a personal style blog by Lauren Pfieffer

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sensitvity is a Strength.

Vintage Hawaiian Dress, Boater: Thrifted.
Heels: c/o, very old!

*sorry this is so long; I have a hard time condensing my thoughts on this subject*

I've been sensitive as far back as I can remember. There's things people said to me as a little girl, growing up, that still stick in my mind and hurt my feelings at 22 years old. I don't feel like you choose to be sensitive or not: you just are by nature. It's drove me crazy over the years to have these incredibly heightened feelings that seem to be offended at the slightest criticism or offhanded comment that's not even maliciously intended.

The moments in which my sensitivity especially bother me though are confrontations. Instead of being able to hold my own, establish rapport in arguments and moments when I need to be firm...I crack. I falter and cannot help but cry. I do not cry because I want to: it's almost like this response mechanism so ingrained in me that I can't help but submit to. And nothing is more embarrassing or frustrating than breaking into hot, angry tears when you want a person to respect you or take you seriously. 

I can't really think of any area of my life where my sensitivity hasn't affected things. In friendships, I'm always reading too much into what people say to me and twisting their words in my mind. Simple statements can be turned into absolute turning points in relationships as I mull over things. In school, I've always taken that A- with as much of a blow as a F would be to another person. Pouring over what I could have done and taking far more personal offense to a stupid letter grade than one should ever really spend time on. In work when applying for internships and jobs over the past few years I've always tended to list sensitivity as a main weakness when they ask me. I should probably do the trick all my professors suggest and say something that's not really a weakness at all like, "perfectionist, works too hard," but if I'm being honest, I can't help but say sensitivity. A simple snappy comment by a boss who just wants things done right tends to have me spiraling into panic and thinking for days and days how I could have been so stupid...

Sometimes when I go back and read my journals the opening sentence will be "I hate that I'm so sensitive" or along the lines of "if I could change one thing about me, it would be how sensitive I am" as I launch into some story about how this personality defect has affected my life that day. Sensitivity sucks because it makes you feel so deeply and so often. It's not a come and go thing: it's an everyday, in your face, deep down in your soul type of annoyance that can't be shaken.

I'd heard New York City was the worst place to go if you were sensitive. The concrete jungle is not where the faint of heart go. Every day you are faced with harsh realities that slap you in the face and expect you to keep going. I've feared New York City for a very long time because I knew it was the place that sensitive people were to avoid at all costs. It's the city for the strong of heart, brutally honest, rough and tough. So by definition: not me. Upon learning I would be spending my summer there I was filled with such fear that my overly sensitive heart would be placed in the dog eat dog world of fashion,in the heart of NYC, where movies such as Devil Wears Prada are based...I knew my sensitivity was going to be a weakness.

Turns out though it wasn't. Not even in the slightest bit. For the first time in my life, sensitivity wasn't a weakness for me. It was a strength.

In a city where so much is going on many New Yorkers become calloused to it all. To the homeless man on the corner; to the brightness of the lights at night; to the sheer size of the city and how truly lucky they are to live in one of the most incredible places on earth. I saw all these people living their lives with such callousness and knew I never wanted to be like that. I didn't want to ever stop looking at New York with the magic it held in my eyes and drinking it all in so deeply. The bad thing about sensitivity is that it causes you to feel so much all at once. But the absolutely magical thing about it is that in places like New York, that are absolutely incredible, indescribable...you see it differently than everyone else. You can go through life tired of feeling so much; but when you finally feel something that's right, to feel it that deeply--the kind of deep you once wished would go away-- now becomes a special gift no one else has.

I stood out in New York because I never let that sensitivity leave my heart. I treated every moment with wonder; looked at every opportunity as incredible because that's what it was to my sensitive heart. I let myself feel, truly feel, with every ounce of my being and it was so freeing just to feel and be alive. If I didn't feel, I would live a sad life. I would live a cold life full of nothingness; and to me, feeling nothing will always be so much more of a fear of mine than feeling everything. 

To have people cherish my sensitivity was also the most surprising and humbling thing I found in NYC. I've always seen it as a weakness to be so emotional. I wished I could be strong. I've had so many people in the past tell me to stop thinking so much, stop getting hurt so easily, stop looking at the tiny details that don't matter. The people in New York though whom I met all said the same thing: they saw something different in me, something special. I was shocked, because I've never seen anything special in me in my entire life. I couldn't put my finger on it what they saw, how they said I wasn't like anyone they'd ever met (that's probably one of the best compliments I've ever had in my entire life). I thought back to conversations I'd had with them, things I'd done, gestures I made and I realized what it all pointed back to.

 In a place that is so insensitive my sensitivity shined. Where you would think that a "I don't care attitude" would be embraced so much more than a "I care too much" one it was the opposite. My heart felt conversations, deep thoughts, quiet tears all held so much more than the commotion around me. Because I wasn't afraid to let myself feel, others were able to do that, too. I've always wondered if I could make it in the fashion industry because of my sensitive nature and naive heart and thankfully, this summer I proved it to myself that yes. I can make it. Where my doubt lay that I would crumble...I flourished and blossomed. Finding comfort in the fact that I can be myself; I can be vulnerable; I can be kind. And still succeed and succeed wildly. 

Don't discredit things you find as weaknesses in yourself. You can think your entire  life that a 'weakness' (like my sensitivity) is a downfall. But, there comes a time when it all comes together and makes sense. You are the way you are for a reason. Revel in that.

With much love, Lauren.


Romina Santana said...

