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Sensitive People and the Real World: How to Make It Easier

Andy Gibb

As a young girl in the 1970s, I adored and daydreamed about Andy Gibb. He was the youngest brother of the legendary disco and soft pop band, The Bee Gees (Brothers Gibb). Andy had his own hit songs —Everlasting Love, (Love Is) Thicker Than Water, I Just Want to Be Your Everything, Shadow Dancing, (Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away. I owned his albums and had his posters on my wall. I read articles about Andy in Tiger Beat. I listened to his songs over and over. The words were romantic and vulnerable. His face, eyes and toothy smile seemed kind and gentle. And that hair! So soft and sexy. Swoon.

Tragedy

I recently watched a clip from a Behind the Music episode on VH1 about Andy Gibb. The clip described the last few days of Andy’s life. Andy died of cardiac complications at the young age of 30. Years of drug and alcohol abuse weakened his heart. At the time of his death, he was living alone in England, drinking heavily and depressed.

I Just Want to Be Your Everything

As his brothers and mother described Andy, they said he will be remembered for his kindness. His brother Maurice said, “He helped a lot of people. He just couldn’t help himself.” His other brother, Robin, said Andy didn’t like what was going on in the world, so he constructed his own. In the end, the real world was too much for him.

The Bee Gees l-r Robin, Barry, Maurice

The documentary on VH1, said Andy had lived with anxiety and feelings of insecurity for most of his life. He had to live up to his big brothers’ success. He had several longterm relationships, including a marriage that produced a daughter, but none of them lasted. Marie Osmond said he had it all — fame, money, looks – but inside he was empty.

So what am I trying to say with this review of Andy Gibb’s life?

Those with kind, vulnerable hearts and sensitive spirits often find it hard to mix with the real world, but also have tremendous abilities to help, love and inspire others. — Brenda Knowles

Love is thicker than water

I find it interesting that, as a very young person (under 10 years old), I had such an attraction to Andy. Perhaps I sensed we were alike inside.

I’ve been reflecting on and examining my deepest values lately. It has not been easy to put my finger on the exact things I value and espouse the most. I could say relationships and connection are very important to me, but those are rather broad.

The Andy Gibb documentary made me realize I have always been drawn to those with sensitive, non-competitive natures. It makes sense, given that is how I am. But there is more, not only am I drawn to people like me, I want to champion them, listen to them, understand them, help them and make them feel loved. I want to give them the support I have, at times, longed for in my life.

Photo by Sarah Diniz Outeiro on Unsplash

Shadow dancing

It’s so easy to be like Andy and give to others, but not fill yourself up. Perhaps he lived by someone else’s values of fame and fortune. I am sure there were those who used him for his money and connections. He needed something different, but did not find it or was afraid to ask for it.

The outside world can be fierce and full of others who are not afraid to criticize, compete and take advantage of empathetic hearts. It is especially troublesome for those who want to be loved so much, they feel they can’t say no. Internally focused folks often end up feeling overwhelmed, lonely and undervalued. Our nervous systems are not meant for constant battling or doing. We want to rest in our internal worlds, in love, in calm.

This is not to say we do not have a voice or the desire to fight for what we believe in. It also does not mean those with more outward natures, are our enemies. They are simply the other side of the coin we learn from and appreciate for their different abilities.

Stayin’ alive

I want to support and help those with the most tender internal worlds. As I do this work, I also help myself by learning how to manage and embrace my emotions and sensitive nervous system. I very much value learning. Unlike Andy Gibb, I am helping myself as I champion others.

Years ago, I learned something valuable from Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take. Dr. Grant said the most successful people are givers but they are not doormats. They give to others but with a level of self-interest. They get something in return.

It works better if we don’t forget to help ourselves as we inspire and help others.

Our emotions and insides need as much care and nurturing as our external worlds. We can find that care from secure, loving relationships. Solitude may help us recharge but too much time alone sets off our nervous system’s alarm bells and has a negative effect on our well-being.

By honoring our unique values and caring for our internal worlds through recharging solitude and secure relationships, we can thrive and stay very alive in the real world.

Are you or someone you know struggling to make it in the real world? Do you help others but not yourself? If you are a sensitive person, what do you do to make the real world a comfortable place? 

 

My book, The Quiet Rise of Introverts, makes for a comforting and inspiring summer read. 🙂 

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9 Comments

  1. michaelrbuley June 6, 2018 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    Marie Osmond seemed very cold, and judgmental. Calling him empty? I don’t think so. Your words were much kinder, and I’m sure accurate, Brenda:

    “Those with kind, vulnerable hearts and sensitive spirits often find it hard to mix with the real world, but also have tremendous abilities to help, love and inspire others.”

