I am tender because I am strong.

September 26th, 2017

“Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness.”

— Lao Tzu

“Is it possible to be exceptionally sensitive yet extraordinarily courageous?”

I often think about this contradiction that defines me, while reflecting on a childhood warning from my father: “You are too sensitive and sincere; you are going to have a tough life.” His observation was accurate, and so was his warning. Unfortunately, I didn’t prepare for tough, let alone prepare for the brutalities exceptionally executed by evil. Strangely, the successive avalanches lead me to decipher tenderness.

Since my demolition was deemed not suffering enough, in the pretext of excavation, I was subjected to entitled inquisitions, and instead of kindness I was slammed with the warning: “Don’t say anything; people will talk.” These individuals are right—the “people” they refer to don’t live on Mars—they are “the people”—personal failures who start and end their days ripping apart others’; I am just another number. My apparent anguish not satiating their weakness, along with shaming and isolating, they rebuffed my vulnerability and sensitivity: “Don’t be so sensitive. Just toughen up. Grow a thick skin.” These mean-spirited words were thrown at me, in part to feel superior, in part to dissuade me from being different, and in part to coax me to become one of them—emotionally impenetrable.

Dealing with indifference is a challenge for me, and rationalizing apathy is a greater challenge. I allow evil (in human bodies) who inflict great harm and the hardened, who deliberately hurt me, to deconstruct their identities. While the former established that HATE destroys in sheep’s clothing, the latter established themselves as hyppo-kroach’s—a hybrid of a hypocrite, a thick-skinned hippopotamus, and a constipated cockroach.

From childhood, hyppo-kroach’s systematically lock in each emotion, weighing down the latticework of their soul. And with a lifetime of accumulated dead weight hyppo-kroach’s fail to see what a hindrance they are to the preservation of emotional aesthetics. Their behaviour is similar to tourists securing padlocks—as a symbol of love—on the Pont des Arts [The first metal bridge built in Paris in the 19th century, connecting the Louvre in 1st arrondissement and the Collège des Quatre-Nations in the 6th arrondissement.]. Immediate gratification and selfishness clouds the apparent destruction of heritage.

Trust me, it is not a particularly pleasant feeling to have people reject you and negate your core, and it is by no means easy to be tender. When the fury of life tests you, your self-esteem can be crushed; mine was—there were times my self-esteem was untraceable. I had to continually realign with my soul and listen to that soft-firm voice that whispered: “Darling, you are special, and you are whole.”

Once, after a session of running down, a hyppo-croach smugly demanded: “Why did they pick you ((to victimize)? How come they didn’t choose me?” It proved to be a challenge to focus on my humiliation as my mind raced ahead wanting to declare: “Because hippopotamuses like you are aggressive animals; they are not preyed upon; it is the sensitive and trusting, like deer, who are easy prey.” I resisted from educating this pompous woman as she insisted on establishing her lack of emotional maturity (corruption makes people apathetic and keeps them immature).

The malleability necessary for vulnerability is absent in hyppo-kroach’s—they are brittle—making them easily snap under pressure. Hyppo-croach’s laugh at others, but they can’t take a joke on themselves. How can they endure the harsh terrains with tenderness? In their emptiness—with tear ducts drained and emotions scooped out, hyppo-croach’s internalize a slew of negative emotions like greed, resentment, jealousy, lies, shame, etc., and execute them with meticulously cultivated pretentiousness and flawless passive aggressiveness.

On recently coming across the words, “Don’t share your pearls of vulnerability with swines,” I wished I had attained this wisdom earlier—I would have attempted safeguarding my vulnerability. The fact is swines, like human parasites, often arrive as non-threatening, over friendly people. The fact is also that swines and parasites are vital for sensitivity to manifest into courage—similar to the irritants required for a natural pearl to develop. And there is no dearth of hyppo-kroach’s—you will see them piled in heaps like fake pearls, blending in as one big blob! On a closer look, you will see their artificial coating peel.

The luster of my pearl didn’t develop by protecting my perpetrators, burrowing my feelings, or succumbing to become one of the hardened herd—my luster developed by embracing my life’s realities.

