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  • Writer's pictureFliss Goldsmith

Are you too sensitive? Are you over reacting? Emotions 101

If I had a pound for each person who have come to me for coaching , training or support and said that a significant person in their life had told them they were, 'TOO SENSITIVE' - well, i'd be writing this from an exclusive beach in the Bahamas!

I can definitely raise my hand here too - I was the ultimate 'too sensitive' child/teen/young woman.

I would cry at a lot of things that others seemed unphased by - like witnessing a bee accidently crushed underfoot. I would feel all the big emotions deeply, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, anguish etc.

If I went to a sleepover and had too little sleep my body would hurt and I would feel really fragile and like I wanted to hide away.

Kids like me (and potentially you if you are reading this) were labelled, pathetic, a cry baby, weak, difficult and ultimately TOO SENSITIVE!

It was the ultimate in pejorative judgement to be too sensitive. Nobody wanted to be THAT child.

Over the years I tried everything I could think of to try and toughen up. I pushed through exhaustion with a plastic smile at work, I let tears well up and prickle my eyes before swallowing the sadness hard so no crying was seen. I let people make fun of me, make fun of others and squashed the internal alarm blaring at me that this was all so wrong. And for a time it seemed to work. Nobody was remarking on me being too sensitive and life ticked along.


I'll cut the history session short because you likely do not have all week; I ended up with Depression, Anxiety, social phobias, zero self esteem and an Eating Disorder. Yeah those were some long, dark years.

So what changed? I read a passage somewhere that commented on 'messages from the edges'. It intrigued me. It basically surmised that when we FEEL our emotions in the corresponding parts of the body, this is the biofeedback that allows us to know if something is good or bad. You know that fluttery, warm excitement in your tummy when you fall in love - biofeedback alarm says GOOD. Equally when you get that brick in the stomach pain after a heated argument - biofeedback alarm says BAD.

So it got me thinking on sensitivity and if that WAS such a bad thing after all?

When scientists produce some fancy new test for something (pregnancy tests come to mind) it will tell you it has a high level of sensitivity and accuracy. This is great because it means it will read the situation and give you an accurate result. If it wasn't very sensitive you could end up missing something super important (like a baby in this case!) So what if our emotional sensitivity was exactly the same. The sensitivity is actually a GOOD thing. It reads situations and tells you there is something you need to respond to. If you are highly sensitive you are going to be keyed into this before and more often than others.

My thinking then is that being sensitive is a good thing and that in reality it is our REACTIVITY that is the issue. Our sensitivity is innate and needs to be kept highly attuned to signal the good, bad and the ugly when it comes our way. How re react - well now that is the point at which we have a choice.

We can choose to listen and react responsibly, by allowing our emotions time to process, including others in the discussion and having brave, kind conversations where disagreement is allowed.

Or we can choose to listen and react impulsively - which usually means passive or no listening to others, slurs and dehumanizing language and increasingly polarising opinions where chastisement is the preferred option.

Of course levels of reaction are subjective as-well and by no means am I condoning calling someone over reactive, because what metric do we have for the right LEVEL of reaction? I'd see it more as reacting UNHELPFULLY - where nothing is being contributed to nudge the direction of emotional travel towards a mutually agreeable outcome.

I think this whole SENSITIVY v REACTIVITY conversation needs opening up and I would love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments. Have you ever been told you are too sensitive? Have you been told you over react? Do you think they are one and the same?

Let me know X Love and Empowerment Fliss X

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