It took me 38 years to acknowledge I am a sensitive soul. It is now a badge of honor, but like any other badge of honor it was hard earned.
First, let's talk about what it means to be a sensitive soul. Sensitivity has many definitions, but it means to be reactive to sensory experiences (sight, touch, taste, hearing, smell + others) and capable of detecting minute changes in the environment. In relationships, it means to be highly attuned to both your own feelings and the feelings of others. Sensitive souls sometimes describe themselves as empaths or intuitives. Simply put, to be a sensitive soul is to deeply experience everything.
I used to hide the sensitive parts about me behind defense mechanisms, like humor and avoidance. I didn't realize in doing this I was suppressing my soul. The soul (or true self, authentic self, essence, etc.) desires two things—to be expressed and to be seen. If the soul doesn't feel safe to show itself for whatever reason, it hides in the body as stuckness.
The biggest part of tending to your sensitive soul is to express it and allow it to be seen. When you need to cry, cry. When you are touched by something, let it wash over you and really feel it. When you want to wear your grandmother's necklace as an outward expression of sadness, wear it.
There is a popular book called The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron, PhD. In this book there is a self-test to determine if you are highly-sensitive. The book is full of helpful information, but I never resonated with the words "highly-sensitive." I typically replace it with the phrase “highly-empathetic,” which I like better, but don’t think it encompasses all that it is to be a sensitive soul.
Find the words that works for you and tell people who you are:
"I am sensitive."
"I am an empath."
"I am intuitive."
"I notice everything."
These terms avoid the word "highly," which implies there is a level of sensitivity which is "too much." To be a sensitive soul is to be sensitive at the soul level, not just when the ego is bruised, but to be a person who resonates deeply with pain and joy.
What are other ways to tend to who you are?
1. Consider your sensitivity your superpower.
Not everyone views the world through this lens. According to The Highly Sensitive Person it's only about 20% of the population. See your sensitivity as an advantage. You are experiencing the world in a deep and profound way. Live into it.
2. Know your challenges.
The world can be too much sometimes and different things are challenging for different souls. What are the things that overwhelm you? Crowds? Loud music? Identify what they are and either avoid them, prepare yourself prior to being exposed to them, or spend time regulating after you've experienced them. If you don't like horror movies, don’t go to them. If the news is too much, don't watch it. If you are feeling uncomfortable, rest, rest, rest.
3. Increase your capacity.
You may always be sensitive, but that doesn't mean you will always have to be insulated from the world. You can increase your capacity by playing at the edges of your comfort zone. When you do something that is just outside of your optimal arousal, it gives you evidence that you can do it. The more evidence you have that you can do things that are uncomfortable, the more likely you are to do it in the future.
4. Find your "soulmates."
Sensitive souls sometimes feel different or alone. It's important to identify the other sensitive souls in your life. These are the people you might turn to when you need empathetic understanding. They will be able to relate to what it's like to feel deeply and help normalize your feelings.
5. Envision a strong backbone.
Visualization exercises are an effective tool for sensitive souls. Whenever you need to do something, such as call a person you don't want to call, visualize your backbone as strong and powerful. It will help you rise to the occasion and build more evidence that you can step outside your comfort zone.
6. Listen to yourself above anyone else.
Sensitivity and intuition go hand in hand. Everyone has intuition, but not everyone is able to tap into it like a sensitive soul. Therefore, it is important to listen to yourself and trust yourself. You are attuned to your life and only you will know what is best for you.
A sensitive soul is also a brave soul. You experience the world like a typhoon, but sometimes when you're around others you might pretend like it's a light drizzle. This takes a great deal of courage.
If you are sensitive soul consider somatic psychotherapy, which helps "desensitize" the challenging parts, while celebrating the beautiful parts of being sensitive. Most importantly try not to wish your sensitivity away. Honor it—It truly is your superpower.
"Dream wider and experience deeper horizons and bliss. When you’re sensitive, you’re alive in every sense of this word in this wildly beautiful world. Sensitivity is your strength. Keep soaking in the light and spreading it to others." - Victoria Erickson
I'm Kerry and I am a licensed therapist, writer & speaker. This is a positive space focused on how to thrive in any situation and the transformative power of suffering.