Being told to “stop being so sensitive” is just one reason why you may hide your sensitivity.
Because of a biological difference, highly sensitive people (HSPs) process everything deeply. They feel, sense, and experience technicolor stimulation that is frequently overwhelming: loud noises are easily startling and uncomfortable clothes are impossible to ignore. Even other people’s emotions can rub off on HSPs, causing them to feel what the person-at-hand is feeling, whether it’s happiness, anger, sorrow, you name it.
Unfortunately, since society has yet to accept sensitivity as a strength, many HSPs feel the need to hide the way they are. There are many reasons for this, and a lot of it stems from feeling like others just won’t understand.
As a highly sensitive person myself, I get it. Here are some reasons you might be hiding your sensitivity from those around you.
11 Reasons You’re Hiding Your Sensitive Side
1. You’re conditioned to think being sensitive is “wrong.”
Sensitivity is rarely held on a pedestal in our society. In school, work, and social situations, bluntness and outgoing natures stand out the most. This can lead many HSPs to think they need to stop being so sensitive in order to do life “right.”
We learn to tell ourselves that we’re overreacting or need to toughen up. Our internal dialogue might go something like this:
That person made a comment that upset you? Just get over it and move on.
You need more sleep than the average person? You should be able to push through it! Other people do so every day.
Watching that crime documentary is making you anxious and nauseous? You just need to stop being so sensitive.
We worry that we’ll be seen as feeble or unacceptable and that being highly sensitive is a disorder — which it is definitely not.
And, the truth is we can’t change our inner character — and we shouldn’t have to.
2. Fitting in is more comfortable (sort of).
It’s human nature to want to be like those around us. We’re all familiar with the “cool” kids in school. I don’t know about you, but I remember feeling less-than because of my shyness and sensitivity.
“You’re too quiet!” or “Why don’t you talk more?” were phrases I heard a lot growing up. Today, it’s hard not to internalize them as an adult.
You might worry that your sensitive side is too much for others. Instead of trying to explain it, you pretend to be like everyone else. (When, in fact, there are probably fellow HSPs around you doing the same thing!)
Pretending you’re like everyone else can save you from explaining yourself or feeling like an outcast. Simultaneously, living a non-HSP life, when you’re truly very sensitive, becomes draining in its own right over time. It’s also exhausting to maintain, pretending that you love scary movies or crowded clubs when these things are actually causing you to suffer. You can only pretend to be something you’re not for so long.
Thankfully, adulthood and sites like this have taught me how to find “my people” — other sensitive souls who “fit in” in their own ways.
3. Dealing with all-the-feelings is too much.
Showing vulnerability is uncomfortable and often overwhelming.
I remember my first therapy session clearly because I balled the entire hour. It was the first time I’d really voiced my worries to someone other than my husband, and I didn’t even realize how much things in my life were getting to me. As everything tumbled out, I felt relieved — but also drained — as I walked to my car afterwards.
You might hide your sensitive side from everyone but those you trust deeply. Being your true self is a big step when you’re an HSP. Handling all of your emotions at the drop of a hat can be distracting and exhausting, so you’re careful about when you display them.
4. Society thinks sensitivity equals weakness.
Mental health awareness is on the rise, but we still have a lot of work to do. Many of us hide our sensitivity (and mental health issues, like depression or anxiety) because we’re afraid of judgment. We worry that getting flustered, tearing up, or needing regular breaks won’t come off well to others. In extreme cases, we worry about losing jobs or being ostracized.
Unfortunately, HSPs have examples to support our fears. Most of us can recall memories of others shaming or misunderstanding our sensitive sides. I’ve had people laugh off the fact that I can’t sit through a horror movie because it caused me so much anxiety. To them, it seemed like something that shouldn’t be a big deal. But to me, it was (and is).
5. Overanalyzing everything is exhausting.
Forget hiding your delicate nature from others; you might also try to conceal it from yourself.
HSPs can ruminate for hours on one comment someone said or question everything they say or do around others. I remember, after a job interview, running the conversation over and over again in my head, worrying about what I might have said or did wrong.
You might swallow your hurt or try to push away the feelings to ignore your sensitive side. Trying to rationalize your thoughts or work through them takes time and energy that you might not feel like you have. For example, after my job interview, I spent precious time worrying instead of crossing off important to-dos. It felt impossible to let it all go and not stress about what the interviewer thought about me.