My emotional luster develops by tears to my heart that give birth to tears in my eyes.

In turn, I develop my capacity for sensitivity and empathy, facilitating tears in others, helping them heal. My sensitivity is a rare gift, and life has made me aware of this asset.

If you are an individual with heightened sensitivity— feel with intensity and engage with empathy, embrace your attributes, those a certain part of the world considers unworthy. And don’t pretend to be a different person for validation or approval. If you fail to forge an identity for yourself and fail to resist fear-instilling voices, you will be talked out of your sensitivity. If anyone needs to clean shop, it’s the hyppo-kroach’s—they have to address the issues they have buried; this reality would mean rummaging through hard-hitting stuff. The easy way out—instead of the arduous way in—is denial, escape, and pretense.

As sensitive individuals, by championing your feelings, you will develop a greater capacity to serve humans, animals, and the environment. Mahatma Gandhi, Princess Diana, and Mother Teresa were gifted with heightened sensitivity, and they invested their sensitivity and empathy in humanity. Take pride in keeping the landscape of you inner world emotionally lubricated. As you grow in life (not age), you will exude softness, making you emotionally accessible. Allow your vulnerability to create a safe and reassuring environment that facilitates feelings and inclusivity.

For those with an outgoing nature, who are recharged by crowds and loudness but have been brainwashed to believe that “hardening up” is cool and the best tool to deal with the dangerous world, try reevaluating these misguiding messages. You don’t have to be extraordinarily sensitive to be compassionate to people who are, but you can make an effort to converge halfway with individuals who are in need of sensitivity. Next time people express their vulnerability, try not to be dismissive: Don’t be so sensitive. Grow a thick skin. Ask yourself: Can I change my height or hair follicles? Can I reverse my diabetes or arthritis?

As we travel on this journey, let’s not be impervious to the emotions of men. Extend your compassion to them as well—they too are sensitive and need to express their feelings. Where a handful of emotionally ugly women and men went at me like savage boars, to a large extent men touch me with their sensitivity, in turn making me value their manliness. So instead of throwing the standard roadblock: “Be a man; don’t cry,” transform into a compassionate blanket that gives cover to his fears and sorrows; extend an environment that allows him to cry. Tears and vulnerability are indispensable; they are antiseptic. Tears make us real. Take water, it makes up approximately 60% of our body, and yet, we tell people not to cry.

Water is life source; the day our reservoirs dry, we harden, failing to feel the tears of others.

Being a fine pearl also means to hold sacrosanct the material (emotions and information) exchanged between the two parties—don’t share what is expressed in trust with a spouse/partner, colleague, or friend (let that be the domain of the unworthy and gossip mongers). Exercise your self-worth and integrity.

For those of you who have a sensitive child, please do not seer the seed of sensitivity with your rebukes, dismissals or/and comparisons—it will fail to blossom the intricacies of hidden qualities. By imposing your fears on your child, YOU set up a child for failure and suffering in life. When a child fails to fuse with his self-worth at a tender age, he will never find the self-love required to develop courage.

My father observed me precisely, catching glimpses of him in me. In turn, I feel his sensitivity and suffering. The difference between us is that I never allowed “an outsider” to access my soul, to talk me out of my narrative, thereby preserving my sensitivity while exercising my courage. Now, I find it amusing to see how evil and hyppo-kroach’s who (conveniently) misinterpreted my sensitivity and vulnerability for weakness, on experiencing the natural extension of vulnerability—courage—are left stupefied. I don’t expect their dwindling faculties to fathom the truth:

Unfettered tenderness blossoms from the foundation of strength—a fragile foundation cannot support tenderness.

If you fervently believe that your sensitivity serves you well, retain each pearl-like quality through the harshest weather. As exceptionally sensitive individuals, we might never be able to change those who are burdened with legacies of secrecy, shame, and apathy, but we can sprinkle magic on people like ourselves who can appreciate and benefit from sensitivity.

Lao Tzu said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Let us continue taking our individual steps, mindfully creating a chain of humanity by stringing our luminous pearls.