I Was Shamed For Being a Sensitive Introvert — And This Is How I Overcame It

A highly sensitive introvert cries by a window

I have finally come to learn that being a sensitive introvert isn’t a flaw, but the way people react to it is.

“Why are you so sensitive?”

It’s safe to say that a lot of introverts have been at the receiving end of these words at least once in their life. In fact, about 70 percent of highly sensitive people (HSPs) are introverts

It’s no secret that society has been somewhat harsh to those of us who often stand on the sidelines. And, as a result, a lot of us have been led to believe that being “too sensitive” is a weakness. Moreover, being told that we are “too emotional” and “thin-skinned” falls under the category of an insult. Naturally, it never ends well, especially when we tend to dwell on what people say to us.  

I used to get this comment from my mother a lot when I was younger. I was always told that I was “too sensitive” to mingle with other people and that I was not sociable or open-minded enough to accept any kind of criticism (or just about any kind of unsolicited comment about me). 

Every time I faced my relatives and they made a remark about my aloof and distant personality, it discouraged me even further from trying to mingle with them. 

Looking for a Safe Space to Express My Emotions

I was just a child back then — I was neither shy nor rude; I was simply a young girl who was still trying to find her place in the world. Now that I think about it, being consistently called “too sensitive” and shamed took a toll on my confidence and self-trust, and up until now, I am still trying to shake off the repercussions brought about by their judgments. For example, I was not allowed to cry and let my feelings out freely. There were a lot of times that I had to force myself not to cry, because apparently, being overly sensitive was frowned upon in my household.

So I tried to not let my emotions show — and I just needed a safe space for me to express them. I wasn’t aware back then, but I spent most of my teenage years trying to unravel the damage of repressing my feelings and emotions while becoming a young adult. I had a hard time dealing with certain emotions, and I had no idea what to do with myself when I was in distress. I was kind of an achiever in school and I was running a school publication as an editor-in-chief, so there were plenty of moments when I was close to breaking down but I did not know how to let it all out. It felt suffocating. 

Running away from my emotions made me feel scared to face confrontations, as well as deal with other people’s feelings. I did not know how to comfort a crying friend. I did not know how to react to a boy’s confession of attraction. I did not know how to tell my personal problems to my parents. I had a lot of people around me, and yet, with the bubbling emotions inside me that had no place to spill onto, I felt alone for years.

Learning to (Finally) Express My Emotions

I’m now in my 20s, and I still struggle with my emotions — not with the way I am repressing them, but with the way that I am finally expressing them. I have become such an emotional person now, but the way I deal with my emotions is still something I’m working on.

Yes, I can now express them in safe spaces in the form of my close friends — they “get” me and have become my little “homes” for the past few years. And, yes, I am finally able to vocalize my thoughts and feelings in a more comprehensible way — both for me and my friends. But there are certain times when I feel a huge burst of emotions, especially the negative ones, and I break down. Hard. 

I guess this is the long-term effects of being told I was “too sensitive” while growing up. There are a lot of moments in which I get this sudden melancholic thought of wanting to go back in time and tell my younger self that it’s not a bad thing to be sensitive in this relentless society. Bottling up my emotions also made me bottle my confidence, stock it on a shelf, untouched and unbothered. And now, I am fighting my way back to gain control once again of who I am — emotional sensitivity and all.

I love acknowledging that I am an introvert. I love acknowledging that I am sensitive. I love acknowledging that I am emotional. I love acknowledging that I am, unapologetically, me. 

It may be exhausting to be at the receiving end of people’s “concerns” — like when they ask “Why are you so quiet?” But if there is one thing we introverts are good at, it’s finding coping mechanisms. So the next time someone tries to make passive-aggressive comments about you being such a sensitive person, take a moment to digest these (hopefully) helpful tips I use to cope with being at the receiving end of insensitive comments as a highly sensitive introvert.

5 Things You Must Do When You Are Shamed for Being a Highly Sensitive Introvert

1. Treat your sensitivity as one of your core strengths. 

Being sensitive has never been a bad thing; it just means that you feel emotions — like how every other human should. The difference is, you feel more deeply, and while most people would perceive that as a weakness, personally, I have learned to recognize it as a core strength. It’s enabled me to fully embrace how I am only human and that emotions are a thing that I should never turn my back from. Feeling shame is a normal thing, but ask yourself: What part of being sensitive should you even be ashamed about when it just lets you feel things? 

2. Instead of being offended when someone says you’re “too sensitive,” be grateful.

Together with treating your sensitivity as a strength, you must learn not to get offended every time someone views your sensitive side in a negative light. I have finally come to learn that my sensitivity isn’t a flaw, but the way people react to it is. So instead of taking offense the next time someone tells you you’re sensitive — or “too sensitive” — simply say “Thank you” and just embrace the fact that you are better aware of your emotions than others.

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3. Learn to withdraw, but in healthy ways — alone time is your friend.

Too much isolation is never a good thing when you are trying to be a functional human being. But sometimes it’s okay to take a literal step back and withdraw yourself from the presence of people who are toxic to your mental health. But do not do this excessively, for in doing so, you may also subconsciously filter out the people who are good for you. So take your alone time — that both introverts and highly sensitive people need — and use it to your advantage.

4. Know your feelings are valid, but how you react is all up to you.

One thing I also learned while growing up as a highly sensitive person is that reacting negatively and lashing out isn’t anyone else’s fault but mine. I have come to terms with the fact that my feelings will always be valid, as should you. But we must learn to accept that we should also be more careful of how we react — because our sensitivity and introverted nature should never be an excuse for us to treat those who have wronged us badly. This will sound cliché, but be the bigger person (and, yes, even toward yourself).

5. Reflect, heal, repeat. 

Following through with these tips would be all for naught if you won’t take the time to reflect on your experiences, whether you were in the wrong or right. This will pave the way for you to heal your inner child, because no matter how far you go in your adulthood, your inner child will always crave healing, especially when they have been through so much. So always take — and make — the time to look back and assess what needs to be assessed. This way, you’ll continue to heal and grow even further.

Highly sensitive introverts, what would you add to this list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Want to reduce stress and thrive as a highly sensitive person?

We recommend these online courses from psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland. Click here to learn more.

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