One of the most common phrases people told me while growing up was in fact something that perplexed me, something that I was convinced I had to change about myself even though it was an essential part of me. "You're too 'soft,'" the people around me would say — like I was flimsy, too nice and unable to speak for myself. I needed to be tougher. I needed to learn how to be mean.
In reality, soft-hearted people are some of the strongest people I know. This is because these humans have so much insight to offer to the world, and they understand themselves and other people extremely well. Their toughness is shown through their perseverance in being positive and their ability to only surround themselves with the people who they truly believe will add happiness and meaning to their lives.
Their kindness is nothing close to a weakness. They know how they deserve to be treated, because they are used to treating others this way. They are in control of themselves, and understand exactly how to structure their lives and the people around them so that they can continue to be true to their soft-hearted souls.
It took years of understanding myself to realize: I love being "soft." I love being the person who's known for being happy and accepting, for being passionate and sympathetic. I like making the people around me comfortable instead of intimidating them, I like being able to be open to new situations and people, and I like my optimism in our world full of pessimists.
In all, I enjoy the feeling of being known. Maybe it's just something that comes with growing up. There's this perception of yourself that you want to portray to others, but it's scary knowing that there's actually no way to control the way other people see you. Why are we obsessed with the prospect of portraying ourselves as impermeable, impenetrable, unfeeling? We're humans. We feel things, and we react to them and we learn in the process. It's okay to let others in. It's okay to be amiable and true to yourself. It's okay to be all of these things that you're too afraid to show the world.
Over the years, the people in my life have finally understood that this is the person I want to be. My softness isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. I've become immensely more independent and confident in myself, and my thoughtfulness has helped me through this.
I am soft-hearted, and I am proud.
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." — E. E. Cummings.