To be sensitive is to be fragile and powerful at the same time

What does it mean to be sensitive? Is it a problem, a weakness? How can I tame my hypersensitivity and turn it into a strength? I asked myself these questions for a very long time!

Then, through reading, analysis, and observation, I came to better understand the hidden mechanisms behind my sensitivity, and to be able to simply enjoy the fabulous assets it offers!

I share here a kind of definition of sensitivity, of hypersensitivity. This description is illustrated by a multitude of examples and observations from my own life over many years.

I hope that this will be useful and inspiring for you too, so that you can reclaim your sensitivity and transform this apparent fragility into strength and serenity!

Article content

To be sensitive: transforming a small perception into a big reaction

I point the camera at the starry sky. Ah, this camera shows even the smallest star. It is sensitive! To be sensitive is to perceive very small things, small stimuli, with sharpness.

I would like to see the star more closely, I press very slightly on the zoom. Oops, it goes too fast, I lost my star. The zoom is very sensitive! To be sensitive is also to react in an amplified, exacerbated way.

To be sensitive, hypersensitive, would it be to have the ability to transform a small thing into a big thing?

A subtle stimulus is transformed into a clear perception, a small perception is transformed into a big reaction. And from this small technical observation results in the so complex and chaotic life of the sensitive being!

The sensitive being, a being of contrasts

Ah, the sensitive individual is a being of contrasts, an unpredictable being! A small parameter changes, and everything goes wrong.

One is sad or happy

So enthusiastic a few moments ago, I suddenly find myself in deep sadness, without even having understood the cause of this shift in mood.

One is fast or slow

A few minutes were enough for me to get attached to this fantastic lady! She is definitely the woman of my life! But it’s been so many weeks that I can’t get over my intense fear of declaring my love for her… I need time.

One is stubborn or in doubt

Despite all these years, I can’t accept the lack of absolute in my life, I want to live my dreams, always! But I am still in doubt. Am I utopian, unrealistic, idealistic? Is this hopeless?

To be sensitive is to be an acrobat

It is to spend one’s life on the razor wire, in danger of falling on one side or the other at any time. The change of state can be so fast, and the emotions so extreme, that a fellow observer, surprised, will worry: “Is this still the same person who stands before me?” While, at the same time, the sensitive individual, puzzled, will question himself or herself, doubtful: “But in fact, why am I so sad?”

The sensitive being is a being of contradictions, a being of paradoxes!

The sensitive being is gentle and radical. Ah, I love being gentle, caring, tender, and subtle! But when the facts turn out to be contrary to my ethics, the feeling of internal dissonance becomes so unpleasant, unbearable, that I can only make a radical, sometimes unconventional decision. I must leave immediately! With my body, there is no room for compromise. It’s integrity or suffering.

The sensitive being is fragile and powerful

Sometimes, just a tiny comment from a small boss, and I’m already overwhelmed by shame, then guilt, then anger. Oh, how weak I am!

But when I feel deep inside that it is time to sit for ten days in half-lotus (article in French) at a meditation retreat, nothing can stop me. My buttocks on the ground, I stay there, determined. When all parts of myself are aligned, in harmony, I am very strong, full of bravery. When my heart, intuition, and sensitivity guide me, I am powerful, unshakeable.

Paradoxical, the sensitive being is soft and radical, fragile and powerful at the same time.

Sensitivity weakens when it is not understood

In the beginning, this sensitive animal is so fragile, so vulnerable

The physical sensations are intense. My heart resonates in my chest, I flush, and my hands tremble. Emotions blur my thoughts. When fear comes, it paralyzes me! When it’s sadness, it overwhelms me! And when it’s joy, it makes me dizzy! But what can I do with such a responsive body? Where are the user’s instructions?

In front of others, this young sensitive being may feel different, sometimes judged

Every little thought takes over my mind. Oh, I forgot to bring food, how absent-minded, how clumsy! A strong emotion crosses me, and I don’t even know anymore: is it my emotion or that of my interlocutor? And in what proportion?

Then, if by misfortune one places me in competition, against someone else, the internal tension places me in fact against myself. Faced with the animality of competition, I seek gentleness and elegance, and I run away from the competition. I am a coward, I am inadequate!

And to top it all off, when I show my attraction to the woman of my life, I do it so gently, so subtly, that my signals remain imperceptible. Oh, how unfortunate! Is there even one sensitive lady left on this strange planet?

Diagram representing a sensitive person as a circle, tender, and the hostile world as a rough, pointed surface.

In the absence of understanding, the sensitive individual might anchor doubt and guilt within themselves

“Ah! I’m so sensitive! I’m so dumb! The others look so strong! May I finally become normal, like everyone else!” one will exclaim, exhausted, in front of his mirror.

Then will begin a dark descending phase. This is a phase where one will mechanically cover oneself with multiple shells, thicker and thicker, more and more sophisticated, in order to limit as much as possible the entrance of all these aggressive stimulations. Little by little, without noticing it, it is then one’s true identity, the wonderful little inner child that will be buried, that will be repressed. An inner child yet so pure, so beautiful!

If I am a sensitive woman, I am tempted to repress my sensitivity to make myself respected in this world, in reaction to the clichés that project on me the image of a fragile woman.

If I am a sensitive man, I am tempted to repress my sensitivity to reduce the gap that separates me from the cliché of the virile man projected on me. I have tied up my inner child, his creativity, his candor, his cheerfulness, and he suffers.

Diagram representing a sensitive person in the form of a circle, which, in contact with the hostile world, represented by a rough surface, is deformed, injured.

To be sensitive, this can be painful. Sometimes a lot.

