Take control, assert agency, stick to your guns. Don't those three empty epithets sound familiar, fellow sensitive souls?
Of course they do, it's what we've had shouted at us every year at Parents' evening and workplace meetings since the dawn of time. So what am I saying that's any different from all of that?
Well, for starters, I am one of you
I'm not one of those overly enthusiastic and earnest extroverts that always seem to want to convert everyone into a version of themselves.
Nope, I'm well aware of the futility of trying to change people, as my last three relationships can attest to. No, what I'm suggesting instead is that we all combine these two seemingly opposite traits into one person.
Stop viewing 'strong' as the opposite of 'sensitive' and embrace both aspects of your personality. Without sacrificing the other, and still living your life to it's wider boundaries.
First of all, lets identify what makes us so sensitive in the first place, and how it can sometimes limit our reaction in the world. Sometimes we do need to combine a little steel into our nervous tremblings!
1 – Public interaction can be really hard and overwhelming
The important misconception here is that when we say that people just assume that we mean we don't like public speaking. Nope, it runs much deeper than that, pals.
If anything, it is us, the nervous academic folks, that can turn it on when we need to talk for a group presentation at school, but when it comes to social interaction, we're stuck in a bog with nothing to say.
We often latch on to a more sociable buffer friend who manfully and valiantly scoops and ushers us into social events and conversations. This satisfies enough of our desire to communicate with other people, without submitting ourselves to the mortifying ordeal of putting ourselves out there.
However, sometimes efforts to assert ourselves come at a cost when we overcompensate our directness.
2 – Being socially awkward means we're sometimes a bit harsh and too strong
It's because we overthink so many aspects of our own lives and we're so hard on ourselves that it sometimes slips out to other people when we're talking. Something will come out the wrong way and you will let an internal thought out and embarrass yourself. Or offend them.
This is often where your saving grace of a buffer friend will swoop in and direct conversation away from your faux pas. Or just make a joke of it all and move on.
This then puts us off making the effort for a good couple of months until we work up the courage to try again. That's it, practice makes perfect. You have to break a few eggs before you make an omelette, after all.
You don't think your sociable buffer friend is always confident and charming, do you? They have just as many crises as us, and that's the important thing to remember. No one is always strong.
We're all nervous mixtures of social anxiety and over-bolstering confidence. The key is finding the balance and a meaningful middle ground where you're comfortable.
Once we stop separating ourselves and seeing each other as completely different species, we can start to meet in the middle. Get on the same page.
This prevents future incidents of awkwardness when you know more about the person. Gauge their sense of humour or reservedness. Lesson learned!
3 – Being socially reclusive does make it harder to find genuine relationships
You have no patience for people wasting your time. Or people that aren't interested in making a proper connection. Certainly, it slows things down. But it's a skill of patience and knowing what you want that more confident, people-pleasing persons struggle with.
They just transform into whatever they think their partner wants. Rather than having had a lifetime of grimly sticking to their guns. That's where you want to hang on to your rational sensitive genes. They're good to use in the real world.
Maintaining high standards of yourself and others ensures that you keep relationships healthy and always establish boundaries. As ever, you want the right balance between the openness of an extrovert to new experiences, and the self-preservation self-care of an introvert being able to say 'no', and mean it.
Stop waiting for things to change around you. Assert your own agency, but don't lose yourself to do it. You're fine as you are.