“You are so sensitive.”
I hear this all the time. In fact, I just heard it last night as I ordered my dinner and insured that it was dairy and gluten free. I know that if I don’t avoid these foods that I will pay the price later with a rumbling, unhappy belly. Yes, even my digestive system is sensitive.
I used to cringe at being called sensitive or picky. I lived in fear of not being tough enough, outgoing enough, fun enough nor crazy enough. In a society where you are rewarded for being bold and outgoing, it is difficult to live on the other end of the spectrum.
About a year ago, I discovered the trait of high sensitivity. Much like being either introverted or extroverted, being highly sensitive effects your perception and interaction with the world around you.
So, what exactly does it mean to be highly sensitive?
According to sensitivity researcher, Dr. Elaine Aron, highly sensitive people are more aware of subtleties in their environment and pick up easily on other people’s energy and emotions. They process information on a deeper level and spend more time observing and reflecting before they take action. They also experience their emotions on a more intense level.
So how did this play out in my life? Growing up, I was always told that I was too shy, too quiet and did not raise my hand enough in class. I spent too much time on homework and was too much of a perfectionist. Itchy wool sweaters, socks that didn’t fit just right and pokey tags drove me crazy. I was incredibly sensitive to strong smells, bright lights, and loud noises. I even refused to get off the bus on my preschool trip to the farm because of the overwhelming smell of manure – yuck!
I was made to believe that I was wrong, crazy or ridiculous for feeling the way that I did. I was told that I should be like everybody else and not let these things bother me. I should be more outgoing, less serious and get straight A’s, but not be a perfectionist.
I began to view my sensitivities as flaws and developed the belief that I needed to transform myself in order to be accepted.
Unable to change my feelings, I turned my attention to what I could control: my body. I focused on perfecting my body through diet and exercise as an attempt to compensate for my perceived weaknesses and resulting lack of confidence.This quickly turned into an eating disorder and I found myself stuck in a cycle of restricting and binging on food.
There is a high correlation between being highly sensitive and emotional eating.
It is a pattern that I experienced myself, and one that I commonly see in my clients.
Our sensitivity often leaves us feeling flawed and inferior to our less sensitive peers. Failed attempts to overcome our sensitivity, causes us to turn our focus to our visible ‘flaws’, our bodies. Our attention to details and perfectionistic tendencies lead us to become exceedingly focused on how our bodies measure up in comparison to others (including the impossible standards that are set for us in the media).
In our mission to attain the perfect body, we restrict our food intake and follow crazy diet rules. Since we are thinking about food constantly, it is the first thing we turn to to numb our uncomfortable feelings.
Understanding my sensitivity and how it affected my relationship with food and my body was an essential part of my healing journey.
If you are highly sensitive, I invite you to let go of the judgment around this part of yourself. Understand that your needs and views may be different than those around you and that is perfectly okay. Honor your unique needs and desires.
As you start working with your sensitivity verses fighting it, you will find a new deeper sense of compassion and appreciation for yourself. Embracing your sensitivity will allow you to discover all of the gifts that accompany this trait, such as enhanced intuition, creativity, compassion and attention to details.
Let’s welcome our sensitivity so that we can heal our relationship with food and our body and let our true power shine!
Discover 7 powerful steps for embracing your sensitivity and healing your relationship with food and your body in my free ebook: Create Peace with Food and Love your Body.