“Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story, instead of the actor in it.” – Ram Dass
This article was originally published with The Odyssey on June 12, 2017.
Here’s to all the sensitive people who are tired of being shut down for “caring too much.” I’ve been told pretty much my entire life that I’m too sensitive. Anytime I express any sort of discontent or anxiety toward a situation, my family, friends, and surrounding peers do not hesitate to judge the way I react. When someone in your life is acting what you believe to be “too sensitive,” offer them a hand or a shoulder instead of invalidating their feelings. Here are 13 things to stop telling the sensitive people in your life, and what you can do to help instead.
1. “You need to calm down.”
If we’re upset over something seems irrational to you, do not stoop to invalidating our reactions instead of offering comfort. Different experiences evoke different emotions. Simply offer us an ear or a hand, and most of all, be there for us.
2. “You’re freaking out over nothing.”
It’s not ‘nothing’ just because you aren’t ‘freaking out.’ Our emotions are strong and often take the wheel of our reactions. No matter how small the situation may turn out to be, it has obviously affected us and you shouldn’t judge us for caring so much.
3. “I’m just not going to tell you anything anymore because you’re way too emotional.”
You know what the worse thing you can do to an already emotional person? Make them more emotional by not only invalidating their feelings but also exhibiting regret for having to deal with their sensitivity. If you are thinking of cutting back on communication, perhaps consider the sensitive person’s triggers and work diligently to avoid them unless absolutely necessary.
4. “Stop being so dramatic.”
Often people who are sensitive or over-sensitive are not acting dramatic to inconvenience you; they are simply so in tune with their environment and surroundings that they are adversely affected. Sensory overload is a real thing and telling a sensitive person that they’re being ‘dramatic’ is rude. Try re-centering the person by speaking gently to them, or perhaps find a way to remove them from the stressful environment.
5. “Just stop.”
If sensitive people could control their feelings and reactions toward certain things, they likely would. Sometimes we know why we react the way we do and sometimes we don’t. Do not be insensitive.
6. “Why do you care so much?”
Often times, we don’t know why we “care” so much, and sometimes it’s not even that we “care” at all; we are just very connected to our surroundings. Anything could affect us negatively, causing an influx of emotions, that may or may not be warranted. Instead of questioning the person, be present and tangible for their sake.
7. “You worry too much.”
Sensitivity to our surroundings is often something we cannot help but express. Anxiety and nervousness are common side effects to sensitivity and those are traits that are uncontrollable as well. Instead of ostracizing sensitive people, attempt to ask us if you can help in any way. Offer a distraction if possible.
8. “You’re making everything way more difficult than it needs to be.”
Sensitive people have a difficult time processing and handling their thoughts, moods and emotions sometimes. We “make” things difficult because our sensitivity is inconvenient and difficult. Sensitive people can become overloaded with simple tasks because they get ahead of themselves and overthink. You can appeal to the feelings of the sensitive person by offering a solution or an alternative to our problems. Believe me, as much as you’re feeling inconvenienced, we’re definitely the ones being troubled.
9. “It sounds like you just want attention.”
First of all, wanting attention isn’t a negative thing — some people need more attention when they’re not getting enough, and we shouldn’t judge them for it. There is no need to feel ashamed for wanting more attention. Second, sensitive people often feel the emotions of others and depending on the strength of the empathy, they may need more attention. There’s nothing wrong with that.
10. “The world doesn’t revolve around you.”
Not saying that you should neglect your own feelings and issues to focus on the sensitive person’s — if you’re feeling neglected in a friendship, definitely address this. However, sensitive people often experience emotional overload often — and while they may know how to handle it — everyone needs a little help sometimes. Remember to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask them to do the same for you.
11. “You overthink everything. Just suck it up and deal with it.”
If only it were that easy. Any situation could impact a sensitive person, whether it’s an apparent trigger or not. Something that seems irrelevant to you could feel like a tsunami to a sensitive person. As always, be courteous and be cooperative. Try to understand what the other person is thinking. Don’t brush them off.
12. “It’s all in your head.”
Maybe it is, but just because you can’t see what we’re struggling with doesn’t mean I’m not struggling. Do not erase people’s feelings. When someone says they’re struggling or they’re hurt, you don’t get to speculate and say that they aren’t. Offer yourself as a positive and tangible being or remove yourself entirely. Sensitive people often have enough doors leading to easy negativity — they don’t need a bridge to close and personal darkness as well.
13 . “You’re way too sensitive.”
If there’s one thing sensitive people are, it’s this: completely aware. At first, learning you are sensitive can be a trying journey, but people know their sensitivity like the back of their hands. Sensitive people are and will always be more in touch with their personal and environmental emotions than any other type of person. We know we’re “overreacting” in your eyes. We know we’re “inconveniencing” you. We know we’re “being difficult.” Despite all of this, we can’t change who we are or how we feel. Sensitive people often carry the weight of the world on their shoulders or at least the weight of the emotions of the world; they don’t need negative friends on top of that weight.