Are you a sensitive person? Do you hurt easily and often, when someone is blunt or unkind with you?
This was me, as a child. I had a decent amount of self confidence, but somehow I did not do well with any negative experience. I bruised over small interactions and never forgot how someone’s cousin’s sister had spoken harshly to me, once.
My 5-year-old daughter, Reya is exactly the same way. Cries easily and takes most things personally. She worries about what others think of her and sometimes has a hard time differentiating between constructive criticism and rejection. Matlab, choti choti baaton pe, bade bade aansoon. 😭
I need to reassure her constantly that she is loved and valued for her mistakes and successes. I tried talking to her about not being so sensitive, about taking things with a brave face. Everything my mom lovingly taught me as a child about how to be a stronger person.
Before I realized my mistake.
So I switched over to the opposite direction and this is how it went.
“Why are you crying, Reya?”
“Amma! Anya hurt my feelings/I don’t want to play with Neil again/why did Nirav take my toys?”
In the past, I’d have asked her a 100 questions. What happened, who started it, how can you prevent this?
But that’s not important is it? The only thing that matters, is: she feels badly, and she trusts me enough to tell me so.
Taking a deep breath, I sit at her level.
“I can see how upsetting this is to you, Reya. I can understand. Do you need me to give you ideas or do you just want to cry for a bit?”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Amma.”
“Ok, why don’t you feel sad for a bit, then? It’s ok to cry when you’re having big feelings. When you’re ready, I’m here to hug you.”
“I WANT TO CRYYYY! I WANT TO SCREAM!!” Her voice is louder now, because she’s comfortable enough to unleash the true extent of her emotions in front of me. I nod and stay close.
So she sits and weeps for a while, while I rub her back and empathize. I don’t tell her to stop being sensitive, and I don’t argue that it’s not a big deal. It obviously feels huge to her.
After a few minutes, there is silence. Once her sorrow has poured out in angry tears and clenched fists, there is calmness. A deep acceptance, that this too shall pass.
I hug her and plant kisses on her warm, damp cheeks. She gets up, cheerful and already healed, because she was brave enough to face her sadness and make peace with it. It no longer has power over her, and she has let it go. With a smile on her face, she runs off to join her brother and friends on the slides.
See, when you’re that young, everything seems like a huge deal. Fights with friends, lost toys, scraped knees - they all are equally intense. And when your brain is still developing, it’s hard to change your thought process, just because someone advises you. I mean, even us adults struggle with that, correct? It’s like, if you’re depressed and someone walks up to you and tells you, “oh be happy.” Like, whoa! Thank you boss, if it were only as easy as that!
It’s important to notice “negative” emotions. Sensitivity, fear, rejection, vulnerability. While, these feelings hurt, they are often unavoidable. Rejecting them or pushing them away will not help, at least in the long run. Accepting them helps speed up the healing process.
True courage is in facing your demons, not running away from them. So what if you want to scream? Do that inside your head, or in a nice, private spot. Cry, if that helps. Don’t shy away from feeling sad. Isn’t it wonderful to care about things so passionately, that your eyes well up? Observe these big feelings and let them wash over you. Watch them float around in your mind, like large, lumpy balloons. It’s so hard, isn’t it?
But worry not, this isn’t forever. Those balloons WILL get smaller. A few of them WILL lose air completely.
And sometimes, you’ll realize that you’re ready to open your hands and let those balloons go, into the deep blue sky.
True courage will only come, when you’re hurt and afraid.
I learned that recently, from my 5-year-old.