We sensitive people have it rough in many ways.
Sensitive people are, inevitably, the people who most want to create, to express, to change the world.
This is because sensitive people feel the need to do such things very strongly. When they want to change the world, it’s because they see some sort of horrible thing happening, and they can’t help but feel the pain of the other with all their bones. The reason they want so badly to create art is because they feel their heart beating with the need to express what’s in their souls so deeply.
But the sensitive person also has a problem: she or he is sensitive to everything. And that includes what they often perceive as “failure”. A lack of interest. Or, worse, interest that’s malevolent and hateful.
So they are paralyzed. They don’t act. And then, worst of all, they are sensitive to this fact, and it creates even more pain.
So much sensitivity, so much pain.
I genuinely feel for such people, because I know how it is. Ironically, weirdly, bizarrely, I still share so much of what they’re going through.
Why bizarre? Because, in theory, I should be very creatively fulfilled. I write on this blog, like… a lot. I started the equivalent of a creative Jewish commune on the net. Two weeks ago I freaking got a full page ad to go in the New York Times because I desperately wanted to change the world.
And yet, I am usually constantly in doubt, constantly thinking I’m still a failure, constantly afraid of doing more.
What… the… hell?
For example, I still hate hate hate when people attack me for my ideas or my writing or my projects. It drives me insane. When I was working on the New York Times ad, there was a lot of criticism at the beginning. People thought I shouldn’t give them money, the campaign was unprofessional, it wouldn’t have an effect.
But then, people started to turn. As it began to succeed, the very same people who criticized me were suddenly inspired. Which was the point. The reason I did the campaign was because I saw how much cynicism existed in the pro-Israel world, how much people feel voiceless and helpless. So I wanted to inspire them to realize that they weren’t.
And I succeeded. And everyone was suddenly happy, thankful, and reaching out to me with positive messages.
But here’s the thing: I was still in pain, still tortured. By the same exact negative feelings I had before. It simply took a different form: I was afraid I hadn’t fully done the “right thing”. That I had failed on the ad, that it didn’t get enough attention, that some people were still critical.
It was so painful, I still look back on that time, that time I should be incredibly moved by, that time I should be amazed by, that time where so many more people praised and patted me on the back, with extreme, insane happiness. But mostly I feel stress and pain, unfortunately.
From this, though, I feel my experiences have taught me something invaluable, something important for all sensitive people to understand: success has no effect on sensitivity. Your pain, your sensitivity, will not change based on circumstances.
We can learn something even more important from that fact: the reasons you give yourself for not doing when you are sensitive are often not what you think they are.
Because more often than not, a sensitive person (like me in this equation) isn’t really afraid of failure. They aren’t afraid that their work will be unworthy of being shared with the world. They aren’t even actually afraid “haters”.
They’re afraid that the haters may be onto something. Namely, that they are failures, or they are unworthy of the creativity they’ve undertaken. They’re not afraid of a piece of work failing, they’re afraid that they are inherently failures, no matter what.
So, when they do nothing, their reason for feeling horrible is just another excuse to believe that they are failures, unworthy, etc. And when they do something, they feel the same.
In other words, if you have a voice inside you that is trying to convince you that you’re a failure, unworthy, a bad person, or any other horrible thing, then it will always try to convince you of it, no matter how much you succeed, no matter how far you go.
When I succeed at something, even after all is said and done, I find a new reason to feel this feeling: I start imagining that I’ll never succeed at that thing again. I think “Well, that was my high point, it’s all over now.”
You see? There’s no escaping this voice by trying to chase down your outer reality. There’s no success good enough if you are afraid you’re a failure. There’s no amount of value you can bring to the world that will make you feel worthy.
But there’s good news! We can learn from this. Now that we understand this voice inside our heads, we can start to address it.
Since the solution has absolutely nothing to do with our outer world , there are two main things we can now put into action:
You are now liberated! You can now know that creating or not creating has no effect on your mood. Your mood, your inner feelings and fears, are not connected to your actually creating or not creating, succeeding or not succeeding. In other words, when you know that voice is a part of you, and will be there no matter what you do, you can now do anything.
Because here’s the thing: creativity is so essential to your well-being. Or expression, or whatever it is that’s inside of you that you need to get out. Activism, starting a business, going for your dream job… things that live inside of you that you are afraid of… there is a part of you that deeply needs you to simply do these things, whether you succeed or fail.
And so if you know that the voice saying, “You’re a failure,” will say it no matter what, you can now go for it. And you’ll be fulfilling a part of yourself that is like water, air, food… it’s what makes you alive, what makes you you. It’s what makes your life worth living.
Sure, the voice will start to attack you for it. But who cares? It’s gonna say that no matter what. You might as well breathe in the meantime.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Because it’s horrible to have that voice inside of you, and so we obviously shouldn’t sit back and allow it to keep abusing us.
But now we have the solution. Because before we thought that it was success or failure that determined whether it came out. We thought that the outer world played a part in its attacking us. Now we know the reality: the voice doesn’t get quieted by “proving it wrong”. It doesn’t shut up once we finally reach some imaginary level of success since it will never be satisfied with the amount of success we’ve achieved.
No, the way to address it is the complete opposite of what we think it is (and what it’s been trying to convince us): not through the physical world, but through our inner reality.
We can only quiet it when we look at it straight in the eyes. When we face it straight on. When it says to us, “This is horrible!” or “How could you fail so bad?!” or “They’ll discover what a fraud you are eventually!” we now know that there is absolutely no validity to its vile talk. It is the bully in school, the parent who didn’t believe in us, the teachers who didn’t know how to critique out of love.
There was once a time we considered those voices valid, which is why we allowed them to seep into us. Now we know better. We know the voice is a liar… that it is the true fraud. And it needs to simply shut up, because there is no reasoning, negotiating, or appeasing it.
Now, this may have to be done with a psychologist, or some other professional or mentor. But just know, just know: this voice will never be satisfied. It is vile and a liar and manipulator. The first step to killing it is that knowledge.
Either way, I ask you one thing: if there is something stopping you from expressing yourself, creating something your whole soul is begging you to create, following whatever dreams you have: realize that it is an illusion, that it is not tied to reality… and… most importantly… that you must go after that dream, that creation, that expression.
Because (and here’s something beautiful) the stronger that voice is when you fight to do what’s true to you, the more you know it’s something you must do. Yes, your job is to quiet it. But in the meantime, know that the voice is actual a signpost. A signifier. That you care about something deeply. And that you are dying to do it.
So you must.