Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why an HSP Doesn't Chase After A Million Dollars

As a Sales Rep, I get the pleasure of meeting and interacting with a variety of people. I'm saying this sincerely, not tongue in cheek, for those of you who know that I'm a little on the sarcastic side. It is the aspect of my job that I enjoy the most, that I get the most satisfaction from and that makes the job worthwhile and bearable. Getting to know my customers and sharing stories from our lives always seems to bring light and laughter to my day, and gives me exactly what I need to make it through. Of course, given my current sales territory, it's been a little on the eccentric side, but I can honestly say I've never had more fun and couldn't ask for a better group of people to work with on a weekly basis. And yes, I'm happier and more carefree than I was working in my old territory, even though I'm working more hours and making slightly less money.

Most, if not all, of my fellow reps would think I'm crazy for enjoying a territory that requires 55-60 hours of work each week just to maintain the basics, is structured in such a way that will almost always result in not so great numbers (i.e. no hopes of looking good, proper recognition or a coveted promotion), and has seasonal variations in monthly commissions. Most, if not all, of my fellow sales reps are non-HSPs. When it comes down to it, most, if not all, find that the lure of a lucrative paycheck is worth trading the toll a physically grueling schedule takes on their health, the existence of a personal life, the exploration of life's intangible and meaningful gifts, making a difference, and the nurturing and development of one's spirit.

The lure of money and its mirage of promises can cause us to do things we shouldn't. Kind of like when we drink too much alcohol, although not as fun for the first few hours or so. One of the individuals that I interact with on a weekly basis has begun chasing after that mirage. From what I can sense about her, she's a kind, quietly fierce soul who just wishes there was something better from life than being controlled by company politics and its entrapping obligations. For months, she's been sharing the beginnings of her journey as an independent pre-paid legal representative and "encouraging" me to join her on that walk towards the mirage of "financial independence, wealth and security." I've been kind, encouraging, listened to her sales pitches and even checked out the websites and information she's given me. Yes, some people become extraordinarily rich when they participate in MLM's. But the reality is that those people are few and far between. The reality is that they're getting rich off of other people constantly contributing money to whatever product or service the MLM organization is producing. In other words, it's an organized "rob Peter to pay Paul" scheme.

She stopped by for one of our brief chats yesterday as I was merchandising and ordering product for my next sales call. One of the things that she mentioned was that she had crossed paths with a "mentor" from this MLM program of hers that had become a millionaire and didn't even have a high school diploma. I could tell by the number of times she mentioned it and the enthusiasm behind her voice that she was not only impressed, but inspired with the hope that eventually she too would reach that million dollar milestone. "He has a million dollars and he didn't even graduate from high school. A million dollars."

Well, perhaps that's a dream that a lot of people view as worth pursuing. More power to them. If that's what they want out of life and what they view as important, I'm certainly not going to be the one to discourage them from chasing after it. So, I nodded, smiled a little and offered my verbal encouragements of "yes, that's great" and "good for you." However, inside I couldn't help but cringe a little in disgust. A million dollars. Really. Is that what's truly important? Is that all there is to life? I mean, after all, when you leave this plane of existence, is that million dollars still going to be in your hands? Wouldn't you rather leave behind a piece of your spirit, spend your time making a difference in someone's life, leave behind a set of inspiring words or imaginative worlds that helped someone in some way or perhaps inspired them to become someone they wouldn't have otherwise? And just how spiritually fulfilling and rewarding is a pile of inanimate greenbacks or seeing the set of zeros increase on your online bank statements? Especially when you wake up and discover that the only thing it can really do is give you access to more inanimate stuff, how transitory that stuff really is, and how having less really does mean having more.

The one exception is when you're able to use it to help others out of dire situations and provide support for humanitarian causes that seek to correct the inequities on this planet. "Leaving a brilliant light behind" isn't about seeking to serve yourself or build up massive amounts of tangible wealth that gives the illusion of being able to shield out life's negative realm. True wealth comes from the spirit. It's about what we do for others. It's about the relationships that we create; how we support and nuture each other through life's difficulties and life's successes. It's about how we play, if we took the time to dance, if we took the time to discover why we're here, if we took the time to see why someone else is here. It's about whether we said and did what mattered to our hearts. It's about whether we were able to make someone smile and laugh and see the good in what they thought was only bad. It's about how you make someone feel and how they remember who you were and what you did, no matter how insignificant or unrecognized.

