According to experts, though, being highly sensitive isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all—in fact, some regard it as a superpower of sorts. And, superpower or not, it's ultimately one of many characteristics that make up your unique personality.
Read on to learn why some people are more sensitive than others, signs that you’re a highly sensitive person, and why, exactly, your sensitivity isn’t actually a bad thing.
Why am I so sensitive?
The answer to the “why am I so sensitive?” question is a blend of nature and nurture. “Genetics play some role in why some people are more sensitive than others, but [the] environment plays an even bigger role,” says psychotherapist Amy Morin, LCSW, and editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind. “Childhood experiences may have the biggest impact on how sensitive someone is. The way they were parented, their experiences with school, and how others treated them all make a huge difference.”
“Childhood experiences may have the biggest impact on how sensitive someone is." —psychotherapist Amy Morin, LCSW
Preston Ni, professor of communication studies and author of Are You Highly Sensitive?, agrees, noting that the way we grew up has a huge impact on our levels of sensitivity. For instance, he says, if someone was raised in a caring and loving home, chances are stronger that this person will grow up to be a caring and loving adult. “On the other hand, if this person grew up in a challenging family environment where, for example, trust is a major issue, this person may grow up with many trust issues and be very highly sensitive to trust matters in life,” says Ni.
Of course, not all is lost if you grew up in a family that didn’t value sensitivity. After all, you can't control your childhood environment. But, you do have the power and agency to manage your sensitivity and how it affects you—especially if you know which signs to look out for.
4 signs that you’re a highly sensitive person
1. You feel emotions deeply
“Highly sensitive people experience deep emotions," says Morin. "They may feel watching a scary movie is intolerable, or they may be more apt to ‘catch’ other people's emotions.”
For example, if a highly sensitive person is hanging out with someone whom they perceive as anxious, it’s likely that they may grow anxious themselves.
2. You ruminate on what others say or think about you
Let’s say that someone you know tells you that you look tired. If you’re a highly sensitive person, your reaction might be to immediately run to the bathroom and splash some cold water on your face to look more alert.
While no one is saying you shouldn’t do that, you certainly don’t have to. What others think about you is more indicative of them than it is of you—so comments like these don't need to be taken too personally. Instead, Ni suggests, shift your perspective inward and consider what you like about yourself. Ultimately, that’s what truly matters.
3. Your environment affects your mood
While highly sensitive people do experience heightened emotions, Morin says that their five senses are also highly sensitive. “They may dislike loud noises, big crowds, and bright lights because they get overstimulated,” she says.
One way to ease environmental sensitivity is to find a quiet place because it’ll help you stay focused on your work. “You won't be wasting a lot of energy worrying about the sounds you hear and sights you see," Morin adds. "You'll have more brain power to devote to more important tasks than fighting distractions all day.”
Ni adds that it’s crucial for highly sensitive people to put a lot of thought into how they spend their time. The best way to work with your sensitivity is to be selective about how, with whom, and where you spend your time.
4. You’re particularly hard on yourself
Whether you didn’t accomplish everything on your to-do list, or you worry that someone else might not like you, being needlessly tough on yourself is a sign that you skew sensitive.
This might show up as you comparing yourself to others, particularly if you believe someone has a “perfect life” based on their social media profile, says Ni. In this case, you might benefit from taking a social media break.
Why being highly sensitive isn’t a bad thing
Again, your sensitivity isn’t something to be ashamed of—it’s just part of who you are. “Being highly sensitive is similar to other traits, like being tall. It has some advantages and some disadvantages,” says Morin.
In fact, experts agree that you can actually use your sensitivity as a superpower to help others, just as someone tall might grab something a shorter person can’t reach. For instance, Morin says, “you'll likely empathize with people better because you'll pick up on their emotions. This can help you form deeper relationships because people will feel better understood by you.”
"There are many positive qualities about highly sensitive people, who are generally very loving, caring, nurturing, and empathetic.” —Preston Ni, communication coach
If you're highly sensitive, embrace it rather than consider it as a character flaw or something that needs to be fixed. "There are many positive qualities about highly sensitive people, who are generally very loving, caring, nurturing, and empathetic,” Ni says. Remember those truths, and consider modifying your environment to better cater to your needs, like by working from quiet places, catching up on news less frequently, and reducing the amount of time you spend on social media. “This will help you save some of your energy for the most important tasks,” Morin says.
So the next time you find yourself wondering, “Why am I so sensitive?” remember that you can tap into this as a superpower, and that there are easy ways to decrease your inconvenient bouts of sensitivity through introspection and shifted habits.
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