Why Am I So Sensitive?

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Reader’s Question

Why am I so sensitive? I take comments so seriously. If I don’t like someone, their comments don’t matter at all, but when I start seeing someone as a friend, even the smallest negative thing they say about me hurts me, even if I know they are joking. I am really tired and feel like I just want to get everyone I care about out of my life because caring about someone hurts too often and too much.

Psychologist’s Reply

It sounds like you think there are only two ways that you can live your life: let people get close to you and get hurt or get everyone out of your life completely. However, there is another alternative which would make everyone happy. You can learn how to be in relationships without allowing them to hurt so much. It is a difficult process but well worth it.

The first step in this process is working on increasing your self-esteem. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines self-esteem as confidence and satisfaction in oneself. I would add that it is a rock solid core sense of yourself that is difficult to shake. And that is where I think you are struggling. Your extreme sensitivity could be because you are uncertain whether what people are saying about you is true. However, if you know deep within yourself that they are incorrect in what they are saying (or that they are correct and you need to work on changing that), you would not be nearly as hurt and instead would laugh and take it in the joking way it was intended.

In order to increase self-esteem, I suggest first doing a self-evaluation. An easy way to do this is to ask yourself if you would be friends with yourself. Most people answer yes, so then you list the qualities that make you a good friend. Think of examples of times when you displayed these characteristics and behaviors and then build from there. Keep focusing on your positive qualities and take special note of them. Challenge negative or inaccurate thoughts about yourself. If this is too difficult a task to do by yourself, you may want to enlist the aid of a mental health professional or get a self-esteem building workbook.

While working on yourself, it might also be helpful to figure out whether your friends are truly joking with you on occasion or are being purposefully hurtful. Getting to the point where you are considering getting everyone you know out of your life sounds extreme for only a few jokes. This leads me to believe that perhaps their comments are more than just jokes. True friends do joke around, but they also are very supportive and nurturing. If your friends are the kind who are humorously negative more often than they are encouraging, it may be time to make new friends. Human beings are social animals, and we all need people around us in order to have happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. Just make certain they are the kind of people who will assist in building your self-esteem instead of tearing it down.

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