Lots of people reading this know what it’s like to question whether what we’ve experienced was “bad enough” to produce the reactions it did in us— or whether what happened to us was “bad” at all.
Often, this doubt has been encouraged by the people or the culture around us.
We get swept up in a narrative about how too many people are too sensitive these days— or about how we, specifically, are too sensitive or dramatic to be taken seriously.
So we question and doubt our perceptions and experiences.
We have constant arguments in our own head about whether that thing that upset us was “really” upsetting or not.
We struggle with whether the reaction we’re having is “legitimate”— or the product of us making too big a deal out of something that happens to everyone.
Sometimes we don’t really appreciate how bad something was until we see someone else put into words how much it impacted THEM.
The fact that an event impacted someone ELSE sometimes makes it “okay” for us to acknowledge in our own head and heart how much we’d been struggling with it.
We can fall into this trap of constantly checking our experiences and reactions against the experiences and reactions of other people, to determine whether we “should” feel what we’re feeling or not.
Here’s the thing: regardless of what anyone— or everyone— around us is feeling or experiencing, WE are feeling and experiencing EXACTLY what we’re feeling and experiencing.
WE have to cope with EXACTLY what we’re feeling and experiencing.
WE have to figure out how to get up every day and function in the face of what WE’RE feeling and experiencing— not what anyone ELSE is feeling and experiencing.
Beating ourselves over the head with the question of whether our reactions to the world and our past are “normal” or not is almost never helpful.
“Normal” or not, we still have to cope with HOWEVER our body and mind is responding.
If we determine that our reactions aren’t “legitimate” given what we remember, that does nothing but add a layer of frustration and shame on to what we had ALREADY been struggling with.
It’s true that many people reading this are more sensitive than average. So is the person writing this.
We ARE more sensitive and reactive to certain things than other people— and this fact can be embarrassing and kind of crazy-making sometimes
We often want to be “tougher” or more “normal”— so we keep comparing ourselves to people who don’t have the highly sensitive wiring that we do.
It’s often a recipe for feeling trapped— smothered, even— by our own shame and the expectations and standards of a culture that doesn’t particularly value compassion or empathy.
When we find ourselves questioning whether a reaction we’re having is “correct,” “normal,” or “proportional,” it’s really important we take a step back and extend ourselves some grace.
Whether our reactions are ANY of those things is immaterial to the fact that we’re having those reactions— and we need to manage those reactions.
Whenever your brain— or anyone outside of you— tries to engage in a discussion of whether you’re being “overdramatic” or “oversensitive,” resist the urge to engage. That conversation goes nowhere.
Yup, it can be extremely validating when someone else “confirms” for us that our reactions are understandable or proportional.
But whether our reactions line up with what “they” consider understandable or proportional misses the point: we are HAVING those reactions.
We need to extend ourselves enough compassion and commitment to make coping and soothing ourselves— not living up to anyone else’s standards or avoiding someone else’s negative judgments— our FIRST priority.