I’ve always been a little too sensitive.
As much as I’ve tried, I’ve never succeeded in developing the thick skin that so many of my peers seem to wear well.
My feelings get hurt all too easily.
The people around me have more of an ability to affect me than I’d like.
I whine. I sulk. I mope. I cry many, many tears — like the jilted first wife in a Lifetime channel movie that only plays after midnight.
Developing a thick skin would be a helpful defensive mechanism, I think — perhaps even a vital one — for surviving in a world where excessive self-involvement often leads people, inadvertently or intentionally, to behave recklessly with other’s emotions.
We often forget to think before we act or speak, and we don’t always recognize that those around us might have to suffer from the fallout of our less-than-savory actions or words.
(Though some of us might purposefully act maliciously, I like to think that many of us try not to stomp on people’s feelings if we can help it)
At times, I wonder if I should work on erecting this sort of toughened exterior around me — if only to protect my thoughts, fears, and feelings from the wear and tear they frequently receive.
After all, wouldn’t it save me — wouldn’t it save us — a significant amount of time, energy, and emotional exhaustion if I — and we — cared less what people thought or how they acted?
Wouldn’t we feel better if we could simply brush off mean-spirited criticism or jeers designed to pierce us right where we are the most insecure and therefore hurt the most? If we could disregard comments like “you’re fat” and “you write like shit” and “you’re just not that pretty” as meaningless static in the back of our minds?
Wouldn’t we function at our prime if no one’s actions but our own could affect the way we perceive and think about ourselves? If instances of dishonesty, infidelity, and other forms of cruelty only stung momentarily before fading into the irrelevant depths of our memories?
Certainly, it would save us quite a few sour moods (and tears, reluctant and uncontrollable) when situations don’t play out the way we expected or people treat us in a way that would otherwise disappoint or pain us.
So, how do we become less sensitive? How do we stop caring — or, at the very minimum, keep from caring too much?
Well, we can’t entirely.
Though it may be true that people only affect us as much as we let them, we can’t control our feelings towards their behavior and it can often hurt us more if we try. Subsequently, we shouldn’t deny the validity of these emotions when they arise.
Because they arise for a reason.
And we have the right to feel what we feel.
So, we need to stop consoling ourselves with the logic that so-and-so said or did such-and-such because “he’s an asshole” or “she’s just a mean person.” We should stop trying to extinguish our anger or sadness when they begin to flame underneath our clothes, underneath our skin.
Instead, we should let ourselves be upset when we are upset, work through it, and recognize that confronting our emotions (rather than excusing, vindicating, or ignoring those who evoke them) will ultimately make us feel better.
Tonight, I cried about a situation that will not matter in the long run. Honestly, it probably won’t even matter to me in a week or so. But, my feelings were and are no less valid because I felt bad in that moment.
After some hugs and baked goods (I knew I must have hit rock bottom when a kindly stranger approached me in my college library and offered me a cookie because I looked I “needed” it), I felt better.
But I only felt better because I first let myself feel bad.
We can only feel better when we allow ourselves to experience the full brunt of our emotions and parse through what upsets us until it no longer has any staying power.
So, it’s okay to let ourselves be a little too sensitive. It just shows that we’re human.