I was once told by my leadership in the workplace that, in her opinion, my emotions were a “serious character flaw” in a moment of overwhelming release behind the closed doors of her office. I have always known that I wear my emotions on my sleeve and a brain-mouth filter set at high to avoid being the cause of someone else’s pain. I also know that I shed tears of joy, frustration, anger, disappointment and loss. I have always thought this was a trait that touted my compassionate side. I have tried to walk the path where I treat others as I would want to be treated. I’m not perfect in any sense of the word, but have often found a lack of reciprocation that has brought out the other side, the one where I become a sponge to the nasty, contagious bitterness that permeates throughout the civilized world.
My awareness of this tendency to reflect emotion and attitudes surrounding me, pulls me in the direction and the company of positive people because negativity requires so much more energy. I also like who I am much better when I focus on more productive and beneficial efforts. It’s more rewarding both for myself and for others than dwelling in the darkness and sludge of anger and resentment.
With that being said, I found myself in a position in finance for the county where I lived, handling the garnishments. I was the sole person responsible for taking people’s money from their paychecks without their permission. I had been called many things over the years and have numerous instances where I politely asked people to call back when they’ve calmed down before hanging up on them. I was good at my job and proud of it because I was able to use my knowledge to help educate people who otherwise would have been unaware of their rights and could walk them step by step through the process of dismissing their garnishment. This was not required of my job, it was a free service I provided. It created more work for me in the end, but it gave me peace of mind.
There were days that weighed on me heavily and the conflicts piled up to the point where they would occasionally boil over. Typically, it was after I closed the bedroom door and had a moment to unwind. In one instance, it was in the office of my management and in that moment I was given a lesson that stayed with me through the years, although I can no longer recall what caused my emotional outburst that sparked this conversation. She does not recall this discussion and has since apologized, but it is a stark reminder of how my passion and emotional forthrightness was seen as a weakness.
I truly valued her position and considered her a friend so I took it personally and, for the first time, began to wonder if there was truly something wrong with me. Was there a way for me to learn to turn off my emotions, to not feel so much? And if so, would I want that?
I have also spent a time in retail and within less than two weeks found myself with an irate customer who in a few short minutes called me an idiot, a bitch and when trying to explain something to her she interrupted to say “Excuse me, are you still talking? Shut up!” After walking away and letting management handle it, I found a corner of the stock room to bury myself in and cry. Why did I care what this person thought of me? I honestly didn’t, but I care that there are people in the world that think it’s okay to speak to others like trash. I care that there are people out there who are so unhappy that their sole purpose in life is to make others as miserable as they are.
Maybe I was coddled as a kid, some might say in today’s world of “entitlement” and “millennial” tags. Nope, I can’t accept that. I had a belt toting mother who once said when God was handing out compassion he skipped her. It’s just who I was born to be, who I was meant to be.
It took me a while to figure this out and to accept it as something that was truly a blessing. It can sometime be a curse, especially late at night when I can’t sleep because my mind is still processing the chaos that occurred in the world that day. I try to keep from watching or reading the news before bedtime in an effort to save myself from a night of restlessness.
We often don’t recognize the impact people and events make on our well-being, but my experience has taught me to see it for what it is. It is an emotional experience that has an effect on my perspectives and gives me insight into how others think, how others act, and is an important part of my development as a human being who is comfortable in her own skin. It is my gift. What it is not? It is not a character flaw. It is not something that I should be ashamed of or should learn to control. It is not something that should be dictated by others simply because it is unlike their own lack of emotional responses.
Mayim Bialik’s you tube post says it all perfectly! You should never give anyone the power to control how you should feel!
We are not vulnerable because of our sensitivity, we are simply more aware, more in tune with it! We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders and take one for the team if it means everyone else gets a chance to play on their field. We hold others together in our embrace until they can hold themselves up again, even when we know they won’t be there for us in our time of need.
Character is defined as a representation of the qualities of honesty, courage and integrity of a moral and ethical quality. By suppressing our emotions and confining them to a tiny box in the darkest levels of our consciousness, we no longer have a sense of community, a sense of caring for the well-being of others. Humanity is irreversibly fragmented when we can no longer show empathy and compassion toward each other.