A post about how to be less sensitive might be unpopular in 2022.
We live in a day and age where more and more people are becoming hypersensitive.
We have terms like microaggressions to describe how someone can deeply offend you without even knowing it. I care about the planet and want it to survive, too, but ‘climate anxiety’ just seems excessive to me.
Just a few generations back, young men stormed the beaches of Normandy fresh out of high school. These days, it’s a full-time job not to offend people. A lot has changed.
Mental health is important and we should have conversations about the effects certain things have on our emotions. I fear that the emphasis on mental health almost always centers around being reactive instead of proactive.
Sometimes you don’t need your feelings protected. Sometimes you need to put yourself through emotional stress as a form of self-care. It’s important to be in touch with your emotions, but it’s also important to figure out how to be less sensitive in situations where it’s counterproductive.
Let’s talk about how to be less sensitive and more emotionally resilient.
How have new generations become more sensitive than previous ones? Jonathan Haidt has an explanation in his book The Coddling of the American Mind.
The book centers on three great untruths that lead to a hypersensitive and overly emotional mindset:
In a well-intentioned attempt to be more emotionally catering to our youth, we’ve helped them become mentally fragile. It’s not just a phenomenon you see with young people, even though it’s more pronounced. It has become a cultural phenomenon that affects everyone in our culture.
“A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.”
High school kids probably shouldn’t go to war, nor should they be told to just suck it up when they return back home. But there’s a healthy space between there and where we are right now.
A lot of well-intentioned movements solve the problem they set out to solve but then they overcorrect and cause a chain reaction of new problems for the people they were supposed to help.
I’ve talked about this before with pieces like the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations which talks about how the well-intentioned fight against racism turned into a self-defeating and fatalist message that tells minorities they’re doomed just because of their skin color.
It’s great to be in touch with your emotions. But you also don’t need to become a slave to them. Some things are truly offensive, but if you spend your time being offended with everything it’s going to get tiresome and drain you mentally.
It’s the question I use to guide most of my beliefs and behaviors. If over-sensitivity is causing problems in your life, which I’m guessing it is, it’s time to change. And change starts with admitting you have a problem, so, admit it and let’s move forward.
Sometimes, in life, you have to realize when you’re just being a little bitch.
We’ll get into the specifics of how to be less sensitive by diving into nuance and whatnot, but sometimes it’s just cut and dry. We all know what being a little bitch looks and feels like. It’s weasly. It has that crocodile tear energy to it. It’s cringy and we all know it.
So, can we just collectively stop doing it? If you comment on this post about the phrase ‘being a little bitch’ offending you, then you’re being a little bitch.
I could probably have a larger audience and make more money if I tiptoed around certain topics, if I didn’t curse, or if I didn’t buck certain politically correct narratives, but I have to call a spade a spade.
Two things are true in this world. We should be mindful of other people’s feelings, mentally slapping a band-aid on every problem isn’t good, and some changes to our dialogue and the way we treat each other are necessary. But, also, sometimes people just act like little bitches.
Don’t be one of those people.
If you want to learn how to be less sensitive, it’s important to stop trying to imagine a world where people won’t try to hurt your feelings.
For example, I have a lot of aspiring writers who reach out to me and say they want to become a writer, but they’re afraid because they might get criticized, people might say mean things to them, and they might even attack their personal character.
Here’s what I tell them. Forget about whether or not they might do these things. They will do these things. I’ve been called names, been ridiculed, and have had my character attacked multiple times. In the beginning, it hurt, but I learn how to be less sensitive by anticipating and welcoming the blows.
If you’re waiting to live in a world where people don’t suck sometimes, you’ll be waiting your whole life. It is what it is. A lot of people suffer mentally because of utopian thinking. They imagine a world that will never exist.
A world where human nature isn’t a factor and everyone will treat them well because we made a bunch of rules to force people to treat each other well. It doesn’t work. Lower your expectations for your fellow human beings. People are mostly good, but they can be assholes sometimes.
Most people confuse trying to suppress their feelings with feeling their feelings.
Overly sensitive people might think they’re in touch with their emotions, but the opposite could be true. Focusing on how much your emotions make you feel bad and how much you want them to go away isn’t necessarily being emotionally in tune.
Instead, feeling your feelings without judgment actually puts you in touch with your feelings and it can also teach you how to be less sensitive. Think about it, if you’re not always in defense mode trying to avoid being hurt, you’re sensitivity radar won’t be going off all the time.
Your spotlight on what might hurt or offend you just brings more of it to light. If you stop running from your feelings, they lose their power over you. This is where the letting go technique comes in.
The next time you feel a negative emotion, don’t try to run from it, feel it fully. If you feel it fully in the moment, it’ll pass.
I’m reminded of a mentor who told me that if you’re feeling down you should set a timer for how long you’re going to mope around and feel sad. Pre-plan it and then try to sit there and feel down. Soon, you’ll realize what a waste of time it is.
Understand that the way you feel about everything is a choice. You don’t have to feel the way you feel. You don’t have to let certain things bother you. Now, I know it doesn’t feel like a choice. And, in a way, it isn’t.
When you react to something, it happens in an instant. You don’t tell yourself ‘I’m going to be offended by this.’ It just happens. But, if you develop an understanding of where your feelings and beliefs come from in the first place, changing your map of reality can change the way you react to situations in real-time.
It’s as simple as questioning yourself when you react to certain situations. Why do you feel offended or hurt? Is it because it truly bothers you or does it align with messaging from a belief system you adopted?
A lot of its cultural. I’ll admit I’ll watch stuff from decades ago and it makes me wince because the culture is different now. Cultural evolution is important, but it’s up to you to decide what’s the baby and what’s the bathwater.
I think there are a lot of people stuck in this hyper-sensitive paradigm. They know it’s BS but they fed into it for so long it makes them feel dumb to opt-out now. I’d argue it’s dumber to stay stuck in an emotional state that makes your life worse.
Take time for self-care, sure. Keep an eye on your mental health, yes. But understand that sometimes self-care and taking care of your mental health means doing things that are stressful and cause discomfort.
If you want to learn how to be less sensitive and more emotionally resilient you have to put yourself in situations that are a little bit uncomfortable and force you to grow. You reduce your sensitivity through exposure to the things that trigger it.
If you want to learn how to be less sensitive you have to step out of your bubble. In 2022, that might be a literal prescription for some of you. Go outside and be in the world. Get out of your echo chambers that do nothing to cater to your feelings. Seek out the stress that helps you grow.
At the end of the day, learning how to be less sensitive is difficult just like it’s difficult to change anything about yourself. My method for change almost always comes down to doing a cost-benefit analysis and drilling it into my mind until I’m either frustrated or inspired enough to change.
If you’re overly sensitive, think of how much it’s costing to you. Think of how emotionally draining it is to be defensive all the time when you don’t have to be. Think of how much a lack of emotional resilience is keeping you from getting what you want.
As far as the benefits? Being sensitive can help you be more empathetic. You are, in a sense, in touch with your emotions. It’s important to keep toxicity out of your life so being aware of it does matter.
Being sensitive isn’t all bad. It means you’re a caring and kind-hearted person. But you also don’t want people to mistake your kindness for weakness. Hell, you shouldn’t mistake your kindness for weakness.
Strike a balance. You can be a kind and emotionally in tune person without feeling the need to fold and buckle at every little emotional difficulty. Create a ratio that makes sense to you and judge the success or failure by the direction your life moves in.