A Guide to Acknowledging and Validating Your Feelings, From a Highly Sensitive Person

I'm a highly sensitive person. I’ve been this way since a really young age. I’ve always been a big worrier, and have allowed myself to be consumed by anxiety, even when I didn’t know the terms to describe how I was feeling. As an adult, when I look back on the days I couldn’t sleep because my stomach aches were so bad, I realize now this was probably just anxiety I was experiencing. Now, as an adult, I have the terms to describe why I still get such bad stomach aches in a lot of situations. However, coming to terms with the depth in which I experience feelings and emotions has been a difficult journey. 

I feel things so strongly, all the time. When I’m happy, I am ecstatic; over-the-moon. When I’m sad, I feel like it’s the end of the world. When I’m excited or care about someone, I feel those things so deeply and create attachments in my mind to people who probably don’t share the same energy as me. When I feel embarrassed or rejected, I well up with tears. And for some reason, these feelings and emotions are often correlative. As much as I try to not let other people influence how I feel on a daily basis, it’s difficult because it’s something I’ve done all my life. 

woman in white long-sleeve shirt looking out a rainy window Photo by Leonardo Pavão from Pexels

Because of the strength in which I feel these things, I often feel embarrassed to express them. I don’t really know anyone else who gets the urge to cry at little things as strongly as I do, or people who feel gut-wrenching heartache after a month-long fling has ended. I’ve felt so ashamed and embarrassed to have such a deep connection with my inner emotions because the patriarchy we’re currently living under and growing up in tells us that feelings and emotions equal weakness. It’s taken me a long time to realize this isn’t true. They say women don’t have what it takes to be powerful bosses at big companies because we “react with emotion rather than with logic”. Am I the only one who thinks this is an extremely limiting mindset about the capacity of women to do powerful things, a limiting mindset about the power of emotions and feelings, and especially a limiting mindset further perpetuating the idea of toxic masculinity?

I'm still on the way to accepting and validating every feeling and emotion that comes to me. My therapist helped me realize how sad it is for me to say that I hate the parts of me that care so deeply about things. I’ve noticed that I am so uncomfortable with feeling sad or anything less than happy, but as much as I allow myself to feel happy emotions, I’m learning it’s okay to feel comfortable with being sad, or disappointed, or embarrassed, or to care about people and situations. So, if you’re a highly sensitive person, or just have difficulty in processing, validating and accepting your own emotions, I have some advice for you!

Woman staring at a window sadly Photo by Tiago Banderia from Unsplash

When a feeling or emotion comes by, acknowledge it. Notice it, even say it out loud. “I am feeling sad today”, or “I am feeling excited today”. Allow yourself to feel it. Even if you think certain feelings can get in the way of productivity throughout the day, set aside some time to truly feel them all. Perhaps for half an hour in the morning, or an hour after dinner, you’re going to just sit and truly feel that sadness, or disappointment, or frustration. After that allotment of time, then you can continue on with your day. 

I have learned that I like to talk to my friends when I’m feeling strong emotions. Not everyone is like this, but it’s something I do to help me through. Maybe it’s just a means of not having to experience my feelings alone, or it’s my attempt at finding validation for my feelings. But as much as I am grateful to have friends who care about my wellbeing and will be there for me every step of the way, working on yourself is equally as important. We often tend to tell our friends “don’t be sad!” or “don’t cry!” when they express feelings of sadness (I’m definitely guilty of doing this too), but the truth is, it’s okay to be sad and to cry. Holding back tears when you feel like crying can make it worse-- letting out those tears is our body’s way of detoxifying ourselves from certain feelings. Crying can be cathartic and necessary, so allow yourself to cry without judgment. 

men and mental health Photo by Fernando @cferdo from Unsplash

It’s a struggle to allow yourself to feel things sometimes, especially when we think it might be irrational. The reality is, however, that you feel this way for a reason, whether it’s irrational or not. We aren’t ones to judge ourselves on the reasons why we experience and process certain emotions -- they are there, a result of our brain processes, that’s that. While it does no good to judge ourselves, or ignore or push away certain feelings, by acknowledging and validating our own feelings may we begin to analyze our behaviours and actions we take as a result of our emotions. Once you are comfortable living with your feelings and emotions, you may start to break down and examine how your feelings affect your actions and behaviours. Finding healthy ways to cope is important, and while I’m by no means an expert, I’m on my way.