    Andy Gibb brought a lot of joy to millions of people. I don’t think an ’empty’ person has that ability.

    Tiger Beat? lol … I’m some years older than you, Brenda, and I remember those magazines. Those were simpler times, weren’t they?

    Wonderful post this week, Brenda. You do champion others magnificently. I hope that you are lifted up and championed from the ones who love you! As always, thank you for all that you do that touches so many lives — mine always included in those lives you’ve touched.

    Michael

    • Brenda Knowles June 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Thank you Michael! I think maybe Marie meant Andy did not have enough joy inside for himself. He gave out all he had and was left feeling empty. He tried to fill that emptiness with drugs and alcohol, the side of him he didn’t show on stage. I’m glad to know someone else who remembers Tiger Beat! Simple, rather innocent times.:)

      • michaelrbuley June 10, 2018 at 4:45 pm - Reply

        Perhaps that is how she meant it.

        Being highly sensitive, life can sometimes feel like an ongoing assault. Depending on your level of sensitivity, the world one lives in can be too much, basically. Too much noise, too many people, too much talk, not enough quiet.

        He was a young man. We often don’t know what our nature is when we’re young. He may have been one of the VERY sensitive ones. But he was popular, people wanted him, he radiated a joy that was genuine. He was a success in the world’s terms. But his nature may not have been able to deal with of the outside world. If he couldn’t see what he needed, if no one else could, he needed to escape from it all. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol provide immediate escape, and aren’t the solution.

        The joy he radiated seemed very real. Was he empty inside, devoid of joy? Maybe. It might have been, too, that he felt an intense joy in life and in giving what he gave. And he may have needed a shield, someone who saw who he really was, and could, essentially, protect him from the onslaught of people and demands he no doubt faced.

        Of course … I may be entirely wrong! lol ….

  2. Wawoo June 2, 2018 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Thank you for the timing of this post… I just lost a friend who, like Andy Gibb, lived larger than life on the outside, but was a deeply sensitive soul within. At his memorial friends celebrated him for his beautiful and unique outer self, maybe missing the impact of his being a tender empath ultimately had on him. I grieve that I did not recognize and reach out to him … as a fellow empath I intuitively knew his inner struggles, but assumed he was managing? Sigh …

    • Brenda Knowles June 2, 2018 at 1:10 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. It’s hard to keep up with everyone’s internal world, even though it’s nourishing for all involved. We have so many external pulls at our attention. If we could share our insides more, we’d all feel a greater sense of connection, which would prevent a lot of tragedies. Be gentle with yourself regarding misreading your friend’s struggles. Honor your friend by paying attention to your own values, sensitivity and nourishing relationships. Sending you peace.

  3. aliessep June 2, 2018 at 6:56 am - Reply

    Your post resonates with me too, Brenda. To make the world a comfortable place, I often have to… stay away from it! In this overinformed age, there’s only so much negative information I can take so I try not to listen to the news too often (I don’t have TV so that helps!) or dwell on violent or depressing news.

    I care and spend time with my loved one as much as possible, and take time to recharge by myself through meditation and journal writing – and reading inspirational blog posts like yours! Thanks!

    Anne-Liesse, from Lyon, France

    • Brenda Knowles June 2, 2018 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      Good to hear from you Anne-Liesse! The world is complicated and often negative. I agree that wears on our energy stores. I dodge the news most of the time too. I stay up to date but don’t listen to the same sad troubling stories over and over. Your loving loved ones are true gifts. Secure relationships and the nourishing time by yourself are wonderful salves for the sensitive soul. Keep on your growth path kindred spirit!

  4. Andrea June 1, 2018 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    Your post is timely…I can’t express how much. The world does feel like it’s too much and it’s very easy to fall into depression and withdraw, pushing everyone away. It’s good to be reminded that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Your posts help in many ways. Thank you!

    • Brenda Knowles June 2, 2018 at 12:57 pm - Reply

      I agree it is easy to withdraw and swallow our emotions in depression. I had a round of lethargy and sadness this morning. I finally dragged myself out of bed and exercised. Once I was moving, I felt better. I had to move the energy around in my body and heart. It’s good to care for ourselves by giving ourselves a break in solitude or sleep, but then we need to re-join the world for full contentment. Too much withdrawal furthers our downward spiral.The business tycoon, Richard Branson, says we underestimate the power of rest. Instead of giving up, we should rest. I agree. We need to rest in solitude, relaxation or safe relationships but then engage with the world again. Sending you warm, positive energy.

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