To me, a million dollars isn't about how many zeros continue to pile up behind the numbers each time I log into my bank account. To me, a million dollars is about the amount of intangible contributions I make. In the other realm, that we can't see, but can only feel, those are the million dollars that can't be stolen, erased or squandered. Those are the million dollars that continue to be there, no matter how many times they are withdrawn, spent or borrowed. They are the lights left behind that continue to shine through the darkness of a black sky.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How and Why We Stumble Into Substitute Dreams

This week I've been thinking about how sometimes we discover that we're in a situation that doesn't seem to fit us and we begin to wonder why we ended up there in the first place. I've found myself asking the question of "how in the hell did I end up here, doing this" on more than a few occasions. I usually equated it with my tendency to get distracted, to randomly explore whatever looked or felt good at the time, to be easily influenced by the desires of others to the point where those desires felt like they were also mine. Then there were those times when I thought I wanted something, but found out that it really wasn't what I wanted. It wasn't what I wanted anymore because I'd either been lying to myself and others about who I really was, I'd outgrown the reason for wanting it, or I just simply decided that what I had to give up in order to keep myself within a particular realm was not worth what I would receive if I let it go instead.

This was before I discovered that I wasn't really crazy or indecisive or lacked the ability to follow through. No, I was just being a typical HSP. At least I think. Perhaps there are other sensitives out there that have a different perspective, but I often find myself swept away by a source of inspiration, whether old or new. Swept away in the sense that you become it, for a moment or perhaps longer. Swept away in the sense that you get lost in the feeling of aliveness that it brings and you do anything you can to chase it and grab onto it, with the naive belief that it will last.

This was before I discovered that I would often merge who I was with who someone else was, without deliberate intent. Without realizing it, their thoughts, desires, feelings and beliefs seemed like they were mine. I didn't or couldn't yet recognize the difference between me and someone else once I had absorbed their energy. So, sometimes what they wanted out of life suddenly became what I wanted. Or so I thought until I would rub the sleep from my eyes, wake up, look around and say "I don't know who I am or why I'm here."

This was before I discovered that it's okay to want to explore something and then move on when you're done learning the lesson you were meant to learn. It was before I received validation that sticking with one thing for a lifetime isn't necessarily what HSPs are meant to do. Not that we can't, but we're often the ones who eventually master something in a shorter amount of time and feel the need to find something else to keep us interested. In fact, I've learned that being absent-minded and getting bored easily can come in handy. The more benevolent expression would be "the dance of curiosity." The key is to not beat yourself up for wanting to change and grow more often than our non-HSP counterparts. The other key is to allow yourself to move on when you're ready, don't feel guilty, and smile in reflection at the part of yourself that you now have that you didn't before.

Yes, that "dance of curiosity" has brought me into many substitute dreams. Substitute dreams that seemed like "it" at the time; the "final destination." Now I realize they were like a series of dress rehearsals for opening night. Without them I wouldn't know how to survive in a city with a population larger than 80,000, how to listen to my inner voice, how to handle disappointment and rejection, how to be persistent, how to stop being a people pleaser, how to stop worrying about perfection, how to laugh, how to love, what I want from a partner, how to stop denying myself what I really want, how to give, how to stand up for myself with conviction, and most of all, how to stop trying so hard to become what I think I should be and just breathe into who I really am. Curiosity has a purpose. We stumble into substitute dreams because we aren't ready. We need a little "character research," if you will. We need to explore and practice before we can perform with conviction and believability. We need to discover and learn before we can transform into our destined form.

You see, substitute dreams give us what we need to make the real one come true.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Everyday Use of Empathy

A lot of times I see them. I saw one yesterday, sitting at that same place where I've seen him a few times before. Wrapped up in what's probably left of the clothes he now owns, in an attempt to shield out the wind, cold and light snow of a lingering Colorado winter. The type of cold wind that gets worse along the intersections of I-25, as it gathers in intermittent swirls that reveal the harsh reality that nature has its less than benevolent side.

Sometimes he's there, but sometimes all that's there are a few blankets and jars of what appears to be some sort of nourishment. Sometimes there are two of them, together, in a sort of defeated silence. You can see that what little hope they may have left is focused on the potential generosity of a disengaged audience. An audience that doesn't want to realize that tomorrow, they could just as easily be the ones holding up the handmade cardboard signs that say "please help."

