24 ‘Harmless’ Comments That Hurt Highly Sensitive People
Highly sensitive people (HSPs) notice things that slip past many people — the brush of coarse fabric, the pull of good art, the shift as the sun pulls away from the cloud cover. They feel things deeply and are easily affected by the words and feelings of the people around them.
Sensitivity is not a weakness. However, HSPs are prone to overstimulation when their environment becomes intense, and may find themselves in need of support from their loved ones. Unfortunately, many HSPs find that the people around them don’t understand their experience or know how to help them. Well-meaning but misguided friends and family members often advise them to “get over” their feelings or be ‘less sensitive.’ HSPs come away from these conversations feeling invalidated and alone.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of comments like these, you’re not the only one. We want you to know that your sensitivity is a gift and you deserve to be accepted as you are. If you’re ever in need of someone to talk to, feel free to post to The Mighty’s #CheckInWithMe page and connect with people who know what you’re going through.
We asked The Mighty community to share the “harmless” comments they’ve been hurt by in the past. Here’s what they told us.
1. ‘Don’t be so sensitive.’
“‘Stop being so sensitive.’ Thanks, I’ll just flip that switch right off bud.” — Lexi M.B.
“‘You’re too sensitive.’ Makes me feel like my emotions are my fault and I have to fix them somehow, even though the most amount of self care I can do right now is personal hygiene and take my meds.” — Shaelee Q.
“My sister in law told me that I was the most sensitive person she’s ever known, after I explained how hurtful her constant jabs were.” — Leslie M.
2. ‘You’re too young to be in pain.’
“I have painful complications with my back, knees, and right hip. I worked double what I usually did over the holidays, and near the end I could barely walk. I was having muscle spasms, numbness, and stiff muscles. But I’m told I’m making it up or it’s all in my head because I’m ‘too young to have pain.’ Tell that to my leg that went completely numb while trying to walk up my stairs to go to bed, and my seized back that left me unable to sit up and get out of bed by myself.” — Caitlin S.
3. ‘Just get over it and move on.’
“’Get over it’ because I feel like invalidates my feelings and that I don’t have support in how I’m feeling.” — Misty Spring P.
“’You’re one of the weakest women I’ve ever dated. Other women don’t let things bother them like you do. They just get over it and move on instead of feeling so much. Why can’t you do that?’ Honestly, it both crushed and infuriated me. Feeling things and being able to keep going without just shutting out the world is, in my opinion, one of the greatest strengths. And to have someone I loved, who said they loved me, not be able to see that was devastating.” — Amber S.
4. ‘You’re crying again?’
“’Oh, she’s crying again”… I think the ‘she’s crying again’ thing is the worst because I think people assume if you cry a lot that you do not still experience the feeling behind the crying…for example, if I see a piece of art and it makes me cry, I am not just crying to cry. I am not ‘making’ myself cry, I have true feelings and emotions that trigger those tears. I cry all the time. A beautiful song, an amazing sunset, a memory, a commercial, every time my daughter plays in the marching band (even though the music is the exact same at every game for that year)… but I still have the emotions… I am proud of her and that makes me feel emotions and I cry happy tears… do not dismiss my feelings just because I cry a lot.” — Cathi Jo F.
“’You cry too much!’ I’m sorry. I’m sensitive and cry easily, it’s my way of releasing my emotions.” — Theresa H.
5. ‘I understand.’
“Actually, I often hate the phrase or wording of ‘I understand’ when I am going through what feels like a crisis for me and I am spilling all this deep (and sometimes dark) personal information with someone. Wording matters. Try ‘I understand only what it’s been like for me, but not what it’s like for you. I’m here for you. What can I do to help?’” — Christa L.
6. ‘You need to be stronger than this.’
“‘It takes a lot of hard work to develop inner strength, but it’s worth it!’ Umm… being sensitive does not mean I lack inner strength. In fact, I probably have more than you!” — Mary C.
“Being told I need ‘thick skin’ or to be more ‘mentally tough.’ I tried those suppression strategies and they only made things worse. Real strength is willingness to embrace emotion.” — Ger E. B.
“You just gotta have thick skin.” — Samantha M.
7. ‘Stop playing the victim.’
“’Don’t play the victim’ I was told this when I finally tried to talk about something horrible that happened to me.” — Jessie L.
“’You like to play the victim’ is said to me whenever I am candid about my issues and bad unchangeable circumstances. I’m also told that things can change if I became more positive.” — Melissa A.
8. ‘It’s OK to be unpopular.’
“We were playing D&D and one of my friends (while in character) said something along the lines of she ‘doesn’t have any friends.’ It hit really hard because that is one thing I am convinced is actually true. So I, more or less, shut down.” — Ashlee R.
“Almost 40 years ago, I was crying about not having friends at church or family close in age who liked hanging around me. My mother said (without malice), ‘Honey, you’re a misfit, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you can find another misfit who understands you.’ That still cuts deep into my heart and my mom has been dead for 15 years” — Rebekah K.
