Long before I can even remember, I’ve been labelled sensitive. It has come in many shapes and sizes and as I have become more mature and reflected on this label, it strikes me, it has never had a positive slant.
In this blog, I will share how I developed certain coping strategies to transform my sensitivities into a superpower.
If you have been labelled overly sensitive and/or know someone close to you then read on and share this with them.
I’ll start by admitting that, in general, I am literally, and always will be sensitive. I began sensing certain things from a very young age.
- I preferred my own company or the company of girls from a very young age
- I didn’t tolerate ‘attempted’ verbal or physical bullying, aimed at me or my friends
- I didn’t want to spend any time in someone’s company that I didn’t like
- I didn’t understand why people were treated differently because of looks or wealth
My reactions manifested themselves in many different ways, ranging from removing myself from certain groups of people and/or fighting the people who I believed were attempting to bully me or my friends. As I became older, the fighting stopped and then it became about using language to put people in their places. By the time I reached by mid-20’s, I was the person who, in certain situations, would say what everyone else was thinking.
Then at 27, I had, what some would call a breakdown, but I call my breakthrough. I realised that I was allowing people to live, rent free, in my head. I was not living my life, I was living the life that was expected of me. I decided enough was enough and I took action.
So, how did I do this? I invested in myself. I had been fortunate to receive a world class tennis education through being part of a programme Judy Murray put together for her coaching team. The only issue being, my head was so full of information that I didn’t know what I believed. I stumbled upon a book called ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ by Steve Covey.
After reading this book, I decided to write down what I believed in. I wrote my core values and a list of the character traits I appreciated in myself and other people. I started to shape my own coaching philosophy which I called the ExSim Tennis Philosophy. This stood for exceptionally simple. I still hold the same core philosophy to this day, character/person centred which the development of the person being of equal, if not greater, importance to the tennis skills.
That was 19 years ago and I have not read a fictional book since. I have devoured 100’s since and appreciate it is a never-ending process. In recent years I have moved on to podcasts. I travel so much that I get through dozens of podcasts each week.
I have learned, and applied, so many different areas to my own life and, of course, as a coach, I have helped others to apply these to players and coaches. I have become consumed with helping other people develop more confidence in themselves. One of the biggest areas of this topic being how to control the inner voice.
So, these are just some of the tips I have learned in order to turn my sensitivity from a perceived weakness into a superpower.
What other people think of me is none of my business
I heard Jay Shetty speak of a quote, “At 20, we worry about what everyone thinks of us. At 40, we don’t care what others think of us. At 60, we realise, nobody has been thinking of us”.
I used to spend so much wasted time thinking about what other people may think of me. I would literally picture them having conversations about me and I would then play out different scenarios of how I would react. What a poisonous way to spend time inside your own head.
Now, at the age of 46, I realise that the vast majority of people are not thinking about me. How do I know this? Most people are too busy worrying about what others think of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I occasionally start to have those dark thoughts again but as soon as I feel them coming into my head, I say to myself ‘what other people think of me is none of my business‘. When I say this to myself, I can literally feel myself get lighter and my head empties. In the most literal sense possible, what others think of me makes no difference to me in the slightest.
Feel sorry for insensitive people
If we are to take control of our own minds then empowerment is crucial. Occasionally, I will hear of someone who has criticised me, personally or professionally. Before, I would have gone straight into my head and take it very personally. I would think through a list of thoughts ranging from how unjust it was to plotting their demise. Now, the instant I hear of someone criticise me, I feel sorry for them.
I am human and I have criticised many people in my life, privately and publicly. When I reflect honestly, there has been insecurity and emptiness in my own life. Most people criticise others when there is something missing from their own lives. If this is true of myself then I am sure it is true of others.
You only have to look at social media to witness the pure poison that is typed every single second of every day. I have had my fair share of negative exchanges on social media. Unfortunately, I have a socratic approach when I engage with someone. I ask questions over and over and this brings some to a point where they believe I am patronising or belittling them. Ironically, I have had many say that I am, yes you guessed it, too sensitive to be on social media. I do find this amusing as it is them that is snapping at me.
I have had many say they don’t like my ‘online persona’ but like me a lot in person. Breaking news, nobody has the same online persona as they are in person. Why? Social media is not real. It is a collection of words written on coded piece of software that floats around in cyber space. In some case, it has becomes the equivalent of writing graffiti on a toilet wall.
I even had someone go to the lengths of creating a twitter account specifically to slate pretty much everything I do on social media. Of course, at first, I was offended and was keen to know who it was but over time I found it hilarious and now I just feel sorry for the person. What a terrible void they must have in their life to take the considerable time to create an account specifically to berate me.
On the odd occasion I do experience someone criticising me, I instantly think ‘what they think of me is none of my business’ AND I genuinely feel some sympathy for them. I wish they were in a happier place in their life so they didn’t feel the need to deflect the attention from themselves to someone else.
The rule of one – choose your tribe
Reflect on the people you spend regular time with and put them into a category of one….
If you could choose, how much time would you spend in their company:
- one second
- one minute
- one hour
- one day
- one week
- one year
- your one life
In my opinion, your tribe are the people you would choose to spend one week or above with. Hopefully, if you land lucky, you will have a tiny group of people, who play a major part in your one life. This may be your partner, friends or colleagues.
I believe, if you can surround yourself with like minded people, who you would choose to spend considerable time with, then magic can happen. You can create a real difference in whatever passion you all share.
On the flip side, we all know we have to share parts of our lives with people who are in the one second to one day category. You may even have to spend each working day with someone you have in your one second category. If this is the case, then have another chance to empower yourself.
Find common ground
If you regularly find yourself in the company of someone you wouldn’t choose to be with then ask yourself ‘what do I have in common with this person?‘. The reality is, we all have way more in common than differences. By focusing on the common ground and/or the strengths of the person then you will find a way to work effectively with them. You may even find that someone goes from being a ‘one minute’ person to a ‘one hour’ person. You never know, you may become good friends with someone you first believed you couldn’t tolerate.
Unleash your superpower
When you flip the focus of your sensitivity from yourself to others, being sensitive is a superpower.
It took me a long time to help myself (27 years in fact) and as soon as I began this process, it was like someone had removed a blindfold. I began to sense behaviours in others that I may have previously missed. I could see if someone wasn’t quite themselves and, over time, I felt empowered to help them in some small way and with some, in a big way. In return, they have helped me just as much.
You see, if we can find small ways of acting with genuine kindness, we can can create lots of win/win situations. It just so happens this is one of the 7 habits of highly effective people. Funny that.
There are two things I can guarantee:
- You cannot help someone unless you are willing to help yourself
- You cannot help someone if they don’t want to help themselves
In summary, what others think of you is none of your business. You can choose to feel genuinely sorry for insensitive people. Use your rule of one to identify your potential tribe and look for common ground with everyone you encounter. If you can clear your head from the negative self-talk then you can unleash your superpower…… sensing when others need help and acting on it.
If you choose to make take your first steps on this journey then please know it is an uncomfortable walk. Even writing this blog has been an uncomfortable process. However, everything which is worthwhile is a struggle but it is worth the investment.
Be exceptional, turn your sensitivity into a superpower.
Please let me know your experiences in this area and any success stories you have had.
I am a sensitive person and I am proud of it.