There’s this idea and once you start to think about it it’s kind of funny because it’s so absurd. The idea that some other person can do or be “too much” of something or “too little” of something and I am the all-knowing person who knows just the right amount.
So, for example, I can say, “you talk too much” because I know what the exact right amount of talk a person should do is. You talk too much / too little / too loud / too calm / too fast / too slow. You’re too emotional, too cold, too insensitive, too sensitive.
Seriously, is there anyone here who has never said or heard “you’re too sensitive” or “I’m too sensitive”?
Let’s check the “talking too much” example first.
So, I guess we all can agree that me saying I know the exact right amount of talk a person should do is kind of absurd. Nevertheless, there are of course situations in which another person talks more that I want to hear.
That’s it. More than I want to hear at that given moment. Not because they do too much or too little of something but because I do or don’t want to hear more at that moment. Maybe another day, they might talk only a little and it is already “too much” for me. Maybe they might talk a lot more and it will still not be “too much” for me. It has nothing to do with the other person having the “correct amount” but with me only being able to take a certain amount at a given moment.
So, instead of saying “You talk too much” what if I say “I’m not able anymore at the moment to connect with what you are saying. I’m getting tired. Please stop and let us continue the conversation some other time.”
Back to the “too sensitive” example.
I guess you’ve understood the concept now. When someone says “you’re too sensitive” it’s not that you are too sensitive. It’s just that you’re more sensitive than what the other person can manage right at that moment.
Yes, if you have grown up in an abusive family, the situations in which you’re being more sensitive than what the other person can manage right at that moment may happen more often than for persons who have grown up with non-abusive parents. It still doesn’t mean that you’re too sensitive. You’re just the natural amount of sensitive given your past experiences.
You are just being more sensitive to harsh words than the average person with a healthy self-esteem and you don’t have that self-esteem because your parent hasn’t supported you in building that up so you have to do it now yourself. You’re just being more sensitive to a lack of love or support or safety than the average person because your parent didn’t fill your inner tank with those needs when you were a child so you have to do it now yourself.
You can never be “too sensitive”. You might be more sensitive than the average person around you and in some cases it might be good, in others it might be useful to be only “as sensitive as the others” - something you should not reach by putting yourself down and “hardening up” but by connecting with the reasons beneath the sensitivity through therapy or self-help - but… anyway, who’s to say that the other persons are the “right amount” of sensitive? Particularly in a society where there’s a lack of empathy and feelings and needs are seen as weak?
Let’s end with two of my favourite quotes:
“Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry…”
– Alvin Price, 101 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
― L.R. Knost, Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages