Why Am I Sensitive?

Why Am I Sensitive: Understanding Sensitivity image of a woman with a cup of tea looking into nature

“Why am I sensitive?”

It is a question that you start to ask yourself when enough people have asked it of you long enough. Although people often mean well, if you are a sensitive person, you’ve probably heard some form of this question all your life.

In school, it might have taken other forms. Maybe other kids called you crybaby or even worse names.

BTW, I have a dear friend who decided she is going to claim that term and make it a positive thing; what’s wrong with tears, after all? In our society, unfortunately, a lot is “wrong” with tears. You might have wondered “Why am I sensitive?” when people told you things like, “Big girls don’t cry,” or “Boys should never cry.”

Why We Ask “Why am I sensitive?”

It is also a question you begin to ask yourself when you see that your reactions to things are different than most people’s. If you are a sensitive person, you tend to be attuned to other people’s actions and reactions, so it stands to reason that sooner or later, you’ll notice that many other people just don’t seem to be as sensitive or emotional as you are.

I began to ask myself, “Why am I sensitive?” when I was a tween. I often had a hard time controlling my emotions. It wasn’t like I was a pile of tears 24/7 or anything, but there came a time when I began to fear going out in public because of my emotional reactions.

I just couldn’t keep myself from crying when something happened that affected me in some way; it could be the smallest thing and it was so embarrassing that I began isolating myself at home because I didn’t want to cry in front of other people.

I cried so easily, and I just really wanted to know why am I sensitive like this when other people react with humor or anger or take things in stride?

Why Am I Sensitive: Understanding Sensitivity image of two halves of a brain, one half very colorful

Why am I sensitive? The Answer

Back in the 1990s, a woman wrote a book that was groundbreaking: The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. Elaine Aron coined the term highly sensitive person (HSP) to describe a person who is more keenly attuned to sensory input.

Those of us who describe ourselves as highly sensitive, those of us who have probably spent years asking ourselves why am I sensitive, owe Aron a great debt of gratitude. She gave us a term that we could use in describing ourselves and the way our minds work.

In short, your sensitivity is not that’s something is wrong with you. It is just the way your mind works.

We who are highly sensitive process information differently and this gives way to a keener sensitivity in many respects—physically and emotionally.

Why am I sensitive is something that you can now answer …

That is just the way you are. It is the way your mind processes things.

And it is not a bad thing.

Emotional and Physical Sensitivity

Also, your keen sensitivity can work both physiologically as well as emotionally.

For example, you might find you are extremely tuned into noises and it’s difficult for you to deal with some sounds that other people don’t even notice.

But your high sensitivity is not only physiological.

You might find yourself very tuned into the emotions and moods of others. Let’s say you have a few housemates and one of them comes home in a bad mood. The others you live with don’t even notice but you can’t even function until you’re able to talk with your roommate and help them to get into a better state of mind.

This high sensitivity to others is in many ways a gift to the people around you. You see things and notice things that others don’t and that sensitivity can enable you to tune in and help in areas where others would simply blow past.

But at the same time, your higher sensitivity can be draining and exhausting when other people are able to function just fine but you cannot tune out some of these things. You have to do something about them whether it’s to communicate or devote your time and attention to a person who’s struggling.

And on top of this emotional aspect of sensitivity, there is also the physical aspect mentioned earlier:

Sensitivity to noises or smells that can overstimulate you. A single trip outdoors can be absolutely exhausting for you if the light is too bright and the sounds are too loud, or there are a lot of people around whose moods you simply can’t tune out.

You get home from one grocery trip totally exhausted while other less sensitive people are not affected in that way.

At times like this, your question of “Why am I sensitive?” is probably followed up with this statement:

“I wish I wasn’t this way because it’s just so exhausting!”

Why Am I Sensitive: Understanding Sensitivity image of hands being held in empathy

How to Work with Your Sensitivities

Now while that may be true, there are things you can do once you are aware of your higher sensitivity.

For example, if you are highly sensitive to noises, you might want to invest in things to soften those sounds and block them to more easily function throughout the day or at night when you need a good night’s sleep.

Or if you are highly sensitive to light, invest in a good pair of sunglasses for sensitive eyes, use light cancelling curtains (especially in your bedroom), and wake up more easily with a wake-up light sunrise alarm clock.

Or emotionally, if you find that you are absorbing just your own emotions but having to deal with others too, you might find journaling a very helpful exercise.

Many sensitive people also find meditation helpful. They might use implements such as singing bowls to assist in their meditation practices.

In short, being highly sensitive is not something you should feel ashamed or guilty about.

But at the same time, it is important to know yourself and how you work so that you can function in this world in a healthy and positive manner …

And not be overwhelmed by the world around you.


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Just an HSP introvert navigating an aggressive world | Reflections | Essays | Stories | Field Notes | Support for HSPs, emotional introverts, and empathetic feelers.

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