9. ‘Don’t apologize.’
“’Stop apologizing’ or ‘stop saying sorry’ I don’t know what else to say other than to say sorry again which usually makes people mad or more annoyed.” — Jennifer E.
10. ‘You need to stop caring so much.’
“’You just need to care less about what I say.’ The perfect sentence to void responsibility for yourself and invalidate my feelings at the same time.” — Megan M.
“’You take things too personally,’ from someone who never took anything seriously, and would say things to purposely hurt you (they told me this during our friendship). I used to not feel anything ever, and I was finally being able to have emotions and then I was told I was feeling wrong. It was heartbreaking and I think about it every day even though we’re no longer friends.” — Rachel Ann B.
11. ‘There’s always something with you.’
“I was having a panic attack when I was at the casinos with my sister and her husband. I was bawling my eyes out and felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was extremely scary. She looks at me and says ‘it’s always something with you.’” — Sarah S.
12. ‘You should find a hobby.’
“’You just need to find new hobbies and things to do if you aren’t happy.’ Like, no. I have several hobbies. I have a close-knit group of friends and support group that I spend so much time with. I’m not going to magically become happy just because I take another walk or learn another mindless skill that I don’t have time to participate in.” — Erin S.
13. ‘Don’t cry.’
“‘Don’t cry, it’s ok’ – sometimes it really isn’t ok and I need to cry, sometimes I know it’s ok and I still need to cry.” — Virginia C.
14. ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle.’
“’God never gives you more than you can handle.’ In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not handling it!” — Tiffany F.
15. ‘You’re buying a friend.’
“On the verge of a total breakdown, I told husband I felt I needed professional help. He asked if I was ‘ buying a friend.’” — Donna J. M.
16. ‘Everyone’s anxious.’
“Everyone has anxiety, you’re not special.” — Shaun L.
17. ‘You’re too emotional.’
“‘You are so dramatic.’ I feel deeply. All emotions. I can’t stand when people tell me in dramatic. I’m just a passionate person.”
“I’ve been told that I am such an emotional person and too emotional a majority of the time. I’m always apologizing because of that and I always say I would turn them off with the touch of a button I would.” — Jen B.
18. ‘I wish I knew how to fix you.’
“[My husband] often tells me he doesn’t know what to say to help me and wishes he knew what to do to help/fix me. That drives me insane! I never asked him to fix me, and if he could or any of the doctors I’ve seen could, then I wouldn’t have a problem – it is not that simple!” — Tammy C. T.
19. ‘It could be worse.’
“Actually being told I need to learn not to be so sensitive after pouring my heart out to a family member, that hurt a lot. Being told I just need to be happy by a mental health nurse who I went to see when I was feeling depressed and suicidal! Being told by another family member ‘Well it could be worse, you could have cancer’ when talking about depression.” — LouLou Cherry S.
“I was once told “at least you have other siblings” when I said how much I missed my brother. Yes, that is truth. But doesn’t fill the void. Nothing ever will.” — Sarah R
“‘Relax, you’re so tightly wound.’ Was meant as an off-hand encouragement to chill, but it actually made me feel like I was doing something wrong by being highly sensitive. I felt like a two-year-old being scolded for being overwhelmed.” — Justine A
21. A Gesture or a Certain Look
“Sometimes it’s not even a comment, it’s the look in people’s faces. I have suffered mental health issues for as long as I can remember. I cry at everything and I am highly empathetic. When I am proud of my kids I will cry, even if it’s a small thing. I get looks from people like ‘here she goes again’ kinda thing.” — Emma W.
“For me, it’s not even words, it microscopic gestures. Sometimes I’m really good at picking up tiny movements and slight voice changes and others not so much.” — Venus M.
22. ‘You’re overreacting.’
“One of my parents always told me, ‘You are overreacting to things.’ It made me very self-conscious about my feelings and so I tried to bury emotions when they popped up. I did not understand until years later that my empathy is one of my greatest strengths and I should embrace what I feel.” — Kimberly A. S.
23. ‘You’re too nice.’
“‘You’re too nice.’ I hear it all the time and it really bothers me. I know it is coming out of love from others in regards to me needing to set boundaries, but hearing it all the time really brings me down.” — Heather K.
24. ‘It’s going to be OK.’
“I just feel bad when someone says everything will be OK. You’re just carrying a lot of hurt inside you, but you can’t disclose such reason to anyone. You just need to disconnect with people whom you love, but just walk away from people who put you down. It seems so simple, but it took me a long time to figure out happiness. It’s mix feeling.” — Dhiraj S.
If you’ve ever felt put down or misunderstood by a loved one, you’re not alone. Being an HSP can be overwhelming, but it can be beautiful, too. If you’re ever in need of support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted loved one, mental health professional, or The Mighty community.
Image via Getty/Sean824