I’m the one my friends make a point to look at while we’re watching a movie to see if I’m crying yet. And, of course, most of the time, I am. I’ve always been a sucker for anything sentimental, and that includes my choice of films. But while it may be okay to shed a tear or two during a gut-wrencher like ‘My Sister’s Keeper,’ it seems that it’s not as acceptable to get your feelings involved in day-to-day life without being labeled as “overemotional.”
That’s me. Even from a young age, I can remember holding back my tears because it seemed like my emotions were a burden to others. Peers and adults alike used to roll their eyes as if to say, “She’s crying … again.” Almost as if I, the empath, was unaware of how much I was crying. But as a sensitive person, of course, I was.
I would internally yell at myself to stop. But, coupled with my inability to settle (no matter how badly I wanted to) and the demeaning looks from others, the result had me crying harder and longer.
“When [highly sensitive] people have information coming in, they process it much more deeply and more elaborately,” Genevieve von Lob, a clinical psychologist who works with highly sensitive children and adults, tells The Guardian. “They tend to take in much more information from lots of different kinds of stimuli. And then they’re processing it more deeply than a non-sensitive person – and because they’re taking in so much at once they can get much more overstimulated, [over aroused] and overwhelmed.”
I’d say I’m the kind of person whose feelings get hurt rather quickly. And no, my tears from such events don’t come with an agenda (no white woman’s tears here). But when something hurts me enough, physically or mentally, I’ve been known to have a good cry about it. And if something makes me happy enough, I cry about that, too.
What can I say? I wear my heart on my sleeve, and it’s frowned upon by many. Folks like me have to learn how to embrace their complex emotional range because nobody else will do it for them. Von Lob said that people who dealt with widespread feelings as a child were probably bullied in school because society “tends to view it as a weakness.”
“I think people who are highly sensitive can often feel lonely and misunderstood, and not normal. The world feels too harsh, too loud for them,” von Lob explains. “It’s not surprising that they struggle to accept themselves, and they struggle to value their gifts because of the messages they have received.”
Being an “overemotional” person doesn’t come without its struggles. It’s not unusual for me to become burnt out or experience a feelings-hangover after channeling my energy towards something that warrants my emotional attention.
Anyone labeled “overemotional” knows what it’s like to be different and the ill-mannered treatment that often comes with it. We are the “snowflakes,” and folks are quick to remind us of that. No filter exists that caters to highly sensitive people, and we are partially thankful for that. It’s not in our nature to look the other way from social issues or other people’s problems when there is so much work to be done about it.
“Some of the strengths are that they are very self-aware, they have this great capacity for empathy,” says von Lob. “So that’s really good in leadership roles. They often are creative people, so they could be the visionaries of our world – they come up with different ways of thinking from the mainstream. They have a very strong sense of justice and fairness. They’re very good listeners, and question rules that don’t make sense. They’re very conscientious, because they look at details. We need these kind of skills and awareness in the world at the moment.”
Simply put, we want to feel ourselves living, which means taking the bad with the good. I, for one, am proud to be a sensitive person because there are far too many insensitive people out there. Folks like me are the ones who raise awareness for important issues like the pandemic, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, and global warming, to name just a few.
No matter who or what we support, a common theme arises: we want to leave this place better than it was. And we have enough passion fueled by our emotions to fully believe that we can do that — even if it means we are only leaving the world better for just one person.
I don’t feel like someone can care too much — only too little. So, yeah, I might be what some refer to as an “overemotional” person, but I jump into life every day with my heart fully in it, and I’m happier for it.
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