Do you find that you’re way too hard on yourself sometimes? Do you tend to push yourself, or act out of a state of panic and anxiety? I’ve totally been there. And one of the most life-changing decisions I’ve made ever since discovering my high sensitivity, is committing to providing a nurturing environment for myself.
A nurturing environment is one that supports your growth as an evolving individual. This is extraordinarily important for us as highly sensitive individuals, because most of us have been raised by parents who may not have been aware of our traits, in a society that’s dominated by not-highly-sensitive people. As adults, it’s now up to us to offer ourselves what we need.
So what do we need?
Of course, the specifics are up to you as a unique individual. But I believe that what every sensitive person needs and deserves is an environment that enhances your gifts, while being mindful of your practical limitations. Rest a moment on the word nurture: what feelings come up for you? For me, it’s soothing, comforting, but also firm and intentional. It allows, but directs at the same time.
You as parent to your inner sensitive child
It’s the act of parenting yourself: in this relationship, you are both the parent and the child. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s an intimate, life-long relationship where you intuit and meet your needs, while creating the best conditions for you to grow and thrive as an individual.
Sounds idyllic? It definitely can be! But it also takes a bit of work. While we don’t all have the luxury of wielding complete control over our external environments, we can set the stage for creating a nurturing environment, in our hearts and minds, right NOW. Trust that whatever we cultivate in our inner worlds, will spill out and express itself in our outer worlds. No matter the demands of your life – work, relationships, health, finances – you can choose to treat yourself with the utmost care and gentleness at any moment.
And it all starts with this set of beliefs. You can come up with your own variation, and speak them out loud, once a day or as many times as you wish, until it becomes ingrained in you:
“I value myself. I am worthy of my own loving care and attention.
I love myself and I cherish my presence in this world.
I deserve to take up space.
I am a sensitive individual and with the right care and attention,
I can be the best version of myself that I’m here to be.”
It doesn’t matter if you aren’t feeling these words right now. You don’t even have to wholeheartedly believe in the words as you say them – the important thing is to not allow any momentary doubt to stop you or sway you off your commitment to yourself. As you speak these words out loud, you affirm them – and they in return, will reflect their power back onto you, in a mutual exchange of energy. Over time, you will see changes.
Here’s how I started…
- Does your belief system nurture you? Some ways to know: can you turn within without feeling negative about needing time to withdraw, taking longer to make decisions, or any other traits associated with your sensitivity? Examining your current belief system can help you switch to one that is more nurturing and supportive. It could mean shifting from a belief where life is about striving and ‘winning’; coming out on top; ceaseless competition and comparison – to one where life is a journey that’s meant to be lived and experienced, where every event, whether good or bad, serves as lessons to further self-knowledge. Ask yourself: What do I believe about my world? Does it support me, or does it just stress me out? By picking apart and questioning the beliefs you hold about life, you will slowly start to realize which are the ones that affirm your efforts and which ones undermine them – and if the system is suited to a whole other person instead: someone who is not highly sensitive!
- Language. Similarly, our internal dialogues dominate how we feel about ourselves. Watch how you speak to yourself – is it overly-critical? Is it harsh? Would you ever say these things to someone you love? The language we use is formed over time, and can be hard habits to shift. But it is possible, with mindfulness. Here are the 5 things I’ve stopped saying to myself, that have helped me immensely.
- Making me-time a necessity: like breath, food, and water. Carve out at least 15 minutes a day, where you meditate, sit in a tub, or simply rest, without any other distraction. Breathe freely. If you’d like, place a hand over your heart, and ask it: what do you require today? Watch out for any thoughts, feelings or sensations that arise. Even feeling nothing is a feeling. Honour that, and be gentle. Sometimes, when we have neglected to consult our hearts for a while, it takes time for us to really attune to its language again – and to coax it back into speaking to us. But sometimes, it’s clearer: perhaps you may need more alone time. Or, you miss your friend, and need to call them up for a chat. Or perhaps to read a book, to cook a meal, or even start planning for a trip. Making it a priority to come back to yourself is the ultimate nurturing act. No tools are needed: just your own precious time.
I acknowledge that this is not a small undertaking. Changing belief systems around how we treat ourselves is not exactly light and fluffy. All of the above DO require a willingness to carve out meaning for yourself, and a commitment to making a change – that may run contrary to norms you observe in the mainstream. (P.S. As an HSP/Empath, you may have to start redefining what ‘normal’ means to you in order to create a sane life for yourself!) But the important thing is to take tiny steps every single day, and committing to yourself: that is everything. Those tiny steps DO add up!
There are also many books and resources out there that can help you to shift your belief system, ranging from the spiritual to the more scientifically inclined. Personally, immersing myself in Buddhist philosophy has helped me to broaden my worldview and shift my perspective; it’s how I truly learnt to treat myself with compassion and kindness. If you’re interested, these are the two books that have helped greatly: Taking the Leap & When Things Fall Apart, both by Pema Chodron. As always, I strongly urge you to follow what that speaks to your heart. Your inner child will guide you to what you need.
Coming up: Healing my Belief System, Sanity for HSS/HSPs.