In an attempt to break this thing in me, I turned to conventional wisdom. In Haitian culture there are thousands of beliefs around things that now as an adult I know aren’t true, but as a child I could not keep from believing. For example, if you play with your shadow, it will come back to eat you in your dreams. If you cross over someone’s legs while they’re sitting on the floor, you will stunt their growth. And then there’s the belief that if you sleep with new shoes on, your feet will stop growing. As a young adolescent girl whose feet were beginning to require women’s sizes, my size seven and half feet felt like giants’ feet, and I remember the day that I decided that I was going to make them stop growing. My mom had just purchased some shoes for school and they were brand new. As I sat on my bed staring at my feet and the shoes that were going to be my saving grace I remember feeling like I heard a voice say, “What if God has a reason he made your feet so big?” Simple question, but some how that thought stopped me in my tracks. Reluctantly, I put the shoes back in my closet and managed to resign myself to the thought that although I don’t like my big feet, maybe God made them that way for some reason that I can’t appreciate right now.
Thinking back on that incident, I am still amazed at my own restraint and ability to step out of a situation and gain some perspective. But when it comes to my sensitivity I have not demonstrated these same qualities. I have done everything in my power to stunt the growth of that aspect of who I am, but like this myth that if I wore those shoes, my feet would magically stop growing; even my best efforts at choking up my feelings and hiding them somewhere deep inside me has not stopped them from growing either. Denying that I have been hurt by various things or simply refusing to say that I was bothered by something didn’t keep me from being bothered. And it hasn’t been until recently that I have been considering questions that I did about my feet, “What if God has a reason for creating me as sensitive as I am? What could be purpose in my sensitivity? Is me being sensitive of any value at all?”
I think I’ve learned over the course of my life that my feelings were not really acceptable and seemed to bother the world around me a lot. I was bullied relentlessly for being sensitive as a child. My tear ducts were 10 times more active than those around me. And friends and select family members would make their frustrations known that I would be upset too often and too emotional. I internalized the message that my crying meant people would have to give me a tissue, and God forbid I need anything from the world around me. I was raised to be independent, superwoman even; saving the world and herself one step at a time. I make fun of it now, but I learned that I was to take care of the world around me and this world never should have to take care of me and how I was feeling.
So to deal with this message I shut out a whole side of myself and allowed for a huge discrepancy for who people thought I am and who I actually am. I essentially have spent the better part of my life feeling unknown and unloved by everyone for the very reason that I have not allowed my whole self to be known. I have alienated myself from my world and I am slowly uncovering some of the false beliefs that have led the enemy to win a lot of ground in my relationships with the people in my life. But thankfully according to the Bible God can restore the years the locusts have eaten and while I don’t know how he will restore all of the time that I spent choking my feelings, I have hope for the first time in a very long time that all of this damage to friendships and relationships does not have to be the end of my story. I can allow myself to be known and the right people will love me for my whole self.
Learning to live as my whole self is a journey that I have just recently begun and I have in no way mastered. But I am so thankful that I have now gained the courage to even approach God in prayer about this part of who I am. I’ve begun to ask him some of these hard questions like “Why did you create me this way? Why isn’t my skin tougher? Why do I get hurt so easily? And what’s worse, will people accept me like this?” And his answer to me in every conversation has always been, “You are worth more than you think you are.” It never was a question of why, but a question of how valuable I am and how somehow I was experiencing my sensitivity as making me worthless and unworthy of love. In God’s eyes, I am priceless and there is no amount of love that God would not want to lavish over me. Albeit frightening I think he is calling me to start to live with this understanding of my worth with the world around me. Even though people may not be able to fully appreciate me, the risk of me not being who I am is actually more harmful than me contouring myself to their expectations and what I perceive them as being able to handle.
And in my mind, I developed the belief that the tough person is easier for people to handle because that person can take care of themselves. But over the course of my very short life I have realized that that is not who God has called me to be. I am independent but there are times when I need people and I need them to care about my feelings, good and bad. I need to be treated gingerly and gently. I don’t like being tossed around or stepped on. It hurts! And even when I don’t say it, I feel it all the time. And when I don’t say it, I run away from further engaging with the world and I think God wants me to dig deeper.
As I’m writing this, I have not fully accepted this side of me. It feels a bit self-indulgent and for some reason my mind keeps telling me that that seems wrong. However, I get disappointed when I am not cherished or protected but I have never let anyone know that I need it. I need to be set aside for special occasions and put in a leather case so that I don’t break when I fall. I can be tough and loud but I would so much rather be soft and tender. And I think the fact that my experiences have led me to feel like it’s wrong for me to need any of that from anyone is something that I want to challenge. Being sensitive doesn’t make me less than, it actually means I require more. I break out when I’m not washed properly and I need to be handled delicately. And if people can’t handle that, the fear of rejection will not keep me from seeking deeper acceptance.
What are your thoughts on being sensitive? Have you been told you are sensitive or has it been hard for you to see the value of that in the women in your life? Is there an aspect of who you are that you are struggling to accept?