If you were ever called a “sensitive kid,” join the club. Some people have more emotional reactions to events than others, and tend to feel things on a deeper level.
I’m here to tell you that if you identify as sensitive and are concerned about it, you don’t need to “toughen up” or change who you are. In fact, being sensitive has a number of benefits that you may not have considered before.
I grew up knowing that I was a sensitive person.
I was quick to get emotional while watching sad movies, to laugh out loud at even the least funny jokes, and to be very aware and affected by how other people felt. I was criticized for being a “crier” and wearing my emotions on my sleeve. As a sensitive person, I found it difficult to separate myself from my feelings, or hide how I was feeling from the outside world.
I was also able to relate to people on a deep level and make meaningful connections. Being sensitive isn’t a negative personality trait that should be frowned upon or seen as weak—sensitive people are often richly empathic, and feel with other people.
Empathy is different from sympathy and fosters connections that can be hard to make. Empathic people feel what other people are feeling, and can emotionally connect with those feelings. Sometimes that means they get sad alongside someone else, which can be challenging if they begin to carry the burdens of others. There are helpful resources out there to help you live as a healthy empath.
Being sensitive does not mean you are not tough.
Things might affect you in different ways than they do other people. But, you can still have strong beliefs and the courage to stand up for those beliefs, and fight through difficult times.
If someone tells you to “toughen up” when they notice you being emotionally affected by something, know that their perception of sensitivity is not the truth. You don’t need to feel ashamed of who you are.
As a sensitive person, it’s easier for you to hone emotional intelligence (EQ)—the ability to assess emotional situations and understand how to meaningfully connect with other people. This is an important skill to have, and it’ll help you navigate classroom and workplace dynamics.
Use this skill to get to know people and understand how they want to be communicated with—you’ll find that being mindful of others’ feelings and vulnerabilities has its benefits. If you’ve been told at some point that you were being too sensitive, know that sensitivity is a gift in many ways.
It might take you some trial and error to find out how to best hone this gift, but with some self-reflection, I believe you can use your sensitivity to build deep and meaningful relationships with yourself and others. Just as being perceived as tough and strong is not a bad thing, being sensitive is not a cause for alarm.