me though are confrontations. Instead of being able to hold my own, establish rapport in arguments and moments when I need to be firm...I crack. I falter and cannot help but cry. I do not cry because I want to: it's almost like this response mechanism so ingrained in me that I can't help but submit to. And nothing is more embarrassing or frustrating than breaking into hot, angry tears when you want a person to respect you or take you seriously.
I can't really think of any area of my life where my sensitivity hasn't affected things. In friendships, I'm always reading too much into what people say to me and twisting their words in my mind. Simple statements can be turned into absolute turning points in relationships as I mull over things. In school, I've always taken that A- with as much of a blow as a F would be to another person. Pouring over what I could have done and taking far more personal offense to a stupid letter grade than one should ever really spend time on. In work when applying for internships and jobs over the past few years I've always tended to list sensitivity as a main weakness when they ask me. I should probably do the trick all my professors suggest and say something that's not really a weakness at all like, "perfectionist, works too hard," but if I'm being honest, I can't help but say sensitivity. A simple snappy comment by a boss who just wants things done right tends to have me spiraling into panic and thinking for days and days how I could have been so stupid...
Sometimes when I go back and read my journals the opening sentence will be "I hate that I'm so sensitive" or along the lines of "if I could change one thing about me, it would be how sensitive I am" as I launch into some story about how this personality defect has affected my life that day. Sensitivity sucks because it makes you feel so deeply and so often. It's not a come and go thing: it's an everyday, in your face, deep down in your soul type of annoyance that can't be shaken.
I'd heard New York City was the worst place to go if you were sensitive. The concrete jungle is not where the faint of heart go. Every day you are faced with harsh realities that slap you in the face and expect you to keep going. I've feared New York City for a very long time because I knew it was the place that sensitive people were to avoid at all costs. It's the city for the strong of heart, brutally honest, rough and tough. So by definition: not me. Upon learning I would be spending my summer there I was filled with such fear that my overly sensitive heart would be placed in the dog eat dog world of fashion,in the heart of NYC, where movies such as Devil Wears Prada are based...I knew my sensitivity was going to be a weakness.
Turns out though it wasn't. Not even in the slightest bit. For the first time in my life, sensitivity wasn't a weakness for me. It was a strength.
In a city where so much is going on many New Yorkers become calloused to it all. To the homeless man on the corner; to the brightness of the lights at night; to the sheer size of the city and how truly lucky they are to live in one of the most incredible places on earth. I saw all these people living their lives with such callousness and knew I never wanted to be like that. I didn't want to ever stop looking at New York with the magic it held in my eyes and drinking it all in so deeply. The bad thing about sensitivity is that it causes you to feel so much all at once. But the absolutely magical thing about it is that in places like New York, that are absolutely incredible, indescribable...you see it differently than everyone else. You can go through life tired of feeling so much; but when you finally feel something that's right, to feel it that deeply--the kind of deep you once wished would go away-- now becomes a special gift no one else has.
I stood out in New York because I never let that sensitivity leave my heart. I treated every moment with wonder; looked at every opportunity as incredible because that's what it was to my sensitive heart. I let myself feel, truly feel, with every ounce of my being and it was so freeing just to feel and be alive. If I didn't feel, I would live a sad life. I would live a cold life full of nothingness; and to me, feeling nothing will always be so much more of a fear of mine than feeling everything.
To have people cherish my sensitivity was also the most surprising and humbling thing I found in NYC. I've always seen it as a weakness to be so emotional. I wished I could be strong. I've had so many people in the past tell me to stop thinking so much, stop getting hurt so easily, stop looking at the tiny details that don't matter. The people in New York though whom I met all said the same thing: they saw something different in me, something special. I was shocked, because I've never seen anything special in me in my entire life. I couldn't put my finger on it what they saw, how they said I wasn't like anyone they'd ever met (that's probably one of the best compliments I've ever had in my entire life). I thought back to conversations I'd had with them, things I'd done, gestures I made and I realized what it all pointed back to.
In a place that is so insensitive my sensitivity shined. Where you would think that a "I don't care attitude" would be embraced so much more than a "I care too much" one it was the opposite. My heart felt conversations, deep thoughts, quiet tears all held so much more than the commotion around me. Because I wasn't afraid to let myself feel, others were able to do that, too. I've always wondered if I could make it in the fashion industry because of my sensitive nature and naive heart and thankfully, this summer I proved it to myself that yes. I can make it. Where my doubt lay that I would crumble...I flourished and blossomed. Finding comfort in the fact that I can be myself; I can be vulnerable; I can be kind. And still succeed and succeed wildly.
Don't discredit things you find as weaknesses in yourself. You can think your entire life that a 'weakness' (like my sensitivity) is a downfall. But, there comes a time when it all comes together and makes sense. You are the way you are for a reason. Revel in that.
With much love, Lauren.