You’re Not Being 'Too Sensitive'—At Work Or Anywhere

by Angela Anagnost Repke
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“I’m probably just being too sensitive,” my friend said while telling me a story about a work disagreement. “Yeah, I should probably just wait it out. Make sure I’m not being irrational,” she continued.

My friend kept interrupting herself. Her feelings and the facts banged together like cymbals—the conflict within herself grew louder. She wanted to voice her opinion, her feelings. They did belong to her. Yet, she didn’t want to come across as “too emotional.” As many women tend to do, she wasn’t validating her own feelings.

Most women have uttered words similar to this or been accused of being “too sensitive.” Society has painted what our outer portrait should look like. Our pencil skirts should be cinched at the waist and our makeup drawn perfectly. Don’t furrow your brows, especially in public. No way, that would mean you were upset with something or someone. Yes, we must act composed, rational, and well-mannered—always.

Screw that.

Humans are creatures who feel. We feel sad. We feel happy. We feel disappointed. We feel excited. We feel pissed off. Society has made it acceptable that women’s feelings (men’s too, for that matter), aren’t valued. Yes, we can feel happy and content, but sad or angry—no. Society says, if you’re a woman and you feel upset, then you need to suck it up like a vacuum. Leave it in there. Don’t empty that bag. Never empty the bag.

Only, if you don’t empty the bag, the feelings don’t go away. The dust of anger and sadness accumulate inside of you until you’re about to burst. But don’t burst. Don’t let those feelings out. If you do, then you’re a real whack-job.

I used to be a professional vacuum myself. If motherhood made me feel sad, I’d suck in those feelings. If anyone ever offended me, my bag of emotions only puffed out more. But I don’t care anymore. I spit my dust out if I need to. Life is hard. Let people know about it. Tell them how they’re pissing you off. Tell them you’re hurt. Be raw.

Just the other day I sat in my chair during a discussion during a grad class. Ironically, the topic revolved around feminism. Differing opinions swatted around the room like tennis balls. I noticed one young woman blushing. She kept trying, very politely, to interject her opinion. But no one listened. And if they did, her words were misconstrued—likely because she was acting meek—which made her an easy target to get trampled.

Finally, I made the decision. “Let her speak,” I said. “She’s been trying to articulate her point for ten minutes!” I emptied my bag and let the dust fly around the classroom. I wasn’t fully composed anymore. I spoke with passion.

And, finally, so did my classmate. Both of us, together, no longer cared how composed we were. We weren’t. And didn’t matter. The rest of the class listened to us better that way. We verbalized our points and made a mess in the room. But it got better. Our classmates valued our thoughts, and even our emotions. After we let it all out, we weren’t ridiculed. Somehow, we were taken more seriously. Things had to get a little chaotic before they were neat again.

The next time you find yourself in a conflict (yes, even if it’s at work) and you think you’re being “too sensitive,” you’re not. You’re just being a human who feels. Don’t suck up your emotions like a vacuum. Empty that bag—even if it makes a mess. You can always clean it up.