I’ve been letting my little book baby out of of the nest this week (to members of my Flourish coaching program beta group + participants in my upcoming retreat in Mexico). How tender it can feel to share something new. But we don’t write books all for ourselves, do we? This experience reminded me of one of my favorite posts, on how to be sensitive and happy. Read on below!
PS My beta coaching program on the eight step FLOURISH process is just getting started! We had our first recorded session yesterday so it is totally a great time to hop in and move with us through the program. If you are interested reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share the details.
How to Be Sensitive + Happy
Like many of my coaching clients I am sensitive. I have been told this so often, especially throughout my childhood, that I have developed a sort of love/hate relationship with the very word.
Someone uses the S word to describe me and I feel a deep energy rise up inside: one part exasperation (tell me something I don’t know!) and alongside it a longing for a different temperament (being thick-skinned strikes me as an easier way to go through life.)
Often, there is a not so subtle subtext to calling someone sensitive.
It can mean “suck it up, your emotionality is making me uncomfortable!”
Or “why can’t you handle things easier. Perhaps more like I do?”
Or even “please stop reminding me of the inherent suffering and deep beauty of life. I’m working very hard to keep from opening that door of recognition within myself right now!”
Yet the truth is—we need our sensitives.
But before I go any further singing the praises of sensitive people I must first insert a big caveat. Sensitives can get attached to their deep feelings and woundedness. This can lead to going through life simply waiting for the next sting to reinforce your story of yourself. And this, clearly, is not much fun.
So like any of our soul gifts, it matters how sensitivity is held.
But in a culture which values strength over almost any other attribute it is important to remember that sensitives are one necessary element in a healthy community. Likewise, each one of us, regardless of our particular temperament, needs to integrate our sensitive parts into the wholeness of who we are. For it is out of this space of alignment that we live our most inspired life and in fact have our biggest impact.
Now it doesn’t always feel like leading with your tender bits is the way to go. In fact, I’ve spend years, (years I tell you!) pushing down my sensitive side. I’ve driven myself hard — working feverishly behind the scenes to make my accomplishments look easy. (My family and good friends could always tell you the truth of it.)
This is the unexpected pattern I see also in my client’s lives. Being sensitive hasn’t kept them from doing things. Big things. Things like running their own media or music companies, publishing popular books, managing international development projects, heading large non-profits, creating gutsy art, or radically reorienting their lives to be present with their kids. (Or all of the above!)
So you might not see their sensitivity on the outside. But while they are busy getting stuff done they feel the inner dissonance.
In fact, under tending to one’s sensitive side has serious repercussions. It takes a toll on mental health and physical wellbeing and can lead to high levels of anxiety and low levels of happiness.
But it takes a big dose of courage and daring to heed the desire of a sensitive heart for expression and to discern options for integrating it into work and family life.
Often rest is the first step.
And it can help enormously to find a skilled practitioner to help tune into this deeper register.
At different points in my journey I have benefited greatly from the support of an acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, yoga teacher, naturopath, therapist, chiropractor, Reiki master, Enneagram teachers and several skilled coaches. I feel such deep gratitude for each one of these healers, there when I needed them (several are still in my life!) and always leaving me more restored and resilient than before.
This journey to honor rather than step over sensitivity is a central motivator behind my holistic life coaching.
Holistic coaching recognizes that a person’s heart, mind, body & spirit are in intimate interconnection and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Holism is a frequently used theory also in ecology and language. Think about the way a forest ecosystem is more nuanced than what can be captured in a list of its tree species or other elements. And the way a poem has more power than you might suspect if someone merely gave you a list of the included vocabulary.
How it is all knit together (forest, poem, you) and the interplay between all the complex elements is where the magic is.
What that means practically is that I support people in going through their body and its wisdom to re-design their life – using tools such as acupressure (tapping), stress reduction, and the biggie—meditation to reset neural pathways and open up new possibilities. All in a gentle, step by step fashion.
We do lots of other things together too of course, including talking, identifying personality patterns and deep desires, laughing, and sometimes crying (tears can be a holy part of letting out the old to make space for the new.)
And in this process people are able to honor, integrate, and ultimately employ their sensitive side as a partner and guide in life. What does this look like? The answer will be as unique as you.
For me holding energetic space for clients, hosting space at a retreat center, and writing as well as simple acts, like snipping a tiny bouquet of herbs for the tea tray give expression to my sensitive side. What a different feeling it is to treat this attribute like it has gifts to bring rather than driving over it toward my next goal.
Seriously, our world needs the sensitive people: owning their sensitive skillz and employing them to heal themselves and others, whatever their profession.
Because here is the secret. Your tender heart + underbelly is also where your deep joy is housed. Integrating that part of you is the most efficient way to go from this moment to your sweetest life—the one full of meaning and opportunities to serve out of your gifts, including, your sensitive nervous system.
Over to you– do you identify as a sensitive?
How do you take care of and nurture your sensitive side as strength and not weakness?
I’d love to hear your experience… leave a quick comment below!
I’m sharing some favorite Vintage Bird posts this spring while I catch my breath from book writing.
Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a popular blog on soulful living. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram (a personality map), meditation, and mindbody practices to reduce stress as well as supporting other “soulpreneurs,” aka women who want to lead with heart in their work + lives. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three children and remember to water their garden boxes. You can read more about working with Courtney here or you can reach her directly at email@example.com.
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