“Toughen up,” they told me…

sensitive woman.jpg

Ever since I can remember, I was told I was too sensitive.

As a teenager, I wanted to avoid things that seemed unnecessarily negative, so I refused to watch the 11:00 p.m. news. It just didn’t seem like a good idea for my last thoughts of the day to be about crime, gossip, and political corruption. 

“You’ll get to the point where you can’t see or hear anything about real life, Darcy!” was my mother’s fear.

Which is funny, given that I’m a therapist who tolerates more emotion in a day than most people do in months.

You’re too sensitive comes in lots of varieties:

“You need to toughen up.”
”Grow some thicker skin.”
“Why are you being a weirdo?” 

It’s always an insult – at best veiled, and at worst openly hostile. Actually, I’m not sure I shouldn’t reverse that because I prefer open hostility to the kind I have to analyze. But I digress.

Sensitivity and logic are often pitted against each other as mutually exclusive.

Telling someone they’re too sensitive invalidates their feelings, tells them they’re being irrational and labels them dramatic.

It’s also a no-win situation because if one responds by pushing back, the point is proven. And if one responds by accepting the criticism, well, you get it.

The result is silencing.

So, in support of my fellow cohorts who’ve been criticized as being too sensitive, today’s post takes some jabs at the messenger of that affront.

  1. They’re provocative. Telling someone they’re too sensitive is among the most provocative things you can say to someone. It’s what you say when you want to see someone escalate.

  2. They lack emotional intelligence. They tend to lack empathy, emotional intelligence, and relationship skills, for starters. Because if you really think someone is too sensitive, the logical way to handle them is to validate their feelings – not to invalidate them by saying they’re overreacting.

  3. They teach through shame. Being told that you’re “too” anything causes shame in anyone with a moral compass. Research shows that the way to teach is through empathy and compassion. Not through shame and judgment.

  4. They can’t tolerate affect in others. And instead of increasing their own tolerance, they try to shut it down through scolding.

  5. They’re douchebags. There. I said it.

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