I’m going to come out and say it: Being a feeler is a bit of a mixed bag.
On one hand, we see the world through pretty spectacular lenses. When we ride the train, surrounded by people immersed in their own heads, we read stories from their faces. Our own life stories are earmarked by recollections of soaring love, heartbreak, tears and growth. We have access to the full spectrum of human emotion, a reality we’d never trade away. We make meaning of life –– the breaks, the lessons, the people who’ve come and gone –– and we master the art of connecting to others. We tether ourselves to their pain, ensuring they don’t feel alone.
On the other, we don’t get the luxury of detachment. When our hearts get broken, we don’t get to walk away unscathed. Instead, we ache. We sob, we beg, we mourn. When the ones we love are hurting, we carry their pain with us
–– into work, into our relationships, on running trails, beneath our blankets under the cover of night. We can’t release our worry, our concern. In a world seemingly flooded with pain, we cannot help but be immersed, laboring to put love where a wound once was.
Somewhere along the line, feelers learn that our emotionality is a mark of weakness. ‘Wipe away those tears,’ we are told. ‘Carry on.’ Sensing disapproval, the risk of rejection, we learn to shrink. We teach ourselves to grin through every emotion, through the strain of sadness that shoots through us when we see an ex-lover or the self-doubt that stabs our sternum whenever we find ourselves standing alone. ‘Be strong,’ we whisper to ourselves.
But I’m here to say that we are strong. In our feelings. As we are. Hearts bleeding, breaking, bursting to life.
To the feeler reading over this, how many people have you cradled through their pain? How many stories have you shouldered, eyes open with empathy, and permitted someone to rest in their honesty? ‘I can’t believe I told you all that,’ they tell you, and you nod. You reach for their shaking hands, the words they need pouring from your lips. You are a healer, capable of both seeing the brokenness in somebody and granting them the bravery they need to jump over it. Your presence, soft and unafraid, tells them they can trust you.
How can this be anything but tremendous strength?
The fact of the matter is, feelers, that the very people criticizing our sensitivity are the ones who rely on it to journey forward. Consider the last person, someone close to you, who asked you to shrink. Have you not held that person through their heartbreak? Anticipated their worries, surprised them with your presence, made them feel seen? The criticism –– the dismissal of our feelings as weakness, oversensitivity, melodrama –– only comes about when it’s not convenient.
So, let’s make this pledge together, feelers. Let’s promise ourselves this:
We are not going to apologize for feeling. We won’t explain away the depth of our hearts, the magnitude of them breaking. We won’t say sorry for our tears, for the hurt we sustain when someone leaves. We’ll work, instead, to understand this as an integral mark of who we are. We’ll stand strong in the courage we’ve found to stand, eyes and heart open, and feel every inch of our lives.
Anybody who asks otherwise is asking for us to shrink. And, I can promise this to be true: We are worth every inch of space we occupy.