I hate the word “sensitive.” Probably because even in the dictionary, with its italics for emphasis, the idea of being aware of one’s emotions is deemed as a flaw.
It seems almost as though the word has inherent biases toward traits that are considered to be feminine. And for all my life, I was taught that labelling and acknowledging my emotions was a thing that only women do.
This is with the exception of anger, which is generally viewed as, in my experience, a "masculine" emotion.
Oftentimes, I've only heard the word sensitive being used to describe women, harkening back to the idea of women fainting out of emotional distress. In the media, women are tied to the image of fragility. But at its core, this idea is inherently contradictory.
On one hand, we are told that if something bothers us then we should say it. But, on the other hand, this seems to be a rule that doesn't apply to women. Suddenly, if a woman voices their feelings, they risk being called "sensitive," and more importantly, having their feelings invalidated by a single word.
As a woman, I'm defined as having too many emotions and also not being allowed to have any at the same time. If a man gets angry often, they're "aggressive" or "volatile," not sensitive. But this standard also puts them at a disadvantage too, because if a man openly expresses his sadness, he then risks being deemed as "feminine," and therefore, "sensitive."
It’s as though the idea of sensitivity is tied with an imaginary, unyielding label that society can't help but tie to "weakness" and "being a girl." But in reality, being sensitive is a strength, not a weakness. It means being aware of what one is comfortable with and expressing when things fall outside of that.
I struggle with the ways I can combat this false ideology. But ideally, we should be able to express our emotions in a way where we reassert ourselves as a person, not to be belittled by arbitrary labels. We will be noticed, not silenced.
I'm not advocating for repressing emotions, rather, to feel those emotions, but to instead describe them to people in an understandable way.
Most of the time, when I'm called sensitive, it’s because I want something to stop or be fixed, so I am coming from a place where solutions are necessary. Therefore, it becomes imperative that I explain to the other person why I'm feeling a certain way and look for an agreement, and most of the time, this works.
But that is not always the case. We still risk having our emotions disqualified with a single word.
It becomes scary when one is called sensitive. The instinct is probably to retreat and not express how invalid such a label is, in fear of supporting the claim. But, it’s important to keep in mind that sensitivity to emotions simply proves that a person knows themselves well.
So, don’t be afraid to address issues even if the other person sees it as an act of sensitivity. Make it clear to them why being called that is invalidating and firmly reiterate your points. Take the risk to effectively communicate, because ultimately, risk comes with everything, but it's up to the individual to make themselves heard.
Sometimes people don’t want to hear us, but the best we can do is try. And, if someone doesn’t want to listen or they disregard it, they shouldn’t even be in our lives.
Different people have different levels of comfort in relation to different things. It's part of what makes us unique and human. Therefore, people shouldn’t have to diminish their feelings in order to fit into a set standard of society.
Emotions are meant to be felt, not ignored. And by acknowledging and authentically confronting our emotions, we end shaping our lives for the better, in a healthy and productive manner.