An Ode to Highly Sensitive People
I am a highly sensitive person.
I have never intentionally killed anything in my life. Not a gnat. Not a fly. Not a spider.
I used to make my parents stop the car after it rained so I could move worms out of the road. I am terrified of spiders, but I always summon the courage to move them outside rather than kill them.
I have been a boundlessly healthy vegan for eight years now—but even if being vegan made me sick, I would still do it. Because it would make me more sick to cause the death of an innocent creature.
But please understand that just because I am highly sensitive, it does not mean that I am ignorant of the harsh realities of life.
It means I know and feel them acutely.
I do not bury my head in the sand.
I do not avoid all violence and killing because I am not strong enough to bear it, but because I am strong enough to abstain from it.
I am not afraid to look the deepest of despair in the face. I am more than willing to venture into the heart of darkness. I will not recoil from it. I will not shut it out or shut down my feeling centers because it is too much.
I will go there, and I will tread lightly, with a reverence and respect for all of life.
It has taken me years to be proud of my sensitivity—to not hide my tears when someone squishes a bug for fun or orders veal for dinner. To smile when someone says that I don’t understand the circle of life—that I’m naïve or too sensitive.
It has taken me years to understand that my sensitivity makes me really effing powerful.
It is that I am wise—not naïve—that makes me sensitive. It is that I have the gift—the superpower—of feeling not just through my own senses, but feeling into the lived experience of all other creatures.
It is the strength of my empathy, not the weakness of my stomach or mind, that allows me to feel for every living thing.
I believe that we are all this sensitive, underneath our barriers and cynicism. We are only able to witness or cause harm without feeling the pain of it when we have trained our hearts not to feel.
I bet you that if you watched a bug live its life for hours—if you watched the careful way it navigated the challenging world—you too would cry if someone needlessly ended its life.
“There are bigger problems in the world than insects and animals and trees getting killed,” people say. “There aren’t,” I respond. Because there is only one problem in the world. Native Americans call it wetico, and it is the disease of taking more than one needs. The disease of disrespecting life.
The problem is is that humans believe that they know who and what is valuable.
So, to the highly sensitive people like me out there: thank you.
Thank you for not putting your guard up and shutting out the pain.
Thank you for the generosity with which you feel.
Thank you for not allowing yourself to be hardened.
Thank you for keeping your heart soft and therefore strong.
I want you to know that you are seen. You are seen by the hearts of everyone and everything for whom you have ever felt.
You are not wrong for your sensitivity. You are extremely right for it.
Please keep allowing yourself to feel—feel even bigger than you’ve been feeling.
And feel it all with love. You heal when you feel with love. You heal the collective pain body that wants to be witnessed and noticed.
Please do not hide your sensitivity from the world. Please do not shut the world out for fear of feeling too much.
The world needs you to feel. It needs you to feel big and feel loud.
To feel unapologetically.
It needs you to stand up for the needs of those for whom you feel.
It needs you to roar the word “no” in the face of harm.
We need you to bear the message that all of life is equal. That there is only one of us here. Bird. Ant. Tiger. Tree. Human.
We need you to help awaken the remembrance that life, is life, is life.
That every life is yours and every life is mine.
We need you to fearlessly and shamelessly practice the art of nonviolence and respect for all forms of life. We need you to be highly sensitive and watch as your reverence for life continually awakens.