Add everyday life on top of that, and it’s a lot. There’s a reason HSPs can burn out quickly.
6. You put others’ needs above your own.
HSPs are very in tune with the emotions of those around them. We also care deeply about others’ feelings. You might put aside your own emotional needs to make other people comfortable, like agreeing to meet up with a friend when you really need some alone time at home. You might hide your sensitivity to avoid “stirring the pot” and disappointing others.
Even little things, such as being too hot or too cold, might feel like an inconvenience to other people. You worry that voicing your discomfort will seem nitpicky or annoying. Maybe you’re afraid it will push others away.
I’m now trying to find a balance between others’ needs and my own — and I highly recommend it. And, as an HSP, I’ve noticed that doing this helps me feel less overwhelmed.
7. Letting others down is terrifying.
Related to the above, HSPs hate making others feel bad. We might go to a party even though we really want to cancel and stay home with a good book. To avoid letting down the friend who invited us, we hide our physical and emotional needs.
But, while at the party, we’ll be uncomfortable the whole time, feeling drained and not in the mood to socialize. And we realize we should have stayed home and gotten together with the party host another time.
Boundaries are tough for HSPs. We’re natural people-pleasers because we like to help others. For me, the fear of letting a loved one down is often greater than my desire to care for myself and my needs. However, I have to remember that hiding my need for “me” time quickly leads to an overbooked schedule, which is hell for many HSPs.
8. You’re tired of explaining yourself.
It’s often hard for non-HSPs to understand an HSP’s reaction to things. For example, any change (even if it’s a good one) can be stressful for an HSP. Getting a new job, moving to a new location, or starting a new relationship are all situations with net positives. Still, a highly sensitive person has trouble getting past the huge shift in their routine.
Instead of taking the time and energy to explain that you’re highly sensitive and change is really hard, you might not mention your distress to anyone. On top of that, the letdown of someone not understanding your feelings — or even questioning if high sensitivity is really a thing — can be stressful on its own.
Or you might confide in a friend about being an HSP, but they still don’t “get” it. Staying quiet about how you feel may seem easier than trying to justify your sensitivity.
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9. You worry about seeming lazy.
Listening to your body is so important as a highly sensitive person. Because our bodies are so receptive to stimulation, we can become drained quickly. If we don’t practice self-care, we can burnout or even get sick from a lack of rest. Unfortunately, the world often encourages us to ignore the need to do less and take a step back from everything.
Hustle culture is encouraged all around us, but HSPs can clearly see the problem. We’re deeply connected to our physical and emotional needs, and we know when we need a break. We often hide our needs because we worry about others seeing us as lazy or as slackers.
In reality, the world could benefit significantly from the bodily insight HSPs have. Because we are so in tune with our bodies’ needs, we often know when to slow down sooner than those around us. Non-HSPs might have more trouble recognizing when they’re stressed or in need of a break. They can learn from HSPs by checking in with themselves more so before it’s too late.
10. You don’t want to be “boring.”
Self-care for HSPs can sometimes mean avoiding things that others enjoy. Loud concerts, violent or scary movies, and large crowds are often too much. Your idea of fun could be different from that of many of your friends. To avoid letting anyone down, you might hide your discontent with these activities and join in anyway.
I’ve never been someone who enjoys boozy bars or clubs. In college, I remember mentioning to a new friend that I prefer to stay at home reading instead. His response was saying that sounds “so boring” and implied it was sad. It made me feel crappy at the time, but I’ve since learned that there are many ways to have fun. I can enjoy different activities with friends who enjoy the bar scene while planning game nights and reading clubs with people who have those same interests.
11. The world is still learning about HSPs.
Thankfully, society is slowly understanding that HSPs exist. But it can still feel like a daily struggle to fit in with a fast-paced, career-driven world.
You might hide your sensitivity to protect yourself in many ways — maybe you pretend an insensitive comment at work doesn’t bother you or you grit your teeth and deal with a coworker’s loud music instead of mentioning how it interrupts your focus.
But just remember that there is nothing wrong with you. Your sensitivity is an invaluable trait.
HSPs are introspective, seeing the world on a deeper level that others might miss. We’re the first to notice when a friend is having a hard time or identify creative solutions to problems. We can concentrate deeply on things we care about and think about how each decision affects the future. These traits — and more — make us wonderful friends, coworkers, and partners. And when we struggle to not hide our sensitive sides from others, it helps to remember that we’re not alone.
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