However, if being sensitive, hypersensitive, is perceiving reality with sharpness, isn’t the sensitive individual the one who sees? The one who understands? And I would even say, the one who is normal?

If being sensitive is to perceive reality with sharpness, how could one be “too” sensitive? How could one perceive reality “too much”?

To be “too” sensitive? No, let’s be reasonable: this does not make sense!

Recognizing and accepting one’s hypersensitivity

Then one day, at a turn in his chaotic life trajectory, the sensitive being becomes aware of this reality.

I understand that I am sensitive, that not everyone is as sensitive, but that I am not abnormal either. I understand that being sensitive can be a problem, but that it is also a great asset, and that I must learn to live with this peculiarity.

I make an appointment with a psychologist. “So, my problem is that I am sensitive? You mean I’m weak? Oh no, what a disappointment! I was so proud to think I was bipolar!” That’s the start of acceptance.

Acceptance is followed by the emergence of hope, liberation

I start to embrace my difference, to stop trying to react like others. My attention is turned toward myself. I start to like myself as I am, to respect myself.

I am a subtle person? Then I will make my advances with subtlety. I don’t like competition? Well, I don’t like competition. I am sometimes fragile? Well, that’s the way it is. I’m emotional and forgetful? Well, that’s it. Little by little, the doubt and the need to identify me with others dissolve.

But as soon as the sensitive individual has started to accept his singularity, we can already see him proudly claiming his weakness and fragility!

Ah, the sensitive being, what a funny fellow. A being of contrasts, a being of paradoxes.

The journey has just begun for this explorer who has embarked on a quest to reconquer his sensitivity. Because sensitivity is wild and the journey is long. With patience one will have to tame it, learn to master it, otherwise, this still clumsy acrobat will risk falling and getting hurt.

Thus I relearn to listen to my body, my sensations

In this location, the backache reemerges? So I leave the place, and I observe the changes. I feel the anger rising so strongly that it overwhelms me? Then I try not to fall unconsciously on one side or the other.

I try to find the balance: not to react, not to repress, to observe and see what happens. The emotion remains intense? So I wait, I know that everything will eventually pass. This emotion will also pass.

And surprise! When I make room for silence, for observation, when I learn to balance my reactions, I feel new perceptions emerge little by little. Subtle, they were invisible to me before, masked by all the noise that I let resonate under my skull out of ignorance. These subtle sensations shed new light on the world.

I understand better and better the mechanisms that animate my interlocutors, I perceive with more sharpness the atmosphere of a place. What a joy, I am becoming more sensitive!

But then, once again, I will have to be patient, to get used to it. Because these new perceptions, as subtle as they are, are added to all the others and threaten my barely conquered stability!

Sensitivity: a fabulous tool for evolving

Then one day, the sensitive individual grasps the true power of the tool that he or she had so well repressed by ignorance, under thick shells. You may have already understood: sensitivity is a powerful tool for evolution, a wonderful catalyst for awareness!

Awareness, which I analyze in another article in French, is precisely allowed by the perception of a new element, is facilitated by sensitivity, by this always close contact with reality. The tireless search for solutions to one’s internal conflicts, those small grains of sand that are intolerable for the sensitive being, favors precisely the advances, the realizations. Sensitivity pushes to the opening of the consciousness, and the opening of the consciousness amplifies the sensitivity. Great!

Awareness after awareness, the internal conflicts fade away, the mastery of sensitivity deepens. I feel less fragile! I am ready to welcome more and more stimuli instead of protecting myself from them! Ready to abandon my shells!

What if sensitivity, when managed, did not make me fragile at all? What if, on the contrary, it made me strong? A shell is so rigid, so brittle. Sensitivity, fluid, flexible, cannot break. Under a shell, everything is so soft, so fragile. Sensitivity, open, reactive, adapts, adjusts.

Diagram representing a sensitive person. In contact with the hostile world, this fragile person can become afraid and rigid. But, if one keeps confidence, one's flexibility and tenderness give one an adaptability that makes one invulnerable.

Oh sure, all is not yet perfectly peaceful in the head of the sensitive being. The emotions are still there, still intense, still colorful. But he or she learns little by little to stand back.

The storm is bursting, a torrent of angry thoughts is falling on me. But, for a moment, I take a step back. Oh, how deep the abyss is when I observe it well: what a sadness! However, at this moment, the emotional waves which cross the body do not reach anymore the mind, which remains serene, balanced.

A space is created, the reactions are softened, and in this space, the power can unfold.

To be sensitive is also to be powerful

When I listen to my sensitivity instead of repressing it, I am guided, with precision, in the direction of myself. I am led, patiently, toward who I really am. Doubt evaporates and gives way to determination.

Sensitivity! It is so sweet! It is candor, wonder. It’s the poetry, the bubbling. It is the subtlety, the finesse. It is the purity, the wisdom. How beautiful it is!

And you know, I will confess one more thing. I even believe that sensitivity, the assumed and tamed sensitivity, that of the men and that of the women, well, it is the future!

Visual summary

Diagram representing a sensitive, tender person, who is deformed at the contact with the world. This tenderness can cause suffering, but it can also make a person very flexible, adaptable, invulnerable.

I published this article for the first time in French on August 25, 2016. I translated it to English on January 12, 2023.

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Lénaïc Pardon
Lénaïc Pardon

I am a kind of researcher-explorer. I am French, introverted, and hypersensitive. I value a lot freedom, creativity, and altruism. I am curious about almost anything, but I do have a preference for topics around simple living: permaculture, nature, craftsmanship, autonomy, philosophy, the mysteries of life… More about me and my work >