I wouldn't know how to be fake if Regina George hit me over the head with her lacrosse stick, and it's something I've struggled with for my entire life. It's lost me friends and gained me them. It's stoked the fires of already rampantly unhealthy relationships. But in a world where vulnerability is often looked down upon, learning to embrace the act of wearing your heart on your sleeve – and the resultant open wound that is emotional vulnerability – is both a challenge, and a gift.
So don't let anyone ever tell you different. This coming from someone who's dealt with it for years, who's closed herself off as an emotionally crippling defense mechanism and then had to go and re-learn how to open back up again. But as I try to remind myself when I'm feeling particularly disinclined to like that particular personality trait, so, too, have the artists, poets, writers, and the creatives. And I can't think of a better category of human beings and individuals to belong to.
So yes, as a supremely empathetic person I've learned to build walls; I've had to. But I've also learned – and am still learning – how to juggle the in-betweens of my fiercely passionate heart being out there for everyone to see, and learning how to hold off against anyone who just. Doesn't. Understand. (Or doesn't care, because energy vampires are the worst.) And also because trust me, there are much more people out there who don't get it than vice versa.
Some key things you've undoubtedly learned over time if you, too, inhabit the no-man's-land of wearing your heart on your sleeve:
Casual dating is not really your thing.
That doesn't mean you won't occasionally try to pretend it is, only to crash and burn every so often. Oh, yes you'll try – especially when friends talk about how they went home with so-and-so from that one particularly adventurous night at the bar and how you should really just try it sometime. You know, the whole "no strings attached" thing.
Because that sounds oh so appealing to someone for whom heartbreak is an actual Greek tragedy.
And you're just like, "Hey, if I don't get to judge you for the whole casual hook-up scene you seem to be so fond of, you need to remember that I'm just fine over here not wasting my time. Did you hear me complain? And no, reading my articles about misadventures in casual dating on the Internet doesn't count."
...oh, did I just say that part out loud?
You can't help but live your life in extremes.
When you're happy, you're on top of the f*cking world. When you're sad – everyone and their mom knows it. You couldn't hide your emotions if someone paid you to do so. Which, by the way, no one ever would, because it's a sure bet that if you don't express yourself, you'll spontaneously combust.
You never knew how to handle the passive-aggressive cattiness of some of the other girls in high school, mostly because you came at every situation with your all, whether you were upset with someone or stoked that they had your back.
In fact, you would've been hard pressed to ever talk about someone behind their back, anyway. Not because you lacked opinions, but more so because if you had something to say, you'd end up blurting it right out to their face. Then you'd almost always feel an intense relief that you no longer had to hide from the situation.
And it's pretty much how you've dealt with conflict ever since.
You'll learn how important it is to sometimes just block other people out.
You can't always connect, because if you do you're all in. But on the other end of the spectrum, sometimes you have to walk away from someone you know is bad for you – just because, especially as an empath, you truly cannot deal with negative people or energy vampires. (You know what I mean – people who get off on putting others down.)
Not only that, but you have no desire to associate with anyone who frankly just thinks you're TOO MUCH. And that's saying a lot, because if you're going to be brutally honest with yourself and others (which you usually are, even when no one's asking), most of the world thinks you're too much.
You even think you're too much. The only one who doesn't really is your mom, mostly because she's the exact same way.
You start to realize that even though it takes a lot out of you emotionally, your vulnerability is a gift.
Being vulnerable is not a bad thing on its own. Again, it's a gift, not something to be feared. Now, learning how to deal with that vulnerable side – that's the key.
You love far more deeply than most people will ever be able to.
...and the world could always use more of it. They write books and make movies about this sort of thing, you know.
So I'm here to tell you that just because the fact that you don't or won't always fit in might cause some major trust issues, this in no way should entice you to believe that your ideas, your emotions, and your personality aren't ultimately worthwhile. Just because you're extra-sensitive doesn't mean you're not strong.
The thing to do is learn how to feel and express, and be there for people you care about – as well as to be there for yourself – without absorbing too much negative energy, and taking it on yourself. Just remember that not everyone deserves your cascading love and tireless devotion, you whirlwind of a girl, you gushing volcano of emotion.
So embrace your weird. Cultivate your particular brand of crazy. Throw paint at the walls of the logical little place in your brain that wants to tell you, "I can't. I shouldn't. I won't."
But even more importantly, invest time in learning to be there for yourself even when no one else is. Wearing your heart on your sleeve doesn't have to be a bad thing. Even if today's not that day, one day you'll be able to fully handle the force of nature that you are – and I don't see anything wrong with that.