For highly sensitive people, everyday life experiences can feel like a huge struggle. Little things that don't bother other people can completely overwhelm us. (Jenn Granneman)
How true this has been for me! I carry embarrassment and shame about how I've reacted to various situations when feeling overwhelmed. At first, my strong and very negative reactions were because I didn't know I was highly sensitive and I didn't understand what I was feeling or why I was feeling that way. I just knew there was discomfort and I reacted with any defense mechanism that was within reach.
As I learned about and explored my sensitivity, I started to practice responding differently to situations. Instead of lashing out, for example, I'm practicing speaking up about what I need, or what is making me feel overwhelmed. If I feel unrealistic demands have been placed on me, I say why it's challenging and offer up an alternative that's more realistic. If I'm feeling overstimulated, I'll remove myself from the situation if I can, or figure out what I need in that moment to reduce the stimulation.
Some days I get through the hard stuff feeling pretty good about how I handled everything. Other days, not so much. I've noticed when I'm tired or hungry, it's harder to respond thoughtfully. And some days, things happen in such rapid succession that I don't even realize I'm overwhelmed until after I've lashed out.
Learning to live with my sensitivity has been very challenging, and I've learned that I can't use it to excuse away hurtful behavior. The more I understand it, the easier it becomes to work with it and integrate it in more helpful ways. I still make a lot of mistakes, reacting from the place of my strong emotions rather than pausing and choosing a more helpful response. But I'm quicker to notice it, apologize, and move forward more productively. I'm learning to be more compassionate and forgiving of myself, too. 💜