I am so excited to be able to offer you this guest post by the one and only Sukie Baxter. If you don’t yet know about Sukie and her work, as a person in a highly sensitive body – you need to. Sukie spends her time decoding the patterns and relationship between how we live in our bodies and how we live our life. Her goal is to help you take up more space – to feel into the corners of your being, sweep out the cobwebs and, in the mean time, feel a whole lot damn better in your skin.
Sukie has a whole host of qualifications around body work and awareness, but I’ll let you find more about her on your own – because, seriously, if you haven’t yet see her gorgeous website, you’re in for a treat.
Without further ado, here’s what Sukie has for us today:
As a young woman, everything about me felt too big. My body, shooting up in my teenage years like a sunflower seeking warmth, loomed over the petite frames of my peers. In the gym class mirror line-up, I hulked amongst the other girls like a misplaced yeti, awkward in junior’s sized clothing that never quite fit my above-average height.
But it wasn’t just my physicality that didn’t fit into a smaller mold. My thoughts and emotions, and even my voice, seemed to be too much for others to handle.
Growing up in a household strung as taught as violin strings, bitterness oozing from the cracks in my parents’ marriage like catsup slopping out the sides of an overloaded burger, my highly sensitive nervous system was always just one iota below explosion.
I felt everything – the words that went unspoken, the resentful sighs, snide comments, the tension in my mother’s shoulders, the distance of my brother, locked away in his room.
The strain that went unspoken kept me constantly on red alert. And so, it was no wonder that my family felt they had to walk on eggshells around me, lest I react. It’s no wonder that they told me I was too emotional, too reactive, and, of course, too sensitive.
I wished I could just disappear.
I didn’t know about highly sensitive people back then. I had no idea they existed, nor that I was one.
And so, I listened to what they told me. I listened to my family who said I was too sensitive, and I tried to numb out. Food helped because when your belly is laden with carbs and fat, it’s hard to feel those antsy butterflies jittering in your stomach.
I listened to the media who said my body was too big. But the problem with using food as a self-soothing strategy is that it causes you to gain weight like a champ.
I tried, in every way that I could, to shrink from the world. While my college friends were at parties and probably smoking weed, I was researching restrictive, crazy cleansing diets and trying to concoct calorie controlled meals on a hotplate in my dorm room.
I engaged in extreme athletics to punish my body into submission.
Shrink! I willed it. I would have done anything to be smaller, to take up less space.
Most highly sensitive people have experienced being told that they’re too much for the world – too emotional, too flighty, too high strung or straight up in the way. Maybe you’ve even been told that your body is wrong by medical doctors who don’t understand the quirks of a highly sensitive body.
And this causes you – us – to numb out, withdraw from the world and armor your body against sensation. If what you feel is wrong, you mustn’t feel it. If you’re too much for the world, you must shrink.
This is the message you receive as a highly sensitive soul, over and over again.
Personally, I fervently wished I could be reincarnated into the body of a five-foot tall wallflower to blend in better.
Here is what I want you to know: If you, my highly sensitive one, don’t believe that you deserve to take up space in this world, you will quite literally pull yourself small from the inside out.
All that numbing and withdrawing and armoring I mentioned? It happens not only energetically – pulling back your engagement with the world around you – but literally, physically tightening your muscles, clenching down on your lungs, taking in less oxygen and taking up less space.
Your body senses itself through movement, so if you can’t move (tight muscles) you can’t feel. And if you can’t feel, you can’t be overwhelmed by sensation.
But you know what else you can’t be? Yourself.
When you diminish sensation, you also diminish your sense of self. You literally can’t feel your boundaries, and differentiating between “this is me” and “this is not me” becomes a challenge.
That means it’s harder and harder not to take on the emotions of others – a serious problem for a highly sensitive person.
It’s increasingly challenging to maintain healthy personal boundaries.
It’s really hard (nigh impossible) to make decisions in your own best interest when you can’t actually feel your own preferences (and scientific research backs this up with studies showing that behavioral modification is inhibited when people have an impaired ability to feel their own bodies).
And the result is often a chronic, unsettled anxiety roiling in your belly, a sense that something is way off, but you can’t figure out what that something is because, on paper? Life looks pretty good.
No, shrinking isn’t the solution for fitting into a world not made to suit you. Instead, you’ve got to get big. You’ve got to move into the space that is, by the very fact that you’re here on this planet, your birthright. Paint the walls, put a quilt on the bed, hang a sign on the door and call this space yours.
Sensitivity is a gift, it’s like a superpower. If you can’t use it properly, it could be destructive (to you, to your relationships, to your basic well being). If you learn to wield it, though, it becomes power because you can intuit problems before they go wrong. You can sense someone’s emotional upset and address it before it becomes a fight or explosion. You set boundaries for yourself at the beginning instead of letting people trample you and having to erect fences later and evict them.
Owning your space allows you to wield sensitivity skillfully, to use it to your advantage and help you to navigate the world.
Owning your sensitivity starts with owning your sensations. Ask yourself, where in your body are you numb, stiff and locked up? Where do you have an abundance of sensation? Sometimes it’s easier to start with what you can feel rather than with what you can’t.
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Hi! I’m Sukie Baxter. I’ve spent more than a decade watching thousands of bodies stand, move, and make lives. I talk to these bodies. I hear their stories. I tease out the common themes, marrying the psychological with the physical movements. Care to soak up some of my insights? You can find me over here