Growing up, I remember you didn't used to see them here. At least not on the Front Range or in the tourist traps and towns nestled in the mountains. I would see a few in Boulder during my teenage years, on my many trips to that one place in Colorado where I felt a sense of mixed inspiration and familiarity. But, they were usually disguised as musicians, poets, or wrapped up in some other sort of artsy ambiance. My other exposure to them was through my Mom's work as a social worker. But by then, they had found refuge from the streets, cleaned-up, and on the outside were disguised as being a "normal person." The spirit behind their eyes said otherwise, but a sheltered child and adult-in-training doesn't yet realize that the universe doesn't always reflect back a picture of delicacy.

At times the picture that gets reflected back is one that we haven't seen yet, but we need to. When I moved to Florida, for the second and real time, I began to see that indelicate picture. Florida, unlike Colorado, can be an adventure in seeing a juxtaposition of privilege and economic despair slammed up against each other. For those who haven't lived there, you can literally be driving through a golf course community one second and then suddenly find yourself in a run-down neighborhood filled with dilapidated, mold and rust covered buildings, somewhat hidden by overgrown, swampy terrain, complete with flags from the Confederacy peeking out from the front lawns. But, then again, Florida, like any popular and well-known U.S. locale or city, is a true snapshot of our country's "melting pot." Needless to say, for a young soul trying to find herself in the world, it was humbling and eye-opening scenery.

I would see them in that scenery, for the first time really, holding those same handmade signs that I still see now. Those without a place to call home. Those who wondered if they would be able to eat something today. Those who probably wished they could just lay down somewhere comfortable, maybe take a hot shower, and maybe have someone look beyond their appearance and into their eyes. The simple, basic things in life that we take for granted until we ourselves lose them or come close to losing. Things I once thought I would lose myself in that world of sunshine, crystal teal oceans, swaying palms and white sand beaches. A combination of not so great choices, not so great luck, and the aftershocks of traumatic events and worldwide changes can bring anyone to that point or at least to the brink of it.

For many, I suppose, it's hard to look past the facade of appearances because they either don't want to, they are stuck in their "me paradigm," or because they simply lack a little imagination. Most empaths, I'm sure, could agree with my experience of almost always automatically finding themselves being able to shift behind someone else's eyes. Even if we haven't experienced something or someone ourselves, we understand somehow. In fact, we more than understand. We feel it. Some would say we even experience it ourselves, in that unseen realm that others call "make-believe."

That's why it bothers me to see them there, holding up their handmade signs, hoping against hope. That's why it brings tears to my eyes when I realize that I can't fix it, even though I want to grab them off the streets and give them those basic, simple things that no one should have to do without. It's why I always take time to look into their eyes, even if just for a moment, and realize that I'm really looking at myself. It's why I smile, just a little, when I see the person in the car in front of me, reach out and offer what they can. It's why I think about going against company policy and offering them a ride to someplace warmer, safer and where I could provide an answer, even if short-lived, to their handmade signs.

But then I remember that I'm a female, alone, who still looks like she's twenty-something, who could find herself in a situation she'd rather not repeat. Post-traumatic stress aside, fear is the true inhibitor. Fear of the unknown. Fear of association. Fear of becoming like someone who is looked down upon. Fear of seeing what's real in someone else that might, just might, force you to see the real in yourself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Those Things We Cannot Change

Last evening I attended a District sales meeting at my current employer; an organization I have made perfectly clear I am not a fan of. There are several reasons for this, which I won't and probably shouldn't disclose completely. Suffice it to say that the culture is the most dehumanizing and emotionally abusive one that I have ever worked in, and we'll leave it at that; at least for now. No, obviously I don't care if management sees this because I've been directly vocal about my perspective in the past. And yes, I still have my job; at least for now.

These District sales meetings are a mandatory, monthly occurrence that as Sales Reps, we're accustomed to dragging ourselves to out of obligation. We often have to work extra accounts the day before and the day after to make up for the two and a half to three hours of verbatim PowerPoint reading and cheesy motivational/brainwashing videos. Last evening was a special occurrence though; a special treat. Another eye opening reflection on how there are some things that we cannot change.

