Our emotional vulnerability is our greatest strength
by Heather Thatcher
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“You’re too sensitive.”
I heard that so many times, growing up. More than I count.
I started to believe that my sensitive nature, my emotions, were bad and something that I needed to work on.
Something I needed to “fix” because it was broken.
I used to believe that my highly sensitive nature was a curse.
I felt everything so deeply, life felt very rough. And with our world putting so much emphasis on logical and rational thinking, my emotional and vulnerable nature became something I was ashamed of.
Something I felt called to hide and suppress.
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So many people were telling me to not express my emotions and to regulate my experience of them. I became numb to life.
I felt this part of me disappearing, which at the time, I thought it was a good thing. It was what I was told I should do.
Looking back I can see how suppressing this part of myself attracted people and situations into my life where it didn’t matter if they hurt me or how they made me feel – because I denied this part of myself.
So it didn’t matter how awful they were.
Because I denied all emotion, even the appropriate emotional responses of hurt and anger to how they were treating me were repressed.
I became unable to sort out what was a normal emotional reaction and what was an overreaction, so all emotion was considered “bad” and to be ignored.
When I started my nursing program at University, though, things changed.
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In my second semester, I had my very first in-hospital experience placement. Right away I was struck with all of the human emotions: the suffering, the strength and the love and support of the families or the loneliness and pain of the few who didn’t have someone there for them.
My wall that I had built up around my sensitive nature to keep back my emotions came crashing down around me, and the floodgates opened.
I regained my connection to this highly sensitive side of myself and saw so much evidence in my interactions with my patients, the staff, and my classmates that the limiting core belief was shattered.
I no longer saw my sensitivity as a weakness and a vulnerability.
I was able to see and experience evidence that it was actually my greatest strength.
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As I’m writing this here, memories are rushing in, of the tiny moments where holding someone’s hand and just keeping space for them made all the difference. Hugging a grandmother and handing her a tissue as she held her grand-daughter for the first time and was moved to tears by her precious beauty. Or holding the hand of someone who was dying in the ICU without any family there for them.
The shared smiles, the shared laughter, the shared tears – all of these memories are making me tear up and causing my heart to swell with emotion.
I remember someone telling me that I’d have to toughen up if I wanted to be able to survive working in the pediatric ICU or the adult trauma ICU. But I’m so glad that I stuck with my intuition and stayed in alignment with my true nature.
Sure, I ugly cried on my way to my car at the end of the shift a bunch of times.
But I didn’t fear any of my emotions anymore. I allowed myself to experience them and then release them and let them go.
Accepting and honouring my emotional nature was the most crucial step of my personal development, and I now accept that it is 100% who I am.
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It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle of today’s society. We’re so focused on getting as much done in as little time as possible.
But this has made it so that we’re losing our connection to each other.
We’re losing our connection to our universal consciousness and shared humanity.
So even though you may not be quite as sensitive as I am, and can be moved to tears just by thinking of the lyrics to “Travelling Soldier” by the Dixie Chicks (that last verse, friends. Holy smokes. It makes me cry every time) that doesn’t mean that you’re not an emotional person.
Emotions are part of our human experience, and when we acknowledge our own feelings and those of others, our interpretation of our world can shift dramatically.
Believe me; I can understand if you’re feeling a bit scared by this idea.
Sure, it’s all well and great to experience joy, happiness, wonder and awe with full openness and enthusiasm.
But how do you do this with difficult emotions like hurt, fear, anger, loneliness and disappointment?
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The key, I’ve discovered, is to explore all of these emotions and our entire world with curiosity and compassion.
Our emotions are habits, just like brushing our teeth. We’ve learned to respond to certain situations with certain emotions because of our experience and what we saw others doing.
One of my favourite songs is by Jewel, and it’s called “I’m Sensitive,” and the lyrics are so incredible, I would recommend you give them a read.
One of the lines is: “I have this theory that if we’re told we’re bad; that’s the only idea we’ll ever have.”
Think of what you were told about your emotions growing up by your parents, teachers, mentors and then notice how those imposed beliefs are still showing up for you today.
This is your opportunity to agree or disagree with what was said.
You have so much knowledge from your human experience to this date. Trust in that, as I trusted in my new understanding from working at the hospital where I saw vulnerability as strength.
So how can you honour your emotional nature without setting yourself up to experience a world of hurt?
Be mindful of the beauty and wonder around you.
The last time I was at a pet store, there was a young girl who was maybe 2 or 3 years old who was looking at the kitten playing in the adoption centre. The kitten was freaking adorable, running around playing with a ball.
And this little girl was giggling and squealing with delight watching this kitten play. She was laughing and enjoying the moment with every fibre of her being.
Can you start to see the world that way?
What can you do to experience your day-to-day life as if it were through the eyes of your 2- to 3-year-old self, experiencing it as if it were the first time?
I was out with friends in Vancouver for my bachelorette party, and as we were walking back to where Dustin was parked, I was moved by the beauty of the shipping docks lit up at night with the mountain silhouette in the background.
It was so gorgeous.
But when I said this to my friends, I’m pretty sure they thought I was drunk haha (which I wasn’t, for the record).
They didn’t even stop to look.
Look for beauty in the everyday moments.
This, my friend, will start to reconnect you to your emotional nature.
There are so many beautiful moments around us all the time.
Notice when someone holds a door open for another person, or helps someone struggling to lift their groceries into their car, or throws a ball back to a group of kids that it got away from, or the sound of the leaves moving in the trees, the beauty of the clouds in the sky, or how that song on the radio makes you feel.
All of these moments slow us down and reconnect us to our humanity and each other.
My action step for you today is to slow down, and look for the wonder and beauty in each moment. See the world through the eyes of your 3 year-old self, experiencing everything for the first time.
Give yourself permission to experience the emotions as they come up for you. Maybe you’ll realize, like I did, how powerful emotions can be to connect us all.
Thank you for sharing in my most vulnerable post to date. It was an emotional journey writing it, and I’m grateful for the space and ability to share it with you here.
Now I feel it makes more sense why I end my posts, emails and captions on social media with the phrase “From my heart to yours.”
Everything I write is from my highly sensitive, emotional heart.
As Jewel wrote in that song, “I’m sensitive, and I’d like to stay that way.”