It took years, but I finally reached a breaking point: I decided to stop feeling inferior for my sensitivity due to others’ insensitivity.
I feel like for my entire life as a highly sensitive person (HSP), I’ve been told by less-tuned-in others: “You’re too sensitive!” or “You need to toughen up!” These demands have been expected of me in situations like trying to stand up to gaslighting in toxic relationships and expressing concerns of subpar treatment in dysfunctional workplace environments.
It’s true: I do wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s just the way I seem to have been designed, and I’m sure I’m not alone! I feel things deeply, cry easily, and in our modern society — which still seems to value keeping a stiff upper lip and emotions bottled up — sensitivity feels like a negative quality. “Just get over it,” “Don’t be weak,” “You’re such a baby,” “You need to stop overreacting.” Ugh.
After years and years of hearing that I was the problem for being “too sensitive” — rather than someone taking responsibility for acting like a jerk or allowing others to enforce a needlessly aggressive atmosphere — I started to internalize these thoughts. Those accusatory voices permeated my self-esteem, which was already struggling to make sense of things as a young person in the world. I would think to myself, “They must be right; there must be something wrong with me.” And I started believing it.
This ended up becoming really detrimental to my mental health over the years and negatively affected my opinion of myself. My battle continued into my college years; whenever I felt overwhelmed by my sensitivity, I would immediately start to second-guess myself, negating whatever I was experiencing. Then I’d start in with negative self-talk, calling myself a “wimp” or convincing myself I just needed to suck it up. After all, these were the things I would always hear from the insensitive people around me.
From Feeling Bad About My Sensitivity to Feeling Even Worse
Throughout college, I felt that my sensitive nature made people dislike me. To them, I imagined I wasn’t “chill” enough, and college was really tough because of this factor. I didn’t really feel like I fit into the social scene because, due to my sensitivity, I wasn’t down to party 24/7 and do all of the crazy things that everyone else was doing. I needed time to myself to recharge — the HSP hangover is real, when you’re people-d out and need time alone!
All this to say, I felt alienated for wanting to do ordinary things, like grabbing coffee or staying in on a Friday night to watch a movie. This led to an unfortunate amount of self-loathing. My inner dialogue looked something like: Why am I sensitive like this? What’s my problem? Why can’t I be “normal” like everyone else?
These feelings were especially prevalent in a previous relationship where my partner constantly gaslighted my feelings about his insensitive actions or words. His go-to lines were: “I never said that” or “That’s not what happened at all,” trying to pin whatever it was on me like I was the bad person, making up stories to cause drama.
To keep me trapped in his emotional manipulation game, I was told that I was just “too moody” or “making a big deal out of nothing” if I tried to recall a previous moment of his playing on my insecurities. But… he could never be mean to me, because he “loved me” (that was his logic anyway).
He would also hate on my interests and hobbies, my taste in music, and even my body at times — and said I needed to “lighten up” if I expressed my discontent with these snarky remarks that he tried to play off as “jokes.” This kind of treatment was traumatic and toxic, and I tolerated it because of that negative inner dialogue that I had developed over the years. Of course, I’d tell myself he was right — again. Just like everyone else had always been “right.” I’m just feeling too much again, and it’s all my fault. In essence, I felt guilty for being sensitive. I felt guilty for being emotional. I felt guilty for being me.
Learning to Embrace My Sensitivity Instead of Feeling Ashamed of It
Thankfully, with support from friends and family, I eventually realized how bad things actually were in that relationship and removed that toxic person from my life! I became aware it was not a healthy relationship.
After having that kind of experience again in recent work environments, however, something changed. I realized I didn’t feel sad or sorry for expressing my sensitivity anymore — instead, I felt frustrated and fiery! I had been traveling on this long road of guilt, sadness, and suffering due to my sensitivity for my entire young adult life, feeling the crushing weight of it all as young as 13. It was as I turned 24 that I saw it all in a new light, that it had, most importantly, been a long road of self-acceptance and self-discovery.
Leading up to my birthday, I had felt sad about turning 24, feeling “behind” on my timeline for just then putting all of the puzzle pieces together. I spent a lot of time journaling, reflecting, meditating, and reading material on the importance of self-love that really helped me change up my whole mindset. I suddenly understood it’s never too late for anything in life — but especially for healing and self-love! There’s no “right” way to get there, or “right” time, because we’re all on our own paths with unique lessons to learn. Your pace and method won’t be the same as your friend’s, and that’s okay! It can look different from anyone else’s, too.
