On Not Apologizing for Being Sensitive


My whole life I’ve been told, “get over it, Shan,” or “you’re too sensitive,” or “it’s not a big deal.” I used to think it was a kid thing, that it was an insult kids used to fling at me because kids tend to do that willy-nilly. I thought surely I would grow out of it at some point, not only that, but I never quite understood what it was about me that irritated people and caused them to tell me I’m “toooo sensitive” as an insult. I remember getting angry when people called me that recognizing that it wasn’t meant to be nice, getting embarrassed about it and wanting to prove them wrong. I can’t remember if I ever went through a phase where I was successful in that, but I do know I went through several phases of cutting the real me out and being somebody different, foreign because I thought that would please others.

Today at 26, just in the last few weeks, I’ve decided YES, I am sensitive. AND, I don’t give a “fiddlers fart,” as Frank McCourt put it in his book, ‘Tis. Yes, I’m sesitive and I’m the first person to admit it. I am very up front about my sensitivities and if you hurt my feelings – there is a very high chance that I’m going to tell you about it. In psycho-analyzing myself for the umpteenth time, I’ve come to recognize this is an effort of mine to prevent it from happening again. In fact, I wish more people were a little more sensitive. In touch with their own feelings and able to verbally communicate what upset them and why. Isn’t this why fights happen anyway? Wouldn’t it be better if more people could pinpoint what it is that set them off and address it before it gets way too out of hand?

I came into this realization just recently. But it’s been brewing inside me for a while. It mainly started when my therapist started referring to me as sensitive. But she didn’t mean it in a withering flower, gonna get crushed kind of way, she meant it in a powerful kind of way. She meant it as in, I have a sixth sense, an ability to sense other peoples energy’s and feelings. Immediately, it sparked something in me. Reinvented the word and empowered the self-description that used to infuriate me.

I recently had an epiphany when I was talking to a friend via email back and forth about something that happened with a co-worker of hers. I wrote the following excerpt and a light bulb went off.

“Regardless, you can’t predict how anyone will behave, you can’t predict who will be trustworthy and who won’t. All you can do is be yourself and trust your instincts. Sometimes misunderstandings happen and this isn’t the first and it won’t be the last for you. I had a similar situation a few months ago with a co-worker who blew up at me one day out of no where telling me I was condescending to her and I had absolutely NO idea she felt this way and I was so confused and hurt. But I did what you did and confronted her and told her it was never my intention and made sure to keep an open dialogue always about everything and continue confronting her when an issue came up and now we’re getting along swimmingly.

I’m telling you this because it is a brave thing to tell people how you are feeling and a braver thing to confront another about how they are feeling. My whole life people have accused me of being too sensitive – but in my adulthood I’m owning my sensitivity and I believe it gives me a major leg up in all of the relationships in my life, work, family, friends, clients, etc. People don’t like confronting their feelings, being up front about them and such because it’s scary and unknown and they likely often have a fear of being deemed too sensitive. But you and I are not afraid of our emotions and have learned and taught ourselves to confront them – so in a way, I almost view it as my job to force people to confront their emotions and their sensitivities.”

Being sensitive is not a bad thing. I think if some of the more “tough” people in the world learned a thing or two about their own feelings, it would be a nicer place.


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