We can voice our own opinions and our perspectives, but that doesn't mean that we'll change someone else's. Even if they need to be changed in order to solve a problem or get to the root cause, rather than pointing the finger at a convenient scapegoat. We can put our best effort into the work that we do and make a solid attempt to achieve our performance objectives, but if those objectives are unrealistic and the tools and support given to us are inadequate, we may not look favorably on paper. We can control how we react to someone else, to a situation, to a broken system that's in place, but we can't always change the elements of those things that are contributing to the distress. Like an organizational culture who would rather not listen to their front-line employees' suggestions and insight into what's driving an issue, but rather blame them as the root cause behind it. Sometimes blaming a group you have control over is easier than spending the time, money and resources to undo all the complications you have put in place that make it impossible for cross functional areas to be interdependent and accomplish a congruent objective. Sometimes blaming someone else is easier than admitting to your mistakes and your blind-sighted micro-perspective.

We can also be born into an environment of dysfunction, become the target of someone else's violent actions, experience sudden, inexplicable loss, and be at the receiving end of countless other indiscretions, inequities, discrimination, prejudice and the unraveling aspects of life. Those are the things we cannot change because they are external to us. Those are the things that can cause us pain, suffering and entrapment in a cycle of self-devaluation and self-destruction if we let them. They are the things we cannot escape, because within each one is a self-enhancing lesson that we'll need someday.

When I think about those things that I once thought I would have liked to have changed, I realize that each one has given me a piece of myself. A piece of myself that I've often used to help someone else, offer a bit of insight, gave me the drive and tenacity to accomplish a personal goal or two, helped me relate to someone I needed to work with, led me to rediscovery and meaning, pointed me towards the right direction, instilled appreciation for what I overlooked before, revealed talent and purpose, and so on. In short, they were a preparation of sorts; a preparation for giving back something positive to the universe.

Those things that I can't change on the outside I can dissect and transform on the inside, if I allow myself to. I can choose to wallow in the negative self-pity cycle of "why me"? or I can realize that "I" is not in question. I can choose to realize that I need to release myself from the responsibility of someone else's choices. The only responsibility I need to take is for my own decisions. Whether I undertake the task and time to nurture myself, discover the light within darkness, and begin to use that light to dispel that same darkness are the only things I can control. Eventually, I’ll reach the sunrise.

Monday, February 15, 2010

10 Signs You're Getting Ready to Pursue Your Calling

1. You research and request information from several graduate level professional writing programs in the city you've seen yourself living in since you were thirteen.

2. You spend most of your workday smiling because you know that you're about to make a change you should've years ago.

3. You remember you have to register and prepare to take your GRE since liberal arts programs don't care about your GMAT scores.

4. You begin to research potential neighborhoods in the city that will hopefully be your new home.

5. You begin to research potential jobs and companies in your target city that will hire a recently minted disillusioned MBA, so you can still pay the bills while honing your craft.

6. You contemplate whether trying to sell your home or rent it out until the market improves would be the best option.

7. You have an inexplicable gut feeling that your plans, goals and dreams concerning this change are going to turn out in your favor, somehow.

8. You haven't told your family yet about what you're doing or about your plans because you don't want any negative energy to affect your final decision.

9. You suddenly realize there's probably a reason why you've lived in your new house in CO for over a year, but still have the majority of your stuff in boxes.

10. For your next vacation, you book that trip to L.A. to explore #1, #4 and #5 in person. For the second half, you book that trip back to your second home, so you can explain everything to your significant other in person, hoping that he will understand.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

As an HSP, I've Promised Myself.....

1. To explore what my heart draws me to, even if it seemingly goes against what I was taught by others or I previously thought I believed.

2. To have "do-nothing" days in order to recuperate. I will not allow myself to feel guilty for rejuvenating both my body and my spirit.

3. To no longer question my intuition or my paranormal/psychic experiences.

4. To not allow someone else's perception to make me feel out of place and incapable.

5. To take the time to nourish my mind with knowledge, my body with physical activity and my spirit with meditation.

6. To stop trying to please everyone but myself.

7. To not allow the emotions of others to become mine.

8. To live out my passions and truly feel the joy of existence.

9. To help others realize their potential, whenever possible.

10. To no longer question suffering or become ridden with anxiety because of it. The reason(s) for its occurrence will reveal itself when it is time to use the wisdom gained or when it leads me to the path I was meant to travel.

11. To allow my inner light to become visible to others.

12. To not overextend myself to the point where stress prevents me from enjoying any aspect of my life.

13. To appreciate my unique talents and recognize them as such, so that I may begin sharing them with those that need their message.

