What It’s Like To Be a Highly Sensitive Person

Edited by Tasmiyah Randeree

I’ve always been a pretty sensitive person. I was the kid who bawled for 2 hours at preschool when my parents dropped me off, every day of the week (I know, I know, I couldn't help it okay!) I eventually grew out of this, of course, but I think my sensitivity stuck with me.           

I would say I’m generally a pretty easygoing person, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been particularly sensitive. I have always had trouble handling negative comments or negative situations but those little comments have always stuck with me far longer than they should have, and I sometimes have trouble to "let go" of the negative. As you might imagine, this extra level of sensitivity can be very challenging. Lately, I’ve found that I feel more emotional and vulnerable than usual probably a result of the stress of graduating this academic year. If you are an extra-sensitive and emotional person like me, then you’ll understand some of the feelings I’ve experienced.


So Many Tears Left to Cry

Lately, I feel like I’m every meme ever made about an emotional, hormonal women crying over something insignificant. I bawled my eyes out when my leftovers spilt in my purse (like full on ugly cried). To be fair, it was a nice purse, but I don’t know if it warranted an emotional breakdown.

In all seriousness though, if you are an overly emotional person, you may have days like this, where seemingly insignificant events make you break down. You may not understand why at the time, which can lead to feelings of frustration. It can be really frustrating to experience this, especially when you’re crying over things that may seem ridiculous to an observer. Personally, I think my sensitive disposition, coupled with the added stress I’ve been experiencing lately, is what preempts these crying episodes.

However, it’s important to recognize when this behavior is an indication of something more serious like depression. If you’re ever unsure, always consult with your doctor or another health professional to get some help.

Feeling Irrational

Unfortunately, the world is vastly biased towards the rational and logical side of things. There is also the invalid assumption that rationality and emotionality are mutually exclusive. As a more emotional person, this kind of thinking can really hurt. When I’m feeling particularly emotional or upset about something, it can often feel like people are writing me off, that my thoughts and feelings behind the emotional exterior are illegitimate.

And that’s a really crappy feeling in itself. I often internalize this, sometimes questioning why I’m so emotional, or if I have any reason to be. It also doesn't help that the world stereotypes women as more emotional than men. I hate to think that my feelings and emotions are seen as irrational because of the fact that I am a woman, but I know that they have been. It can be hard, but I always try to remind myself that just because other people may not understand why I respond the way I do to situations, it doesn't mean its invalid. That being said, there may be a potential explanation for why I feel more emotional than other people tend to.


Highly Sensitive Person

A few years ago my aunt sent me a link to a site that described a “highly sensitive person.” It gave a brief explanation of a highly sensitive person as someone who experiences emotional and physical responses to stimuli more acutely than other people. It then described certain situations or scenarios that a highly sensitive person may respond to more strongly. After reading the website, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief; I’d never resonated with something more in my life. Some points it listed were that these people often have anxiety, have difficulty letting go of negative emotions and may experience physical symptoms in response to stress. Check, check, and check! Finally, I had found a possible explanation for why I seemed to be this way. The scale was developed by social psychologists Aron and Aron, if you want to take a closer look and see if it may apply to you.

The Takeaway

This sense of emotional vulnerability, for me, seems to increase when I’m more stressed. However, I know that I most likely could be considered a “highly sensitive person,” which could help explain why I respond more strongly than other people in certain situations. It’s also perfectly okay to be more emotional, even if you yourself don’t quite understand your own reactions. There are so many variables that are at play and as students, stress is definitely a huge one. Even after 21 years, I’m still working on accepting this aspect of myself.

Regardless of anything else though, your feelings are your feelings, and they are legitimate, whether others choose to recognize it or not. The people who truly care about you who are meant to be in your life will understand and respect this part of you. Being emotional and sensitive can definitely be a challenge, but it can also means that you are more empathic and responsive to other people’s feelings, and I think the world could use a bit more of that.


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