An Ode To The Thin-Skins: How emotional sensitivity is not just valid but vital

Words by Emily Fuller

I have always been a sensitive soul. Maybe even thin-skinned, if you will. I get heart palpitations that thump thump thump at the mere sight of a close friend crying until their eyes dry up. My clammy hands can sometimes become a breeding ground for nervous energy as my head endures whiplash when considering the arduous human suffering in abundance. I well up at the thought of my precious dog on days she has to brave the house alone.

Emotional sensitivity is a topic we continually scrutinise and debate when it comes to dealing with gender performance, and how we navigate ourselves through human connection as well as life’s hardships. It surrounds us so much that we have constructed the visual image of building rock-solid walls in feeling threatened with fear, heartbreak, grief, insecurity, or anything that is mildly uncomfortable on the emotional spectrum. We are encouraged to pile up these walls over the years, to prevent the external risks of further hurt and suffering in life experience. It makes sense from a rational point right? Each of us has experienced some trauma that plants a seed of unease in your very core, deeply rooting itself internally. We are beings who function off muscle memory. We all have particular triggers that transport us straight into those experiences in which resulted in us to feel utter hopelessness or devastation, causing us to shoot those walls straight up to the infinite bounds of sky. We are told that by getting a thicker skin allows us to go through life more fluidly, however languid it may be.

But would I hastily take up the offer of magical skin-thickening treatment, congealing a lovely layer of exterior in which the nuances of everyday existence cannot penetrate? I wouldn’t think so. Lived experience commands itself to be felt. To feel life’s immense terror is to also marvel at its wonder.

To be completely honest, I have learnt to burrow into this sensitivity I have been equipped with in combatting the world. I utilise it to navigate through the magic of words and of people. I am so very thankful to feel the tumultuous turbulence of it all. I am glad for the fact that I can feel my heart stop in moments of loss for myself and others, or can feel goosebumps peak on my arms when I walk into a room full of books that have lived out multiple lives whilst they bury into the hearts of souls of bibliophiles. I am glad for the flood of dizziness to my head every time I read Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a thing with feathers” (honestly, though – I urge you to go forth and read if you’re not familiar with such a colossal piece of beauty). Because isn’t this what it all comes down to, is feeling?

I want to feel the depths of heartbreak in order to feel the euphoria that is love. I long to read books that make me laugh and cry and hope and fear and even make me want to fist-pump the air in sheer triumph for my female heroine. I want to feel the pain of those around me as it also means I get to bask in the light of their joy in equal measure.

I want a life of sensation, not of measured thought or safe-bets or controlled relations (although I know these things are definitely necessary to an extent in certain circumstances). Some days I awaken terrified of my past traumas and pain and loss. Though I also recognise that in previously feeling them it has further refined me into a human being who adores the authenticity of vulnerability within herself and her loved ones, who loves to be consumed by a gut-wrenching book that refuses to let go and who finds solace in bleeding her heart out onto a page. For me, my sensitivity and feeling has magnified my appreciation for everything this strange existence offers me. It has widened a chasm of deepened connection to everything that makes my heart sing out in reverie, whether it be people or words or an intensely delicious cheese toastie.

And today I can feel it. It’s bright and there is buoyancy to the air in which I inhale. I am in awe at the incomprehensibility that is this weirdly wonderful world in which shelters a hefty eight billion of us, as we all carefully construct how we spend our allotted days here – in beautiful insignificance. You should allow yourself to feel it too.


Art by Alice Lefae – @alicelefae

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