14. To seek out fellowship and relationships with other sensitives so that I may better understand myself while helping them do the same.

15. To learn to recognize when I am being self-destructive, take the time to figure out why, and come up with a self-enhancing alternative.

16. To let go of who I was and embrace whom I'm becoming.

17. To not pretend to be something I'm not in order to feel like I belong.

18. To communicate, with discern, to understanding non-HSPs about the aspects of the trait that will affect our relationship.

19. To believe that the manifestation of my imagination and dreams can and will happen.

20. To actually let go of what and who is no longer congruent with my metamorphoses.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Taking Charge the HSP Way

I'm not a big fan of labels. In fact, I admit I kind of despise them. I'm sure this is because I've had them applied to me as long as I can remember, even though I knew in my heart they were incorrect or didn't quite tell the whole story. I've seen them applied to others and have always winced at the sheer notion of defining someone into a fishbowl. Somehow it has seemed a little cruel in the sense that it attempts to limit someone, not only in terms of their potential, but also in terms of their true essence. It's something that I think sensitives know and experience throughout their lives all too well. We're "extremely sensitive," "too emotional," "too rash," "need to get a thick-skin," "timid," "shy," ridden with "social anxiety," "unapproachable,"
"too quiet," "passive," etc. In other words, our behaviors and personalities are incorrect. To the non-HSP world, we're not being assertive enough, we're not "taking charge" or "initiating."

Well, no offense to the eighty percent of the universe that are non-HSPs, but I beg to differ. Sensitives just take charge in a more subtle way that doesn't say "look at me, look at me." See, non-HSP universe, when we take charge we're genuinely working towards bettering a situation we find intolerable, unjustly or inhumane. You, non-HSP universe, may be the executors most of the time, but it's from our whispers of influential ideas that you get the inspiration to take action. It's from our recommendations that you find out what changes need to happen. And it's from our typical "behind the scenes" direction that you know how to emote your lines.

This more subtle approach isn't one that always gets recognized or appreciated, especially in the business world. Of course, as some of us HSPs have found out, that's an arena that rewards those "look at me, look at me," "act now, think later (if at all)" types. It's an arena that desperately needs a little HSP influence, particularly in terms of ethics, a shift in the perspective towards customers and employees as more than a means to an end, how the bottom line is really determined by those qualitative factors rather than just hitting the numbers, and how true interdependent success is achieved through cooperation and collaboration rather than competition.

Cooperation and collaboration are how we accomplish our objectives and take charge. We take charge by seeking a mutually beneficial solution. We take charge when we help develop the potential in those around us. We take charge when we submit our ideas on how to make an ineffective process or program actually do what it's supposed to. We take charge when we seek to smooth out the rough edges of others' personas and interactions. We take charge when we influence those who are on center stage, enjoying the glare of the spotlight, unknowingly reiterating our perspectives and ideas. We take charge in our personal relationships when we stop trying to just please the other person and express our desire to meet them halfway. We also take charge when we're supporting the other individual, lending encouragement and an empathetic ear. We take charge when we shine our light into the darkness, standing up for the dissolution of dehumanizing and unethical practices.

As HSPs, the labels that we may hear shouldn't be allowed to silence our voices or prevent us from taking action on what we deem to be important. There are numerous ways to take charge, without feeling the uncomfortable glare of the spotlight. It starts with the decision that your viewpoint is as valuable as all the others out there. Finding a way to express it that works for you and that doesn't create additional anxiety, conflict or stress is vital and completely acceptable. As long as you express yourself and take charge in a way that's right for you, it doesn't matter if the world defines you as being in the leading or supporting role. After all, those shining the light are often those who are unseen. It can’t spread its warmth unless someone holds it up from behind.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Cycle of Self-Criticism and Self-Sabotage

During those tumultuous undergraduate years, I once had a friend mention that while most people are sometimes critical of themselves, I was extremely hard on myself. She was one of those friends that was by all appearances, the complete opposite of who I was. Beyond the appearances we shared a similar life experience that affected all aspects of our life, our choices and even our personalities. That similar life experience's aftermath just manifested itself somewhat differently within each of us.

