Do you cry at sad commercials, or feel more emotional than those around you? Me too.
The truth is, some people are just born more sensitive than others. Researchers from Stony Brook University found that 20% of our population is pre-disposed to empathy, after doing fMRI imaging, which highlighted more engagement to emotional stimuli in those who are highly sensitive compared to those who aren't.
Your genes play a huge role in the way that you go through the world, and the way you experience all different types of emotional stimuli. Going through life is very different when you are more emotionally sensitive, and my experiences have shown me that increased sensitivity is often linked with an increase in mental illnesses, particularly if people live in an environment that invalidates their sensitivity.
As I've progressed in my own recovery from mental illnesses, I've got in touch more with my sensitive side. I've come to recognize that this is just the way my genes and brain biology are, and that fighting against things that can't be changed is pointless and won't help me move forward. This is especially true as I am working through my emotions and in therapy twice a week. So yes, I am sensitive, or "soft," maybe more so than other people.
And no, it is not a valid insult and I am not ashamed of my sensitivity.
I truly believe that my sensitivity is an asset especially in today's society where we could use a little bit more empathy. I am more in tune with small changes in people's emotions and the way they interact with others, and this helps me have better interpersonal relationships. I feel more deeply about others and causes, and while it sometimes causes me to get hurt, I think this has contributed to my passion and drive to make a mark on the world, which is something I really value.
I think empathy and increased sensitivity is even more important in 2018, given the socio-political climate we have here in the U.S. There are so many insults being hurled from both sides, but the one that really exemplifies this is the term "snowflake," or being insulted for being "soft." I've been called soft or too sensitive by people close to me, with the intention of being insulted. And my initial reaction was to be insulted. But, the more I've thought about it, the more I recognize how valuable it is at this time.
With everything going on in politics and the human rights violations happening every day, we could use a lot more empathy. It helps to understand other peoples' points of views, to truly feel where they're coming from, and why these topics matter so much to them. If we had a little bit more empathy, we might be able to sit down, come together, and solve some of the big problems we are facing currently (gun violence, sexual assault, just to name a few.)
If you're one of the highly sensitive ones, I see you. It's tricky, but I encourage you to reframe it as a strength. If you don't understand what it's like to be highly sensitive, please don't use sensitivity as an insult. We don't choose to be this way, and there are a lot worse things you could do than care too much.