By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS
As a highly sensitive person, I get uncomfortable very easily. I get uncomfortable when it’s too cold or hot. In fact, I can’t think when I’m freezing. I have to shower almost immediately after taking a walk or working out because it’s like the stickiness seeps into my skin, and my whole body feels off. The scent of cigarette smoke can stay with me all day, sparking a strong headache.
I rather spit out a swift “Yes!” than swim in the discomfort of telling someone “no,” even though I believe in the power of declining and have written oh-so many articles about setting solid boundaries (with specific, step-by-step suggestions).
I rather walk over pebbles than climb over mountains. I need things to come quickly and easily to me, and when they don’t, a tall wall of resistance suddenly pops up.
I prefer to gloss over painful emotions, because they (naturally and not surprisingly) hurt too much, even though I know the importance of feeling all of our feelings. I prefer consistency, clear-cut answers, and easy, obvious decisions. I prefer simple situations and days filled with certainty. Sometimes I feel so fragile. And often that’s how I see myself.
In short, I hate being uncomfortable. Because I feel discomfort deeply. I feel it take up residence inside my cells. And I assume that this discomfort means that I’m not made for difficult things, that I simply wasn’t wired for it.
Maybe you also avoid difficult situations or difficult emotions or difficult projects or difficult activities because of your highly sensitive nature. Because in the moment it feels excruciating. Because you yearn to avoid murky waters. Because you think you can’t handle it.
In her encouraging, inspiring book You’re Going to Survive: True stories from people who’ve endured soul-crushing moments in their careers —failure, rejection, disappointment, public humiliation — and how they got through it, and how you will too, Alexandra Franzen includes a story about her friend Nicole, who decided to complete a 460-mile hike. By herself.
Nicole told Alexandra that her experience was both beautiful and awful. She collapsed. She sobbed. She almost gave up a hundred times. But she didn’t. She completed her hike, and she felt amazing.
Nicole said: “You know, as human beings, we’re so afraid of discomfort, even temporary discomfort. We’re so afraid of challenges. We’re so afraid of anything ‘hard.’ But we can do hard things. Our bodies, our minds, our spirits…we are designed to do hard things.”
As Alexandra writes, we are designed to handle both physical and emotional discomfort—whether it’s taking on a tough hike or releasing a project or product and then dealing with critical comments or lukewarm (or non-existent) sales.
And it’s OK that when you do these hard things, the process isn’t graceful. It’s OK that you’re sweating and shaking. It’s OK that you’re stumbling, and it’s OK to ask for help.
And you never know, doing the hard stuff—whatever that is for you—can even feel incredible, Alexandra writes. It may feel: “Meaningful. Important. Satisfying. Life-altering. Even joyful.”
Doing the hard stuff gives us the gift of learning lessons. It teaches us about ourselves. It empowers us. It prepares and trains us to deal with life’s difficulties, because challenges, setbacks and adversity will inevitably arise. It reminds us that we’re magnificently resilient.
You are strong. And you are capable. And, in the words of Nicole, yes, yes, yes, you can do hard things. Give yourself the chance to try, even if you’re super sensitive, even if you’re really scared, even if discomfort is painful. Process that emotion. Process your loss. Take steps to start a new career. Submit the article pitch. Release that product. Say “maybe” or “I’ll have to think about it.” Make a difficult decision if it feels like the right one for you.
You can endure embarrassment and rejection. You can endure cruel comments and uncertainty. You can endure heartache. You can endure failure. You can navigate seemingly insurmountable challenges. And you will get through it all. Maybe you didn’t realize it, but that’s exactly what you’ve done so many times before.