As an adult, I have come to realize that sometimes my reactions to other people’s comments or actions are nonsensical. I have a tendency to be overly sensitive to those around me. And while sensitivity can be helpful at times, being overly reactive is rarely healthy for anyone involved in the interaction.
Sensitivity is a necessary human trait, but being overly sensitive and letting it dictate your emotions is a choice. Developing a healthy relationship with sensitivity will help you tactfully navigate all of your relationships in life and help you to stop taking everything so personally.
This article is here to give you tips to be able to ditch the hyperreactive teenager that lives inside all of us. I'll help you to work on mature emotional responses that don't leave you spiraling into a pit of irritation or self-loathing.
- Being sensitive isn’t always a bad thing
- When sensitivity is not a good thing
- 5 ways to stop being overly sensitive
- Wrapping up
Being sensitive isn’t always a bad thing
As someone who has accused many male counterparts of lacking sensitivity, I think it’s important to know that being sensitive itself is not typically the problem.
In fact, research shows that people who are highly sensitive tend to have greater emotional awareness and empathy in their romantic relationships.
A study in 2014 further validated this finding by demonstrating that the areas of the brain involved in empathy and awareness experienced greater activation when looking at pictures of people who were happy and sad. The study authors found that being sensitive is linked to higher awareness and responsiveness.
I don’t know about you, but having a friend or significant other who has better emotional awareness and empathy sounds pretty heavenly to me. But as helpful as these traits of sensitive individuals are in a relationship, they can also become a barrier to healthy relationships when not addressed.
When sensitivity is not a good thing
There are times when being hyper-aware of another person’s emotions can actually be detrimental. A good example for me personally was when my boss would come to work in a super irritated mood.
After only interacting with my boss for five minutes, I could feel a flood of irritation building inside of me for no good reason at all. And while my boss’ mood probably had nothing to do with me, I would end up spending half of my morning retracing my every action to figure out what I had done wrong.
Absorbing someone else’s emotions and being so sensitive to how they interact with you can lead you down that rabbit hole of negativity. Even when you should know that this person's bad mood has nothing to do with you.
The reality is people are going to have bad days and interact poorly with you. And people are going to reject you, disagree with you, and sometimes just be downright rude. But being highly sensitive to those reactions and not just taking them at face value sets you up for a less than bright trajectory.
A study in 2017 found that men who were more sensitive to rejection were more likely to develop depression. If you allow how others interact and treat you to heavily influence your emotions, you will find it hard to be happy consistently over time.
This is why striking the right balance of being sensitive, but not overly sensitive is crucial for your overall personal happiness in life. This is also what we wrote about in our article on how to be emotionally stable.
5 ways to stop being overly sensitive
If you’re tired of pulling out the tissues every time something goes wrong in life, then I’ve got you covered. These 5 tips will help you develop healthy emotional boundaries and balance the sensitivity scale to work in your favor.
1. Take a breath
Do you remember the last time someone said something to you that really struck a chord and not in a good way? I sure do.
Just the other day one of my patients said something right to my face that I found highly offensive. Now my instinct would be to give this person a piece of my mind and tell them they hurt my feelings.
But as an adult who has had to learn the art of interacting with people in the service industry, I have learned the power of my own breath. So at that moment, I took 3 breaths before I responded.
And instead of reacting swiftly, I was able to realize that the patient probably meant nothing by it and that reacting harshly would not make either party feel any better. So I was able to do something I haven’t been able to do easily for years - let it go.
When someone says or does something that hurts your feelings or upsets you, you can create space for yourself to actually process your emotions by simply taking a few breaths. It almost sounds too good to be true, but simply focusing on your breathing can help you defeat your instinctual sensitive reaction and instead react from a place of reason.
2. Reflect on where your sensitivity is stemming from
Sometimes we’re sensitive because we’re not addressing a deep-rooted personal issue.
I had this boyfriend in high school who called me five-head. You can imagine how that made me feel. Obviously, it’s not a kind thing to say.
Now if I had a good sense of confidence and wasn’t insecure about my physical appearance, these words probably would have bounced off without a second thought. But instead, I hyperfocused on these words and even got bangs to try to hide my forehead.
The real problem wasn’t what he said to me, even though it wasn’t nice. The problem was my reaction was stemming from a place of low self-esteem and that’s what needed my attention.
Through developing confidence in myself, I now confidently rock a headband with my five-head beaming for all the world to see.
When someone hurts your feelings, take the time to figure out why because the root of the issue may have nothing to do with their words or actions themselves.
3. Realize the world doesn’t revolve around you
It’s true. The world does not revolve around you. I’m sorry if I’m the first person who has to declare this truth to you.
The more you embrace that human beings are messy creatures who make mistakes over and over again, the more okay you will feel when someone makes mistakes or offends you. Because all of us are dealing with our own little joys and demons day in and day out that heavily influence our emotions and behaviors.
More likely than not, when a person yells at you or behaves in a way that leaves you feeling inferior, it probably is not actually related to you at all.
I used to be able to tell when my boyfriend in college was having a bad day because when we would go to study he just didn’t want to talk. So of course I reacted by being moody back at him instead of realizing that his behavior wasn’t actually directed at me and he just needed time and space to process his day.
Realizing that you are not the center of the universe is a freeing fact that then allows you to give others grace and stop assuming that all of their behavior is directly tied to you.
4. Discuss your feelings with a loved one
If someone has deeply hurt your feelings and you can’t seem to let it go, you may benefit from opening up about it with a loved one. Now let me make it clear, I am not saying you should gossip with your friends about what a terrible person they are because they did x, y, or z.
What I’m saying is discussing the situation and your feelings may either help you release your pent-up frustration or give you an outside perspective that helps you realize your sensitivity is totally unwarranted.
5. Remember your personal power
Being overly sensitive can be really draining. You end up living every day with your emotional wellness being at the disposal of everyone around you.
At any moment, you have the power to change what you are feeling. It doesn’t matter how terribly someone has treated you. You can choose to be at peace and recognize your own personal worth.
Now I know better than anyone that this is easier said than done. But as someone who has had her fair share of bosses tell her that she has room for improvement and has heard comments about her physique from various men throughout her life, I’ve learned that you don’t have to let everyone else’s feedback and opinions influence how you feel.
You are valuable. You are good enough. Your feelings are valid, but recognize when they are out of proportion and ruining what could be a perfectly good day.
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Being sensitive is a good thing. But this is an instance where having too much of a good thing quickly escalates into a bad thing. By using the tips from this article, you can avoid balling your eyes out and smearing your mascara when someone in your life mildly disagrees with you or hurts your feelings. Learning to strike the right balance of sensitivity will help you reclaim your personal power in a way that grants you lasting peace and frees up energy for the things that really matter.
Have you ever been told that you are overly sensitive? What's your favorite tip from this article? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!