Although we've lost touch, I remember our time together fondly. She had a way of bringing out my wild and carefree side. I had a way of making her realize she had the capability of being independent and strong. We created many youthful moments of random adventures that always seemed to work out somehow, funky laughter and soulful conversations that made the other stop and think. She was also the one who supported me and saw my perspective when my family didn't. She was the one who was genuinely happy for me when I left home to explore what could exist beyond my shadows.

One of those shadows, as she had pointed out, was the tendency to place impossible standards and expectations on myself. Perfectionism has its dark side. We don't give ourselves credit for our talents because we don't allow ourselves to see them. We're too busy nitpicking at the small details that we see as somehow being out of place. We don't see how far we've come in such a short amount of time because we expected ourselves to go even farther, faster. We're scared that we might actually be good, because with talent comes a certain level of responsibility and attention that we're not sure we're ready to handle.

I've seen it all in other HSPs, as well as myself. We openly self-criticize in hopes of receiving the external validation we aren't able to give ourselves. We periodically or habitually abuse harmful substances and go down roads filled with self-defeating behaviors in order to relinquish responsibility. We're tired of feeling the pressure that we think is coming from others, but in reality, we're the ones creating it. It took me a long time to realize that; a long time. That's not to say that once you start to perform up to a certain standard that others around you won't hold you to those expectations or become upset and disillusioned once you abandon them. You just have to remember to take accountability for your part in their creation.

There are also times when we hide behind the scenes on purpose. We don't allow ourselves to express our full potential because it requires more energy than we feel we have. At times we fear that we'll have to face who we really are and others will reject us for it. Other times we simply don't believe in ourselves because we've bought into the non-HSP message that our differences aren't welcomed. We realize that we want to do things "our own way" and being a pioneer can be a risk we haven't developed the courage yet to take. Or we've become so accustomed to being invisible that it has become a familiar stifling trap that we're not sure how to break free from. Quite simply we fail to take the action we know is necessary to accomplish the changes we want to materialize in our lives, not because we don't want to, but because we've decided something about our current situation is acceptable.

There isn't an easy answer to breaking the cycles of being hard on ourselves and self-destruction. In a way it can be self-medicating at times; an addiction that is hard to recover from. Take it from someone who decided to drink herself into oblivion because she was tired of the pressures of sixty hour work weeks, grad school and family obligations. Someone, as a result of being intoxicated to the point of blacking out, almost left the bar with a married man because what she really wanted was the companionship of the other half of her long-distance relationship. Someone who often looks in the mirror and doesn't see what others tell her. She only sees what's wrong and then goes between bouts of starvation, indulgence and excruciating gym sessions. Someone who doesn't feel comfortable with accepting praise because deep down she feels like an imposter and doesn't feel that it's deserved. And from my fourteen year old self who almost swallowed a mixture of her father's medication because she was tired of feeling pain and emptiness.

Yes, I have a deep dark side and it's far from pretty, inviting, or at times even recognizable. My point in sharing it is that we often go about our daily routines acting as though it doesn't exist. We all have one and we act as if everything is ok because we're afraid of being honest. HSPs are just bothered more by it and when we finally release, the result is more extreme. Perhaps honesty is one of the answers to breaking the cycle. When we reveal the truth, we find that others will do the same. Support comes from unexpected places and from those who are willing to see us for who we really are. Still, I've found that one of the most powerful answers to breaking the cycle is making the decision that the "something" we found acceptable about our current situation is no longer going to be tolerated. It's a decision that says our hopes, our dreams, desires and self-worth are more important than settling for an illusion.

Friday, February 5, 2010

10 Signs You're Not Pursuing Your Calling

A little humor for a "Fabulous Fruitini" Friday.....

1. You've "coined a name" for your job after a popular daytime drama and it's not because you're trying to be funny or cute about it.

2. You've stopped shopping for groceries because you are living off the expired product you've pulled from your own sales territory and all the "freebies" you get from fellow vendors and sales reps. This is not food that "does a body good."

3. It's 6 am and you're still driving down I-25 to get to the distribution center. You should've been there at least thirty minutes to an hour ago, but you really don't care; you're still singing along to whatever CD you have on in your car.

4. You no longer listen to all the messages on your company voicemail. When you do bother to check it, the fast forward and delete option has become your new best friend.

5. You begin to think that the company would be doing you a favor if they let you go.

6. The main reason you even show up is to vicariously experience all your customers' drama and quirkiness. You can't wait to hear the latest gossip or life story. Most of the time it's even better than watching General Hospital or Days of Our Lives (see #1).

