An Ode to Highly Sensitive People.


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I am a highly sensitive person.

I have never intentionally killed anything in my life. Not a gnat. Not a fly. Not a spider.

I used to make my parents stop the car after it rained so I could move worms out of the road. I am terrified of spiders, but I always summon the courage to move them outside rather than kill them.

I have been a boundlessly healthy vegan for eight years now—but even if being vegan made me sick, I would still do it. Because it would make me more sick to cause the death of an innocent creature.

But please understand that just because I am highly sensitive, it does not mean that I am ignorant of the harsh realities of life.

It means I know and feel them acutely.

I do not bury my head in the sand.

I do not avoid all violence and killing because I am not strong enough to bear it, but because I am strong enough to abstain from it.

I am not afraid to look the deepest of despair in the face. I am more than willing to venture into the heart of darkness. I will not recoil from it. I will not shut it out or shut down my feeling centers because it is too much.

I will go there, and I will tread lightly, with a reverence and respect for all of life.

It has taken me years to be proud of my sensitivity—to not hide my tears when someone squishes a bug for fun or orders veal for dinner. To smile when someone says that I don’t understand the circle of life—that I’m naïve or too sensitive.

It has taken me years to understand that my sensitivity makes me really effing powerful.

It is that I am wise—not naïve—that makes me sensitive. It is that I have the gift—the superpower—of feeling not just through my own senses, but feeling into the lived experience of all other creatures.

It is the strength of my empathy, not the weakness of my stomach or mind, that allows me to feel for every living thing.

I believe that we are all this sensitive, underneath our barriers and cynicism. We are only able to witness or cause harm without feeling the pain of it when we have trained our hearts not to feel.

I bet you that if you watched a bug live its life for hours—if you watched the careful way it navigated the challenging world—you too would cry if someone needlessly ended its life.

“There are bigger problems in the world than insects and animals and trees getting killed,” people say. “There aren’t,” I respond. Because there is only one problem in the world. Native Americans call it wetico, and it is the disease of taking more than one needs. The disease of disrespecting life.

The problem is is that humans believe that they know who and what is valuable.

So, to the highly sensitive people like me out there: thank you.

Thank you for not putting your guard up and shutting out the pain.

Thank you for the generosity with which you feel.

Thank you for not allowing yourself to be hardened.

Thank you for keeping your heart soft and therefore strong.

I want you to know that you are seen. You are seen by the hearts of everyone and everything for whom you have ever felt.

You are not wrong for your sensitivity. You are extremely right for it.

Please keep allowing yourself to feel—feel even bigger than you’ve been feeling.

And feel it all with love. You heal when you feel with love. You heal the collective pain body that wants to be witnessed and noticed.

Please do not hide your sensitivity from the world. Please do not shut the world out for fear of feeling too much.

The world needs you to feel. It needs you to feel big and feel loud.

To feel unapologetically.

It needs you to stand up for the needs of those for whom you feel.

It needs you to roar the word “no” in the face of harm.

We need you to bear the message that all of life is equal. That there is only one of us here. Bird. Ant. Tiger. Tree. Human.

We need you to help awaken the remembrance that life, is life, is life.

That every life is yours and every life is mine.

We need you to fearlessly and shamelessly practice the art of nonviolence and respect for all forms of life. We need you to be highly sensitive and watch as your reverence for life continually awakens.


author: Brandilyn Tebo

Image: Unsplash/Ahdiat Fanada

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina


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Brandilyn Tebo

Brandilyn Tebo is an acclaimed transformational coach, writer and speaker. Once a type-A perfectionist who struggled with anorexia, she knows firsthand how destructive attachment to external validation can be. Through years of inner work and deep meditation, coach trainings, and the study of eastern and western transformational philosophies, she learned how amazing life can be once you let go of fear, limiting beliefs and false identification with achievements. She has traveled the world to teach empowering workshops in high schools, prisons, Fortune 500 companies and colleges. Today, she coaches clients on how to remove internal barriers to following their hearts and be the fullest expression of themselves! You can connect with Brandilyn on her website, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Chris Elkins Jun 16, 2018 3:26pm

But how deal with all the living beings smaller than ants,gnats and spiders? We kill them when we bathe. We kill them each step we take. We grow them and imprison them in our gut to help digest our food. What about all these tiny living beings we kill 99 percent of evert time you use hand sanitizer? At what point does the obsession never to kill amything for any reason become a burdonsome and an unhealthy hinderence to living a normal healthy life?

Barbara Wilson Phibbs Jun 16, 2018 12:40am

So beautiful! So true! Thank you fellow traveller.

Jovy Jergens Jun 15, 2018 6:22pm

You are a very wise young woman - wise beyond your years. I understand completely your sympathy and empathy for all living creatures, including the suffering planet itself. However, I have trouble feeling love and compassion for my own species, myself included. I feel we are a mean species and I am not wise enough nor strong enough to overcome this antipathy. I work at it, but with little success. You are an inspiration!

Carol B Bauman Jun 15, 2018 3:34pm

Thank you for sharing your story. Having been belittled as a child because I was too sensitive and struggling to find that place on my journey called "I am enough" I now acknowledge that it's sensitivity that allows me to do what I love - listening to others, listening for their strengths and witnessing their growth. One layer to add to your awareness, I'll use the fashionable name for it now - unconscious bias -- In your article you refer to "Native Americans call it wetico,". If you know specifically whose language that is, Apache, Arapaho, Lakota, Suquamish, Hopi, Mohawk, please in articles refer to the specific Nation. We are not one homogenized group of people. Rather, there are over 400 Federally recognized (and more unrecognized by the federal government) individual Nations each with their own language, ceremonies, identity. The value of respecting life is shared amongst all indigenous peoples around the world, and not only life outside of us. We begin by respecting the life within us. It is a value that we almost lost by the systemic dehumanization of settlers that we struggle now to recover. I know that you will help that recovery with respect and sensitivity.

Shân Williams Jun 15, 2018 1:20pm

It was like you had stepped into my heart and heard my own story. Almost word for word what I feel. Thank you for a wonderful, truthful article. A lifetime of acute sensitivity on a lonely path but more and more meeting my kin. Oh and it sure has been worth waiting for! Mwah

Carey Doris Widman Jun 14, 2018 8:09pm

Nice to meet you fellow empath. Most days I am fine handling different energies but sometimes when I get home to my sanctuary where I can relax I feel drained from other people’s energy. I could never kill anything. I am a Reiki healer and medium to my clients. I will be making some major life changes in August = moving to Colorado & starting a solo Reiki practice. I feel grounded and happy! 😃 Thanks for sharing your story.