Beautiful article Lauren, I´m very happy you were able to conquer your fears and live such wonderful moments =) I am a very sensitive person too, but lately I have been feeling that the world has harden me and making me colder, instead of otherwise. Luckily I have also a creative outlet to let that part of me thrive more. It is always really healthy for the soul being your true self =)

Jana K said...

I resonated with this so much. My heart is quite tender and sensitive as well, which seems to be my greatest strength AND my greatest weakness. (as cheesy as that sounds...it's true...)
However I am learning to embrace my sensitivity and realize it allows me to see the world differently, and that's a good thing :)

You are such a beautiful person Lauren, inside and out!

Sammi said...

Great post, Lauren. You absolutely need to read The Highly Sensitive Person if you haven't already. It's on Amazon and it changed my life. I've been sensitive for as long as I can remember, and people will ALWAYS make you feel like it's a weakness... until you meet someone else who understands you. I had a guy really guilt me for being HSP and thought it was something I could "just get over" by "toughening up." It does not work that way at all, and I think it's hard for someone who isn't highly sensitive to empathize and understand that much (like we do). I didn't thrive in New York, but I can handle it -- the question now is whether I want to handle it all the time. I think I might need to be somewhere outside the city (but still near enough that I can easily commute) for the sake of my happiness. We shall see. From one sensitive soul to another, I really admire your spirit and your willingness to do things that scare you.

xoxox Sammi

Kezzie said...

I understand this. I am also very sensitive and I get so utterly frustrated with myself. I stress and agonise over things I have said to other people and how they react and I often think that people dislike me or I've upset them and imagine they don't like me or I've done something wrong.
I recently met up with another blog friend, who like you was one of my first blog friends, one of the people who commented on my posts in the earlier days and she made some comment that basically said I swear a lot for a teacher. I immediately thought she hated me because of that comment and I felt miserable all the way home from our meet-up and hated myself for trying to be amusing in conversation when I'm nervous. Of course, she didn't hate me (I hope not!) but that didn't/doesn't stop my mind thinking she was disappointed at me in real life.

Anyway, I don't mind my sensitivity at times like you say,because it helps you to feel situations more, but it does make you miserable at times.
I'm sorry if I haven't commented much for a month or so on your blog but I'm trying not to worry about making sure I am commenting on everything someone writes if there's less interaction from them reciprocally as I just don't have the time for it, I'm sure you understand the lack of time thing, but rest assured I am still reading and enjoying your blog. Good luck for your final year.x

Carmel Elizabeth said...

I know...I know exactly what you mean. Some days I feel so sensitive like people can't possibly understand how loud it is in my head sometimes? But those breakthrough moments where it just makes sense, when your thoughts break through into powerful words and ideas...that's when I remember that it is "a blessing (if a curse) to feel everything so deeply". <3

Here's to the sensitive girls! I happen to think we're kinder, in the end, because we know what it is to be weak. <3

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that I needed this. I'm still learning to see the reserved and sensitive qualities of myself as valuable. Thank you, Lauren, for putting into words what so many of us encounter on a daily basis. While it slices into our souls to feel the negative things so deeply, it also widens our wonder-filled eyes that much wider to feel the beautiful things so deeply.

xoxo, Alesha

LaurenLovesLaughter said...

This is such a a beautiful post Lauren! (Which I can totally relate too!)
If you get a chance you should check out this podcast

This particularly episode is called "Gifts of Being a Highly Sensitive Person" I think you'd enjoy it!

Lauren xx

Kristin said...

Love your thoughts here! I also am incredibly sensitive...when I was little my mom called me her "China Doll" because I would cry so easily. In fact I've wanted to start my own style blog for a while and I've been too afraid because I've seen too many blog haters out there and I know that if I got comments like some people have received, it would destroy me. But that's why I respect you and other bloggers so much, for being able to move on and not let the internet trolls control you! In fact you've been an example for me about being bold about sharing honest thoughts, your faith, etc., to the whole world.

I love what you wrote about seeing sensitivity as a strength. It's so true; people long for someone to care about them. Way to be a breath of fresh air to the people of NYC!

Ada Ciuca said...

First off, you look absolutely stunning in this dress and it is one of my favorite looks of yours. Secondly, I completely relate to your post. I feel like I've always shown emotion on a much deeper level than anyone I know and I tend to lose control over myself and my feelings in most situations, especially confrontational ones. This summer I lived in Los Angeles and I thrived in my sensitivity. A lot of people don't have the ability to live fully and appreciate their surroundings, but I'm really grateful to be able to dive deeply into my emotions, no matter how ridiculous that may look to the outside world. Keep doing what you're doing- you'll have an amazing life with great memories to show for it :)


Mariah Alysz said...

I am so very pleased that your post was in fact so long, and that you posted it at all! (Even if I am wildly late reading it.) I feel it's completely cliche to say "oh I'm the exact same way as you!" but I honestly and truly am. For so much of my life I have had people tell me I was weak for feeling so much, or that I spent too much time getting walked on, that I was "too nice" and needed to stop; to change. For a long time I believed all of it. I felt silly, superfluous, and childish. I felt people saw me this way, and heck, some of them still do. It wasn't until I met Michael that I encountered someone outside of my family who truly valued the way I am. Someone who taught me to love it about myself, and that caring and sensitivity are completely a strength. I am so pleased that New York helped you see that about yourself, because you are such a gorgeous person with such beautiful qualities. I hope you never lose your sensitivity. It is a rare quality more people should gain.
All my love,
Mariah Alysz

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