7. You continuously get stares and hear bad pick-up lines/compliments from random strange men while out and about in your market. And no, you're not even "prissed up" or looking close to cute.

8. You have to sleep most of the weekend away just to kind of recover from the sixty odd hours you put in during the week.

9. Your friends, family, and even your dog, no longer think you exist (see #8).

10. You find out that those not running the company are more competent than those who are.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Learning to Accept Your Highly Sensitive Self

I'm the first to admit that I have always felt somewhat out of place around others. The exception to this, I think, has been when I've been around other empaths. As a child, as a coming of age adolescent, and as a twenty-something young adult I've felt an underlying uncomfortable feeling. I'm not sure if this feeling came from me or from others, but I've usually picked up on the unspoken feeling of being "different" somehow. Whether that was a result of me being introverted, highly sensitive, or a combination of the two, I suppose others might have been uncomfortable with their inability to "pretend" in my presence. Or the fact that my more reserved nature forced them to reflect rather than react to some sort of stimulation that would distract them from being themselves.

I can't count how many times I've heard it. The dreaded "you're too quiet," or "you need to talk more," and let's not forget "smile, you look like you're having too much fun." I hate hearing all of them, especially the last one. No one else seems to be walking around like Bozo the Clown, so why am I any different? I'm just being me. I'm not mad. I'm not upset. It's not that I don't like you. I'm just lost somewhere in my thought process and I haven't found the right words yet. Or I'm listening to what you're saying or taking in all the stimulation that's bombarding my senses into shut-down mode. Last, but not least, let's also not forget the intermittent stares of concern and perplexed uncertainty. Perhaps others are uneasy with our ability to see through their masks. Or that we don't have to always verbalize in order to communicate.

Put two sensitives in a room with each other and these issues disappear. I suppose we have our own kind of unspoken code that's exchanged between us. It's the knowing glance, the recognition of the familiarity in each other's eyes, the knowing feeling of intuitive attraction. I liken it to the way the characters that are angels in Wem Wender's "Wings of Desire" glance knowingly at each other as they pass by, without having to say a word. I also like to think that as empaths, we can be like those angelic characters at times. We have the ability to unconsciously "hear" the thoughts and conditions of others' spirits, with the natural inclination to provide them the understanding and comfort they need to see their situations in a different light.

This isn't to say that I think that being highly sensitive means that we're inherently "better" than non-HSPs or that we should exalt ourselves for our unique characteristics and abilities. However, I think that we learn to devalue ourselves for simply being who we are due to receiving negative feedback from the non-HSP world. We get the message that who we inherently are is not acceptable or "ok." As a result, we go through life thinking that something is wrong with us and learn to either try to be something we're not, become an obnoxious rebel or settle somewhere in-between.

Being the natural people-pleasers that we are, we sometimes lose ourselves in the quest to avoid conflict, feel accepted and make sure that others are happy with how they experience us. What I've recently learned is that continuing to deny your true essence can become a futile, self-defeating trap that leads to hidden resentment and frustration. After all, you can't possibly please everyone one hundred percent of the time. No matter what you do or where you go, there's always going to be someone who doesn't like or understand you. Despite our high expectations of ourselves, we are still as human as the rest of the world, with a mix of imperfections that contribute to our uniqueness.

Your uniqueness is what makes you "YOU." It's a set of characteristics that contributes to the innate talents that the rest of humanity needs and can benefit from. We aren't meant to be carbon copies of each other. If that were the case, the interdependence that the world needs to function couldn't exist. Somewhere inside you have to make the journey of not only reflecting on who you really are, but also develop the resolve to say that you are ok with being "YOU." You can't truly validate yourself with the opinions of others or the attachment of your identity to things outside of yourself. If you do, your identity becomes lost and fragmented, as external opinions and attachments are unpredictable and fleeting.

The only person who can validate you is your own self. From within, you are the one who says "I'm ok." From within, you learn to understand and appreciate who you are, imperfections included. From that inner validation, you can begin to unmask the uniqueness that has so much to contribute to the world. Those contributions will find their way to those they were meant to reach and bypass those who are here for a different reason. What we all need to remember is that "different" should not be equated with "wrong." The world around us isn't painted in grey and white (at least most of the time). Why paint over yourself that way? Better to let it chip away to the original color that lies underneath. Its vitality is exactly what's needed on the landscape of existence.