Guest Post – Celebrating Vulnerability
“You’re too emotional.”
“Don’t take this personally, for pity’s sake…”
I did my best. I tried SO HARD not to take things personally. It was about as useful as telling the victim of a stabbing to stop bleeding.
All my life, I’ve been deeply affected by the people around me and what they said to me. It isn’t something people easily notice about me, it takes some closer interaction – and even then, I often managed to hide how shaken I was, and how hurt. You see, I’m an extrovert and that’s not the kind of people who are expected to be particularly touchy.
I am outgoing and love people. I don’t have a problem giving presentations or standing in front of a crowd and singing – I’ve done both of these many times, in my jobs and when I was a singer in a band. I love attention. I do like having lots of time to myself, but I also enjoy being among people, bathing in shared and synergized energy.
People view me as strong, and they’re not wrong – I can deal with the things life throws at me. I moved to different countries on my own several times in my life, I’ve come through bankruptcy and dug myself out to recovery and now financial stability. I’m proud of these things. They don’t mean, however, that I’m not affected deeply. In some of the relationships I’ve been in, men have thrown things at me assuming I “could take it” because I don’t break down. They didn’t understand that being able to cope doesn’t mean being invulnerable.
I am, on the contrary, extremely vulnerable. It’s always been hard to explain this, as it didn’t seem to go with the rest of my personality. It was only a few years ago that I came across an actual psychological term for what I am: HSP, a “Highly Sensitive Person”. High sensitivity is a personality trait found a lot more often than you’d think, and about 30% of HSPs are extroverts. When I first came across a website describing high sensitivity and presenting a list of traits, I checked off about 95% of them. I was profoundly relieved to find that I wasn’t simply weird, that there was a name for how I feel, and that it’s normal.
Knowing about high sensitivity has helped me cope with everyday life challenges a lot better. I’ve learned to accommodate myself and my needs. I no longer feel selfish for needing lots of time to myself. I’ve also become more sensitive towards others, and this led me to my calling: Coaching. It’s an ideal kind of work for me, as it requires sensitivity and understanding, listening for nuances, and using one’s intuition. By now, I have a recognized qualification and eight years of Coaching practice under my belt, and while I coach part-time, helping people grow and reach their goals is the most inspiring and humbling experience I know of.
I called my business “Gentle Miracles Coaching” (www.gentlemiraclescoaching.com) which perfectly reflects me and what Coaching is all about: It’s nothing short of a miracle what people achieve with the help of a Coach, but it’s all done in a gentle, non-intrusive way. You can imagine how this is right up my aisle! Funnily, although I don’t advertise specifically to HSPs, several of my clients are and have been highly sensitive. Co-incidence? I prefer thinking of it as the Law of Attraction in action.
These days, I see high sensitivity as an asset. It’s an advantage to pick up the more subtle signals others might overlook, like a person’s mood, or the way they speak. I’ve learned to assume a lot less and listen a lot more, really listen with the intention of understanding the other person, not with the intention of making them hear my own point (I don’t know whether you know Stephen Covey and his “7 Habits”, but I’ve always liked the idea to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”).
The only challenge about being highly sensitive is to shield myself from negative influences, which can really get to me. But in recent years, I’ve learned a lot about boundaries, and have slowly and patiently built an environment for myself which is mostly positive – I even started a new daytime job recently with a much more humane company than the huge multinationals I used to work for before, and with lovely, respectful people who make me smile every day.
The short of it? Whether you are an HSP or not, I’d recommend seeking an environment which is aligned with your personality, your feelings, and your emotional needs. Life is too short to spend most of the day struggling against the current, and the relief of feeling “right”, feeling seen and heard as well as safe, is profound.
Sibylle is a life and business coach with clients all over the world and a passion for people and communication. She uses intuition as well as tried and tested coaching processes to help her clients uncover and reach their goals and dreams.