I Was Hiding My Sensitivity From the World

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I used to hide a lot of things about myself for fear of judgment. I even hid how sensitive I was. I had my own inner dialogue that sensitivity was a weakness and something to hide. I hid my needs because it seemed easier to meet the needs of those around me. I spent so much time worrying about everyone else’s needs that I hadn’t yet reflected on my own.  I hid when I got my feelings hurt and when I was too overwhelmed I hid in my room. If I didn’t interact with anyone, it seemed easier than wearing that heavy mask I had been carrying around. The interesting thing about fearing other people's judgment is that most of the time that impacts us the most when we are judging ourselves. When we start working on our own self-acceptance, we aren’t as affected by other people's judgment. When I believed sensitivity was a bad thing within me, I was incredibly impacted when someone called me, “too sensitive.”  Most of our strongest reactions to things ignite because we are carrying around that judgment within us.

I didn’t even start to discover who I truly was until I was in my 30s. In many ways I’m still learning about myself almost 20 years later. I think we all are continually growing and transforming. I remember contacting a therapist and telling her I needed to work on my self-esteem. It had always been bad, but now that I was a mom I knew that it would impact my children and I had to work on it.  Most of our “stuff” starts to surface and becomes harder to hide when we become parents and enter into close relationships with partners. It becomes harder to hide everything when we share a closeness with someone or need to be our strongest selves as parents. We want to be a perfect parent or perfect partner. In fact, we want to be perfect at most everything.              

“HSPs are often perfectionists and don’t always know it. What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s part of who we are innately that we want to do things right the first time. We do everything we can to not disappoint people and to do a good job in general. We don’t want to make mistakes. This is an important part of the survival of the population that we have a group of people who take their time to get things right. This has a lot of benefits for helping the population survive. The only issue with this is that we often use a perfectionist measurement stick on most everything we do. If we measure everything against perfection, we always feel like we are failing because perfection can’t exist.”

Excerpt from my book The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person                   

I think this is a piece of why many of us as highly sensitive people have a hard time being our true authentic selves. We are worried about not being perfect. I took that so far in my own life that I didn’t even know who I was because I was so busy being someone I thought others wanted me to be. I took the path in life I thought I was “supposed” to take, rather than the one that I chose, and couldn’t figure out why I felt so unhappy.

What’s interesting is that when we are living in a world of “shoulds”, it is quite hard to be happy.  I should do that or I shouldn’t do that, come from fear of what others think or expect, not from what our soul needs.

  • When we please everyone around us but ourselves it’s hard to be happy.

  • When we give up our own needs over and over again, we cannot be happy.

  • When we give up our identity to please others, it’s impossible to be happy.

So how do we take off our masks and truly become who we are?  We have to start becoming still, going deep within and learning about who we are. Journal, see a therapist, get support and do whatever you can. Connect with that deep place within yourself.

It can be terrifying to reveal parts of yourself that you don’t accept within yourself, so working on accepting all parts of you will set you free. Becoming vulnerable and sharing who I am with the world was one of the hardest things I did in my life, but it led me to the best part of my life-my authenticity and a sense of freedom. I get to walk around in the world now in a real version of myself that fits. I also got to meet people who loved me for me. I met my amazing partner because I am me. My children see a real smile now. They feel my soul is happy and that makes them happy. All the worries about if my children would be ok through all the transitions taught me that children are ok if you are ok. If you are not ok, they are not ok. So staying in a marriage that is toxic to your soul or living with a mask on that hides your true self is not better for a child. I learned that.  I see that same fear in so many of my clients, and I know how hard this part is. But I also get to see the joy that happens when they start dipping their toes in what life can be like when you live your truth.

We can only be loved at the level we love ourselves. We can only take in what we feel within ourselves. So being the best parent, I could be, meant I needed to be me.  Being empowered in the world meant I needed to take the hard path, but passing through the hard parts got me closer to the beautiful parts.

I still have moments of awe when I realize I’m living in my truth and within my authentic identity now. It has set me free to guide others in their journey.  I know the beauty that awaits them on the other side so I hold the hope for them, even when they might have a hard time seeing it themselves. My favorite moments are when a client comes to me after practicing taking that mask off and being free to be themselves in the world. Their spirit is lit up, and EVERY time the word that is used to describe that feeling is freedom.

Now I have the privilege of helping other highly sensitive people in the world be their true selves. I get to be at that level of empowerment because I walked that long journey. I now embrace my sensitivities.  I can genuinely say I love them because it is who I am. Yes, there are challenges with being sensitive in what can feel like a chaotic world at times, but there are so many gifts with this trait that I embrace. I love having such strong intuition, compassion, and empathy. I show up in the world wholeheartedly as a sensitive being who feels things deeply. I know the world needs people like us. Let us embrace being HSPs and in the beauty that exists because of this trait. Let’s all practice just being who we are, loving all our uniqueness and not trying to change any of it.

Be you, love you, all ways, always.  

People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.

— Carl R. Rogers

If you are struggling to accept yourself as an HSP or you want to learn how to lift off the challenges of being sensitive and live your fullest life, come join me in my 8-week program and transform your life. www.HSPcourse.com.

If you want to read more about my empowerment journey and how you can become an empowered highly sensitive person too, read my new book, www.EmpoweredHSP.com.

~Julie Bjelland is a psychotherapist, global HSP consultant, and leader in the field of high sensitivity and has helped thousands of highly sensitive people around the world. As an HSP herself, Julie understands what it is like to live with high sensitivity and strong emotions. Julie loves teaching an online course for HSPs and is the author of several books written to educate and empower the highly sensitive person.  

Learn more about Julie and her HSP resources www.juliebjelland.com

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Julie Bjelland