For me, it took my years of building up confidence, and it was strengthened by that self-reflective journaling and meditation. But you might find inspirational podcasts or talk it all out with someone you trust. It’s a perfect process, no matter what steps you take.
Stepping into your power is possible and one of the most important things you’ll ever do. Like most important things in life, it can’t be rushed. I saw a quote during that time frame that said “Good things take time” — and that really resonated with me as I made peace with my journey. For the first time in my life, at the age of 24, I felt proud that my feelings were mine and all mine. I was happy to be me — even with my flaws, wounds, and shortcomings. I was valid, I was special, and I was enough.
I had worked so hard and had been so strong to get through all of life’s ups and downs to make it to see 24, and wasn’t a decade of giving up my power to other people enough? Wasn’t it time to stand up completely and to own my sensitivity?
I finally said to myself: No more. Enough was enough. I wanted to stop apologizing for being emotional at the hand of others’ intentional mistreatments. I wanted to stop feeling inferior for being called “sensitive” in a negative manner. I was ready to change my narrative — and to take full, loving ownership of my sensitive soul.
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Let’s Start to Normalize Sensitivity, Not View It in a Negative Light
What I wanted, then and now, was to feel empowered for standing in my truth of my experiences. Let’s normalize being sensitive. Let’s normalize holding others accountable for their actions and not letting them dismiss us as being “too sensitive.” I have met many narcissists on my journey, and time and time again it seems like they will use any means or excuses necessary to discount the way others feel — especially those of us who are sensitive — as a result of their insensitive actions.
For anyone who has ever felt wronged by a narcissist — or bullied, harassed, shamed, guilted, or embarrassed by someone who dismissed your feelings — I see you and stand with you. It is okay to feel your feelings. Feelings are good! As an HSP, they are our bread and butter.
Contrary to what some people out there may believe: It is not a crime to be sensitive. It is not a crime for allowing yourself the space and time to express your feelings. It is not a crime to stand up for yourself when others hurt your feelings. What should be a crime is when others use “sensitive” as a negative label to try to manipulate you into feeling inferior when they are acting mean, rude, or abusive toward you. We don’t need people like that in our lives. Not friends, not partners, and not bosses. No one.
Sensitivity Is a Superpower Through and Through
I encourage you to embrace your feelings and sensitivity and to think of it as a superpower. Through my life-changing experiences and personal growth, I honestly now believe that it is one. As a highly sensitive person, I feel certain perks from having this ability: I connect easily with others’ emotions, and that makes it easier for me to express empathy or just get really real and authentic with people. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Also, in a world that often seems harsh and cold, being sensitive allows me to have that extra spark of kindness and consideration for others. I can put myself in someone else’s shoes and really feel for them.
Being sensitive also comes with this depth of being that I think is really unique — I tend to think very deeply about most things, almost to the point of contemplating life and the universe on a normal basis. (I’m sure you other HSPs can relate!) I seek the bigger picture, or the bigger meaning of the lessons that life is presenting to me, and I easily see through drama and pettiness of interactions that others can get so caught up in.
I’m aware that I’m here to share my unique heart and kindness with the world, as I’m sure you’re here to do, as well! I’m thankful for the ability to be so sensitive that I will be able to sense what’s wrong and advocate for those in need, just as I’m learning to do so for myself.
Feelings are cool. Sensitivity is great. And anyone who thinks it is a “weakness” or a “character flaw” really shouldn’t have any kind of input or role in your life, especially if they are diminishing your unique human experience. If they are not helping to support you or lift you up, you don’t need them in your inner circle, and you shouldn’t feel bad about that. (Setting boundaries is crucial here!)
After all your personal growth, healing, and self-love, you deserve the best of the best. Healthy boundaries are so important and should be celebrated. I am going to be enforcing them in my life from here on out while I continue to connect with what’s in alignment with my values. No more apologies. No more guilt. No more hiding. Let’s focus on sharing more of who we are and being authentically ourselves, feelings and all.
So, take it from me: embrace your superpower, step into your sensitivity, and don’t spend another day apologizing for this beautiful gift that makes you, you!
For more empowering and positive self-care content, visit my blog at Starryendys.com.