Teachable Tuesday|Strength Isn’t Measured By Sensitivity

I’d like to think that those that know me well would say that I’m a strong individual. I’m independent, responsible and not overly emotional. They’d say that I’m caring but not mushy. Up until recently, the last statement would have been a compliment. I’ve spent so much of my life building this wall around me that telling me how high, impenetrable and what a protective structure it is would be one of the most flattering things I could hear.

Just a couple of days ago, I realized that I’m actually much more sensitive than I let myself admit. For so long showing any form of sensitivity was a sign of weakness and life had taught me there was no room for that. So I began putting up my wall block by block and with each block I laid, I began to shut the sensitivity out. Here I was thinking that if I made myself so strong and tough that I would shield myself from pain, life would be easier to go through and I was making things easier on myself. It reminds me of a clip I saw of one of Brene Brown’s talks. She talked about numbing pain and how when you numb it, you aren’t isolating the numbing effect to pain, you’re numbing it all.

So while I had the best of intentions to numb the pain of the past, shield myself from the pain of the present and protect myself from future pain, I was also reducing my capacity to feel loved, accepted, understood, and happy. What I didn’t realize is that with each block I laid for my wall I wasn’t just keeping things out, I was trapping myself in. Here I had been building this wall that later became a tower where I could see out of a window that would keep me safe but I was so far removed that I was just existing in a refuge of my own making that became a dungeon.

Then this unexpected thing happened, when I got pregnant my fortress experienced an earthquake. There was a huge hole in the wall that penetrated it in a way I wasn’t prepared to fix. I wasn’t able to lay the blocks quickly enough and while I did the best I could, there were moments that I just evaluated the situation. I began to feel and experience things that I hadn’t in a very long time. Of course hormones had a play so there were aftershocks and tremors but it was more than just hormones. I began to see the world in a different way and I began to connect in a way that I never had before in my adult life.

Most people I know have never seen me cry, they wouldn’t have believed their eyes while I was pregnant! I couldn’t watch the news, I had to stop watching some of my favorite shows (my husband had to make an international call to my mom at one point because of how badly a story on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition impacted me). This hole was a lot harder to fix than when I initially surveyed the damage and I needed to get an expert opinion to come in and help me. I started to see a counselor and we began to work on healing some past issues to help me move forward. It was emotionally exhausting! That’s when my healing journey began even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

As time went on, I began to change. I wasn’t able to fix the hole in my fortress. I started to patch it up but it didn’t look the same, and then other projects came up that needed my attention more and so the wall sat open and exposed for years. From this came a lot of healing but it also brought on an uncomfortable transition. Here my husband married this person that was so strong and emotionally guarded and out of nowhere started to become more emotionally available. Not only was I emotionally available but I started craving emotional attachment and connection. My needs had changed and I didn’t realize it or know how to communicate it. I felt like a different person and it put a lot of pressure on me to understand myself and what was going on as well as my husband to try and be supportive and be what I needed even when neither one of us knew what that was. It took a lot of work, communication, patience and sometimes even space for us to figure it out. I’m thankful that we had the love, devotion, and determination to figure it out because the easier thing to do would have been to go our separate ways.

In the not so distant past, I proudly wore my badge of strength and boasted of my fortress with it’s impenetrable walls and skyscraping tower. Today the tower no longer remains and the wall still stands but in ruins. There are pieces where the wall still remains in tact that you can climb over with a little effort or walk for a little while before getting to a part you can simply step over. I still feel protected but I don’t feel the need to be on guard. I’ve realized that being sensitive and allowing myself to feel pain, sadness, hurt, and disappointment allows me to appreciate their counterparts more intensely. I no longer measure strength by how much time passes between the times I cry. I no longer add row after row to my fortress to keep out the pain or the possibility of it. I’ve replaced my patch of emotional unavailability with a vest of sensitivity. I’m happy to be a better nurturer by leaning into my emotions and allowing myself to feel for others. I’m able to show love and express kindness more easily and in various ways. I’ve come to understand that strength isn’t measured by lack of sensitivity.


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There are some excellent Brene Brown clips in this post! Honestly they are all good but the one on vulnerability is one I’d recommend if you have to pick just one. So bookmark this post and come back to the other two as soon as you can!


What are your thoughts on this post? Can you relate? I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you’d like to share your story, please feel free to do so in the comments! 

16 thoughts on “Teachable Tuesday|Strength Isn’t Measured By Sensitivity

  1. I can relate. A different experience brought my walls down, but I’ve since put them back up.

    People who want to enjoy the vulnerable side of a woman should also prepare for the responsibilities of that, and in my case, the person had not.. so back up they went.

    I can’t say I viewed the sensitivity as a weakness. I sometimes envied people for the ability to connect with their feelings. I have them too but I’m so used to ignoring them that I have lost touch with them, and what they mean. At the first onslaught, I go numb. I only ever revisit them when the pain is gone, and I can evaluate the situation in a calm and rational way. That’s just my way of doing things.

    One boyfriend took the liberty of explaining what witnessing me do this was like for him. “A blender has more feelings than you,” he told me, “as does a robot making cars in Germany.”

