A while back, I read a post by a lovely fellow blogger, Mackenzie Glanville. Speaking about her daughter, she said,
“it saddens me when she apologises simply for being emotional”
That little sentence stopped me in my tracks. I realised that, deep down, I have always longed to hear those words; to be told that it’s okay to be emotional.
Ashamed of being sensitive
I have always been desperately ashamed of my sensitive heart and strong emotions.
They have stopped me watching the films my friends and family enjoy. They have had me sobbing at international news stories. Those intense emotions have kept me awake until the early hours, grieving over a stranger’s tragic story.
I hate them.
I want to shake off the sad stories like everyone else does; to acknowledge that “it was a shame”, but then move on with my life…
Instead, my brain replays the stories over and over in a loop, like a glitch that keeps resetting itself. And as I re-live each moment in graphic detail, the emotions become more and more intense. I worry about the lives that will be rocked by this devastating news, and I worry about repercussions of the story – How will his family cope? Who will be there to help her work through this? How did he feel when he heard the news? This is going to affect her for the rest of her life…
Taking on everyone else’s emotions like this can be overwhelming.
That’s when the shame kicks in – I am labelled “too sensitive”, either out of pity or frustration.
People get frustrated
Yes I’ve faced a lot of frustration – people who just can’t understand why I’m still dwelling on some fictional narrative or an obscure storyline from the newspaper. They seem annoyed that I am upset by it. They don’t know how to handle me. They don’t understand.
In all honesty, I don’t know how to handle me when I’m like that either!
So I apologise… a lot.
I fight to push all the emotions deep down where I won’t be judged for them. I do everything I can to avoid “film night”, and I always “happen” to be out of the room when the news comes on.
You’d be forgiven for thinking I’m weak. That’s the conclusion that most people come to. They think that I am not resilient enough. They tell me I need to “toughen up”.
For some reason, being upset by other people’s tragedies is a sign of failure – I am unable to cut off their pain from my own. The label “too sensitive” implies that I am overly upset by things – I can’t control myself. I need to get a grip. I am weak.
But the truth is, I am strong.
I’m still here
Every day I get up and carry, not just my own fears and worries, but the emotions of those around me too.
When someone faces grief, they are supported by friends and family. But when my empathy kicks into a high gear, I can experience intense grief for someone I’ve never met, and I have to face that alone.
That is incredible strength!
Being sensitive is part of me
I don’t know why I feel things more strongly than other people, but I do. And guess what? It’s just one part of me.
I also have a fiercely determined side that has built up a viable business from scratch. There is the quietly competent side of me that manages a home and all the household finances. And don’t forget the Lucy that has calmly and bravely accepted her role as a Mama to a child with complex medical needs.
These are the characteristics of a robust, strong-minded woman!
Being sensitive is not the same as being weak. Being prone to strong emotions is not a sign that I am unable to cope. In many cultures, emotional outbursts are common practise and even encouraged. Sometimes allowing our emotions to surface helps us to process them more quickly.
We all have parts of us that we’d prefer to change, but those things should not define us.
Maybe it’s time for me to stop being ashamed of who I am.
And let’s start by not apologising for it anymore…
Have you ever been teased or criticised for being “too emotional”? Are you good at dealing with your emotions or do you sometimes feel frightened by their intensity? What do you do when you are struggling with overwhelm? I’d love you to leave me a comment and share your story.
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