The Perks of Being Sensitive

Have you ever gotten upset over the ‘little’ things, and cried when the emotional pressure from these ‘little’ things accumulated over time? Have you ever stayed up late at night, unable to sleep because you’re overthinking about every little mistake you did that day? Have you ever gotten yourself in a situation where you had just expressed your true feelings, and the people who’d been listening to you just gave the advice: “you shouldn’t be so sensitive?”

If so, it’s very likely that people – family and friends alike — have told you a thousand disadvantages and zero benefits of being who you are, and you yourself may think that being a sensitive person is not that great either. After all, being a sensitive person means that everything is intensified: anger turns to rage, sadness becomes a deep sorrow, and happiness spirals into uncontrollable excitement. The degree of enhancement is different for each person, of course, but the basic idea remains that to a sensitive person the small details are magnified to a big picture.

As seen by the above example, this ‘magnified’ concept applies to emotions, but this is not just limited to the sensitive person themselves. In fact, many sensitive people tend to be more aware of the emotions of the people around them and are able to empathize to the point that they themselves are affected by the surrounding mood. For example, you become happy yourself when a friend sitting next to you is happy, but become irritated if a person near you is annoyed at someone or something.

Furthermore, small details like verbal phrases and facial expressions, which other people may brush off as not meaning anything of substance, can be the root of worry and over-contemplation for sensitive over-thinkers. A friend saying “I don’t care,” for example, with an impatient, irritated look on their face may suggest that he/she is secretly mad, causing the sensitive person to mull this assumption over and over until the guilt or indignation becomes too much, and they feel as if they have to confront the former about it. This sometimes occurs in contrast to the above empathetic nature, in which a sensitive person’s assumptions of what someone is feeling overrides their enhanced ability to understand a person’s true emotions. It should be noted though that both assumption and empathy are ultimately derived from intuition, which is perception without clear logical reasoning, and which, simply put, is guessing at its best.

Looking at those two circumstances, it can therefore be said that there are both advantages and disadvantages to the magnification that comes with sensitivity. Enhanced empathy, intuition, and/or perception allow sensitive people to understand others, even strangers in some cases, on a deeper level — sometimes without the latter explicitly saying what they’re thinking or feeling.  On the other hand, the burden that comes with feeling others’ emotions alongside your own can eventually wear them down, often resulting in them becoming mentally and even physically tired for no visible reason. Despite this constant, overwhelming barrage of external stimuli, sensitive people are still able to discern the implicit meanings of words and gestures; the real difficulty, especially once they’re mentally exhausted, lies in determining which are true and which are mere assumptions.

So, being sensitive can even be tiring for someone with the trait in question, but contrary to what the commonly used phrase “stop being so sensitive” would suggest, there are still several benefits to this trait that should not be overlooked in favor of the problems that may stem from it. We already addressed empathy and intuition as being both major benefits and adverse consequences of sensitivity. As such, these two qualities would form the basis for other benefits that come with sensitivity while many advantages come from simply having enhanced emotions itself. These advantages include:

Being a good listener and mediator. Since sensitive people are able to feel other people’s emotions as their own, they are often the ones to go to when you are upset and need to talk your problems over without fear of being judged, ridiculed, or ignored halfway. Understanding someone without going through the same experience, treating them with kindness and patience due to this understanding, and being able to see both sides of a problem when more than one person is involved make sensitive people natural confidantes and peacemakers in a drama-filled society.

Being able to put their hearts into what they love. When sensitive people enjoy something, they become truly passionate about it; a fun hobby or past time activity becomes a dream that they’ll actively pursue to the end, no matter the difficulties that come with making it come true. Granted, this devotion may seem over-the-top to other people, and the dream itself may seem just that: a mere childish dream that only a handful are able to achieve in the adult world. For many sensitive people, however, once they know what they want and what to do to achieve it, will work hard towards becoming a part of this handful of people. Whether it’s becoming an artist, athlete, or scholar, and whether they’re working towards winning a competition, creating a work of art, or traveling the world to help cure people of diseases, it shouldn’t be surprising if you find a sensitive person, ridiculed as they were for being a hopeless romantic, and for putting their all into what they find most enjoyable and rewarding.

Good experiences become awesome experiences. Sensitivity does not merely enhance negative emotions; it’s also able to magnify simple pleasures into truly fun and exciting experiences. Watching a funny movie, hanging out with your best friends, going on a much-anticipated trip with your family members – every little drop of joy amplifies into a shower of happiness. The feeling runs far and deep within you, leaving a stronger and more precious memory that you’re sure to appreciate for many, many years to come.

Having a strong moral compass. Another thing that’s usually magnified when you’re a sensitive person is the sense of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. The proud feeling of carrying out a ‘correct’ or virtuous action resonates even deeper for a sensitive person while the guilt from doing something wrong, immoral, or unjustifiable is similarly intensified, making it more likely for them to avoid possible wrongdoings, and stick to a respectable path. It’s not surprising then that many sensitive people are kind, fair, honest, and do not stray away easily when it comes to their principles.

 

It seems that it’s almost a universal rule for people to address negative aspects of another’s personality while giving minimal to no attention to their good side. When this happens, it’s important for each one of us to acknowledge our own good values as well as accept that every one of our personality traits has two sides to them. Whether a trait is ultimately desirable or undesirable all boils down to perspective, but even a generally good trait can have its downsides. For example, personal loyalty can mean neglecting the needs of the rest of society in favor of your own interests and that of your family and friends. Keeping this fact in mind, it’s important for us all, sensitive or otherwise, to appreciate who we are. Love, kindness, and understanding start from the individual; and loving yourself comes with appreciating the traits which may also be present in the people around you, leading you to cherish those you love even more.

To the sensitive people out there, love your sensitivity; to everyone who’s unconfident and unhappy with who they are, love yourself before you love others because you deserve that privilege. Our loved ones surely cherish us too, so how can we fully appreciate the people we care about when we do not value ourselves?

 

References:

  • “10 Strengths of a Highly Sensitive Person.” Youtube, uploaded by Psych2Go, 11 March 2020, https://youtu.be/7oNZky0KMs4.
  • “6 Hidden Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person.” Youtube, uploaded by Highly Sensitive Person Podcast, 14 April 2016, https://youtu.be/UEwJtYsu6Zo.