    My husband also complains a bit about my emotional distance, but it is what it is at this point…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Alexis, thank you so much for taking the time to open up and leave such an honest and open response. When I read the first part of your comment about people being prepared for the responsibility, it reminded me of this video (https://youtu.be/s8Pp7QB6GrE) it talks about being careful who you choose to open up to and share your vulnerability with. She talks about your shame story specifically but I think the same can be said for a situation that shame isn’t involved and you’re tearing your wall down.

      I can understand not connecting with your feelings until it was safe to. It’s a way of protecting ourselves and making sure all of the danger has passed before we allow ourselves to go to that place and then we evaluate. It’s very methodical and even then you’re still numbed from the protection.

      I’d love to continue this conversation in a more private setting if that’s something you’d like to do, feel free to send me an email at nikissimplelife@gmail.com.

      Thanks again for sharing your story Alexis ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well in my instance, it was a long term partner, which anyone would believe was worth opening up to. Amazing how people change once you give them a peep show behind the fortress. Some of them prefer to admire the architecture and landscaping outside, I’ve noticed.

        I’d rather not dwell on it by carrying on with the convo in any depth. I’d be lying if I said I’m at all choked up about my detachment. I’m an INTJ, which is apparently normal for that personality type. We’re cold and calculating, highly pragmatic people. It works for us.

        Thanks for the offer though, and I hope you found peace of mind after your demolition.

        If you want to talk about your experience I’m all ears. My email is grantfreelancing@gmail.com.

        Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah that’s interesting, one thing I’ve come to find out is that even those close to us aren’t always in a place that they’re open to receiving our truth.

        Ok I see. I wasn’t sure how those comments had impacted you. It sounds like you are comfortable expressing your authentic self and that’s what matters. Continue to stay true to yourself ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, I learned that lesson all too well at that point, which only encouraged me to keep things as they are.

        I am comfortable with who and how I am. My life has had need for such detachment, and still does.

        Keeps me sane I suppose, and whether they know it or not, makes the lives of the people around me so much easier. Imagine if I was just an emotional wreck haha

        Thanks again!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I understand what that’s like. I was uncomfortable with it because I discovered it’s not who I am. That’s not my authentic self, it’s who I became because of my circumstances. I needed the wall but I kept it built up long after I needed it. Now I’m learning to accept myself as a more sensitive person.

        Don’t worry, if you find yourself tapping into the side of you behind the wall, you might find you won’t necessarily be an emotional wreck. Personally it’s improved my emotional health. I struggled with depression for a number of years and this is a contributing factor, me not having been my authentic self for so long. I’m softer now but my emotional state is much more healthy than when I had the wall built up and struggled with depression. Had I torn down the wall before I was ready vs it being hit with an earthquake when I was in a place I could accept it, I don’t think my outcome would have been the same. I would have resisted tearing it down at all or putting it up at the first sign of danger. I would have resisted tapping into my emotions at all and wouldn’t have been open to allowing myself to experience them or be seen as an emotional person. For me fear of being out of control of my emotions was a huge risk of pain that I wasn’t willing to take.

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      5. I see. Well this is my authentic self. It brings me pain and discomfort and depression to be anything else. My peace of mind lies here.

        I’ve always been like this. My mom has such fascinating stories about my childhood which attest to that much, long before I became conscious of a need to have walls.

        But in life we must choose what is best for us. I’m happy you were able to tear yours down and connect with the woman behind the wall.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. That’s awesome! That’s a great realization in itself, knowing that you’ve been like that since you were a child, before you had a need for them. You’re right, doing anything other than what you’re doing is what would bring you discomfort and not allow you to accept yourself. Yes, I think being comfortable with the choices that we make and expressing ourselves in a way that is true to our nature is important. I’m glad that you were able to assess the situation and stay true to who you are!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Niki, I love this post. What an honest, heart felt and true thing to share with us all. It’s funny how we can be one thing for so long then become something totally different with age, experience, help etc. Really enjoyed reading this! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Sorcha! It’s funny because as we age we either evolve or stay the same. In a partnership that’s a slippery slope. Either you are both evolving or one is and the either isn’t. I never understood how people could “grow apart” and now that really makes sense. Sometimes the growth happens over a longer period giving the other person time to adjust and sometimes it happens quickly and the transition isn’t as easy. My husband has come to accept that for the most part my evolutions come in stages and they tend to be quick. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, have a great day!

      Like

  3. I can relate to this article. I too use to think that I was strong if I was emotionally detached and did not cry often, I thought it was fine not to open up to others and instead merely let them open to me. I realize now that when we open up and allow others to see us for who we are, allow them into our thoughts that mean a lot to us true friendships are born. When we let people inside our fortress strong bonds are built. Too often I would allow others to feel drawn to myself but I would not share that which was close to my own heart. I always liked to be a friend but having them be my friend was not as important. Now that I allow myself to feel vulnerable and talk about issues that go beyond the superficial of my own life I find that it also makes me a better friend. Being real to others rather than walling self off is how we are able to best be a friend, build relationships, and help those around us. While I am by no means emotional I have and am continually learning to open up to others and share the thoughts that are dear to me.

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    1. That’s awesome Melanie! I’m so happy that you’ve been able to make that self-discovery and go through that journey. It’s a process but it sounds like you are doing a great job! I don’t know if you’ve heard of Berne Brown but she gives some amazing talks on the power of vulnerability! You can type her name into the search bar on the side of my blog to find posts with my favorite talks of hers or find her on YouTube. She’s amazing!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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