“Sometimes I think,
I need a spare heart to feel
all the things I feel.”
~ Sanober Khan, A Thousand Flamingos
“Should I try to change who I am?”
“Should I try to toughen up? Be less sensitive?”
I know that struggle so well. My answer is a resounding and unwavering ~ No.
In Love Warrior, author Glennon Doyle explains that canaries used to be carried into coal mines. The air in the mines was filled with odorless, deadly toxins that miners could not detect. A canary’s body is sensitive to those toxins, and the bird would stop singing if they were in the air. If the canary wasn’t removed, it would die, as so would the miners.
Glennon explains that just like canaries, there are those of us who feel the toxins and poisons around us deeply. While others carry on seemingly unfazed by the contamination, our bodies fill with anxiety, stress, and even depression. We are left feeling sick and wounded, as if we are the broken ones, not fully realizing that our sensitive souls are simply responding to fumes around us.
We feel it all and often wish we could feel less, but the world needs us to rise within our strengths and bravely share our perspectives with the world.
When I was in my twenties, I spent my Saturdays volunteering at an animal shelter. I remember walking in one day and a new pit bull behind the front desk quickly jumped up on the counter to greet me, his tail wagging as he affectionately licked my face.
“That’s so funny…,” the woman working there said. “Animals just know…”
She explained that a somewhat creepy person had come in just a few minutes before and caused the same pit bull to cower in the corner and refuse to come when called.
There’s so much wisdom in animals that the world does not appreciate. And if you’ve been feeling like you wish you were different, I’d say there’s likely so much wisdom in you that you were not taught to appreciate.
We live in a world where income, speed, power, and vanity are supreme. We are not taught how to love ourselves for exactly who we are. Instead, we are taught to conform and value vanity metrics over subtle strengths.
And in some ways, things are getting worse. Kids today are being trained to obsess over endless selfie shots far more than over how they can contribute to the world. With the rise of social media, narcissism is in, but even the narcissists are hurting.
Having a tender heart in this loud, overwhelming and broken world can be painful and lonely. Our hearts will break a thousand times over. We will betray ourselves and we will betray others as we clumsily navigate our way through the rough and emotionally wretched landscape. And the voices around and within us will scream “toughen up.”
But even still, do not try to change who you are.
Instead, learn how to love yourself and how to share that love with the world around you. Learn more about what is right with you, than what you worry is wrong with you. Fight hard to live within your strengths, instead of constantly tormenting your weaknesses.
I spent many years trying to pretend I was less of who I am.
I tried to act unbothered when really I felt deeply wounded.
I tried to act tough when really I felt shamed and shattered.
I tied to act complacent when really I wanted to scream for change.
With each act of pretending, we betray ourselves, and the price for that betrayal is high. For as we reject the light within us, we embrace our own darkness.
Your tender heart is your light, and only by honoring it will you live in alignment with your soul.
I can pretend I’m not who I am, and try to conform.
Or I can embrace all that is me and thrive within my strengths.
I can pretend the world does not overwhelm me, and suffer silently.
Or I can find the pockets within this world that allow me to breathe deeply and expand.
I can pretend my heart does not ache more easily than others, and act impenetrable.
Or I can use my aching heart to heal another aching heart.
The world needs your intuitive gifts and your emotional intelligence. The world needs you to courageously step forward with all of who you are and less of who you’re not. The world needs you to trust in yourself and the gifts of your soul.
The world needs you to love yourself as you are. Because until you do, you will hold back, you will conform, you will silence your strengths. You will not be able to warn of the poison in the air, or bravely extend an open hand to an aching heart trapped in the darkness.
So, no. Do not try to change who you are. Do not try to toughen up. You are already far tougher than you give yourself credit for. Hang on to who you are with all your might as the world aches for your compassionate perspective.
It’s not easy. You will stumble, fall and betray yourself along the way. But keep rising, keep finding your light, keep aiming it where it will shine the brightest.
“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” ~ Anne Frank
Be that single light ~ you’re not really alone.
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