Apparently, I’m sensitive.  This should come as no surprise to me, since people have been telling me that since I was too young to understand how being “sensitive” set me apart from others, but I can’t help feeling that I’ve come to some sort of revelation. 

I never really thought that I was more sensitive than other people.  I also thought that if I was more sensitive than others, it shouldn’t be a big deal, because that’s my problem, not theirs.  I guess I never really understood how one person’s state of mind affects someone else’s state of mind.  For a person like me, small things can have a large impact on my feelings. 

I can experience an encounter with another person completely differently than you.  I know that is not unique for me, however, “sensitive” people face distinct repercussions for the way we may experience an exchange.  See, you could come up to me and say something completely innocently with 100% positive intent.  However, I might have a completely different experience of the exchange.  I might see a gesture that you are unaware you are making.  I might hear an inflection in your voice that is too minute for anyone else to notice.  I might hear you emphasize one part of your sentence more than another, regardless of whether you meant that to come out or not.  I might see you twitching or looking somewhere other than at me and the other people directly involved. 

Any of these things can make me feel a number of ways, regardless of what you are actually saying to me.  I can feel that, despite the fact that you are talking to me, you would rather be doing something else.  I can interpret your vocal inflection to mean that you are saying one thing but you mean the opposite.  I might understand your placement of emphasis to have more relevance to the meaning of your sentence than the words used to express the emphasis.  In any case, depsite the fact that you are probably being really nice to me, I might feel like you are purposefully insulting me, demeaning me, or even just being unthoughtful.  These feelings, though completely separate from your intention and entirely removed from reality, are my perceptions of the situation.  And we all know that perception determines reality, so my perception -though not completely accurate – is still my reality.  And your perception is your reality.  So when I explain that my feelings are hurt, it makes no sense to you. 

The thing is, this obviously applies to my personal life.  But it (less obviously, I suppose) also applies to every other aspect of my life.  I’m sensitive at work and everywhere.  The difficult part of this is that I am uncomfortable expressing my hurt feelings and discomfort in these situations with anyone that I’m not emotionally close with already.  It makes life really difficult and puts me in situations that I feel like I have no escape from or control over.  Many times I am in a workplace, with my duties, my coworkers, and my boss, who don’t understand how I feel and my attempts at expressing myself are taken lightly, at best.  When things don’t get better in the workplace, I feel forced to leave.  I feel that there are no other options. 

The point here is that I am realizing things about myself.  I am realizing how I can change to make my experience of life better and to less affect others’ experiences in an adverse way.  I am trying to become less sensitive and trying to learn to express myself more clearly to those who can’t understand me easily.  I’m trying to understand that people don’t necessarily mean all the tiny negative inflections that might come out through their body language, voice, and other signals.  I’m trying to learn how to tell people what I need and to stand up for myself in every case, but do so while maintaining respect for every person involved – including myself. 

Being sensitive can have a real effect on a person’s happiness.  When you are around sensitive people, please try to understand them.  And please try to encourage them to understand you.  And if you have any ideas for how I can become less sensitive, drop me a line or leave me a comment.  Thanks for reading.

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