I always hated being sensitive growing up. It didn’t take much to make me cry and my response to pretty much anything was to cry. I remember one boyfriend I had in college complained that my tears ‘turned on like waterworks.” I hated this part of me and always considered it a weakness. 

Gradually over time, I stopped being so sensitive. I stopped crying at the end of sad movies and learned to swallow my tears until I stopped feeling so much. I eventually learned to stop feeling anything and made an enemy of my feelings, fighting the challenging ones however they would arise and clinging desperately to the comfortable ones and feeling angry when they wouldn’t last. 

We tend to label our qualities as strengths and weaknesses. It makes sense that we do this in a culture that values simplicity over complexity and nuance. There are good and bad people, we are told as we grow up―right from wrong, happy or sad, and ‘normal’ from ‘not normal.’

It’s been a long and painful road to today where I can now see my sensitivity as an important quality that serves me. I can reflect on why I hated this part of me so much and I know that to unmask hate, we have to look to fear. I know now that I was scared of my vulnerability and showing others how flawed I was. I know that I was scared of the intensity of the feelings I felt but was not allowed to have growing up. I was scared of being attuned to other people’s feelings and feeling overwhelmed by them sometimes. But these things I once found scary are the very qualities I love about myself now. It is my vulnerability that helps me connect to others in meaningful ways, it is the intensity of feelings that allows me to access the deepest, most truest parts of me, and it is attunement to other people’s feelings that creates the awareness I need to effectively hold space for them. 

I often say that this journey is about ‘unbecoming’ more than it is about ‘becoming’ because it is the shedding of all that doesn’t belong to us to return home to our most essential selves. Along with the shedding of these things has come the letting go of judgment and labeling. Emotions aren’t good or bad, I’ve learned because we can’t selectively choose to just feel some and not others. Things that happen out of our control aren’t good or bad either because we cannot predict the unexpected outcomes or important lessons we eventually learn from them. I try actively not to use words like good and bad, or positive and negative at all anymore. So why should I continue to label my qualities as ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ too? Because the truth is, our perception of who we are shifts and evolves over time, adjusting to the circumstances of our lives. They are not fixed but are instead fluid and serve us in a myriad ways throughout our lives. 

I’ve met so many incredible women throughout this journey; women who struggle with what they consider weaknesses to overcome―mental differences, physical differences, qualities that some were born with, others that developed through life circumstances. They are all qualities that make these women different and unique in their own ways. What they see as weaknesses and qualities that hold them back, I see as abilities that give them a different perspective on how to occupy space in this world and the power to teach us valuable lessons from which we can all learn. I see them as qualities to embrace, not run away from.

So what if we were all to stop labeling who we were? What if we stopped labeling anything about ourselves and just learned to see everything as fluid and ever evolving, with qualities serving us in important ways at different points of our lives? What if we stopped judging and just accepted what is? What if we just loved ourselves as we are, trusting this journey we call life? What if we just kept practicing unconditional love for ourselves and that that would be enough to help us walk through life as our most beautiful and authentic selves?

What if?

This is from a personal journal writing shared in the newsletter and typically not shared on the blog. To read these, subscribe to the “I Matter” newsletter below.

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash