finding emotional clarity

For a long time, I’ve been meaning to write about the concept of “sensitivity” – yet I couldn’t quite formulate my words or ground my opinion for some reason. A friend sent me this article, which because of my serious inability (read: complete lack of self-control) to limit myself to reading only one, led me to this article: 8 ways to romance clarity in the midst of a cluttered & confusing world.

I’m a sensitive person and anyone who knows me will attest to this with, at the very least an excessive head nod, at most a laugh. I find myself at the extremes of a variety of emotions: crying with joy, sobbing from sadness, laughing from happiness. For some reason, though, the word sensitive carries with it the connotation of weak, of unable, of lacking control. Growing up, my sisters and I threw this word around like a careless insult, “stop being so sensitive” or “you’re only mad because you’re sensitive” – we made it something to work against, rather than capture as a beautiful and rare trait of observation.

Sensitivity is, in its simplicity, being reactive. It’s reacting to the actions of the world around you, be it with sadness, tears, anger, happiness or hope. And it is beautiful, and rare.


I would argue that in today’s ‘cluttered & confusing world’, our biggest enemy, our worst curse is our ability to desensitize ourself from the tragic, the sad, the emotionally overwhelming. We (and by we, I’m generally referring to the western world) so easily skim past the grim stories in the newspaper, flick the channel when our thoughts or emotional balance are challenged, scurry away from conversations that work against not only our beliefs but how we live our own day-to-day lives.

We grow up believing that our emotional strength and resilience in facing the challenges of everyday life speak to our character, but isn’t the worst possible response to sadness, to adversity, to catastrophe, to not respond at all, be that physically or emotionally?

Me and my emotions have a tumultuous relationship. I have always found myself attempting to empathize with those around me, not out of pity, but out of a desire to understand. I truly believe that the best possible way to understand someone is to put your hand forward and to share what they feel, the good and the bad. This has led to beautiful friendships with incredible people, it has led to creativity through writing about the world around me. It has also led me to react with my heart rather than my head, to express myself wholeheartedly in a way that can often be seen as excessive or overwhelming.

Living in Kampala has been both a learning experience and a challenge for me. In an effort to both hone my emotional response to the world around me and my ability to handle and manage everything I was feeling, I was forced to find a balance.

At the beginning of the week, I met with a lady named Madame Hadima, a school management committee member at one of the preschools we work at, with a passion for education so fierce and persistent, our short conversation moved me. She told me of the difficulties of moving toward quality, the ever present challenge of corruption, but she also asked me to look around at the classroom I sat in, she asked me if I had ever seen anything better than a room full of children happy to learn, encouraged to succeed. The emotion I felt was staggering and instead of working to suppress it, I let it encourage me and motivate me into understanding, into action.

I found a balance – a balance between my emotional reaction and my desire to use this emotion as a starting point.

The truth is, sensitivity coupled with an ability to find clarity in your emotions is a stunning, beautiful aspect of being human and maybe, if all of us as a whole worked a little less on suppressing our reactions to the world around us, we’d start to question. We’d ask why we’re feeling this way – sad, appalled, angry, happy, hopeful, energetic – and we would use it as capital, we’d let it mobilize us to capture the parts of the world that make us happy and challenge those that make us angry.


3 Comments on “finding emotional clarity

  1. I can relate to every word of this beautiful and articulate post, Nikki. I too have always felt that my being “sensitive” or even “nice” was negative and weak, and was often told it is something I would grow out of when I came to understand the world and all its harsh realities. Volunteering abroad has certainly toughened me up a lot and made me far less sensitive, but feeling emotionally detached from things is not as liberating or enjoyable as it seems. I do not feel myself when I cannot as you say reach out and share someone’s experiences both good and bad. I look forward to finding the balance between clarity and sensitivity, having swung from one extreme to the other, and I do believe that perfect balance is what creates positive change in this world.


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