Humans and Health

The Strength of Sensitivity

A woman practicing meditation
Alice Bennett

Being sensitive can come with a lot of challenges, like being misunderstood and dismissed as a ‘crybaby’ or ‘snowflake’ but Alice Bennett highlights the lesser talked about strengths of being a highly sensitive person. 

If you feel everything more intensely, are prone to crying at seemingly small things and hate loud and busy environments, you have likely heard the phrase “stop being so sensitive” an inordinate amount of times during your life.

Whilst being a sensitive person can seem like a burden and is often dismissed by others, I personally believe that the world would be a better place if more people embraced their sensitive side. 

What is Sensitivity?

You might be familiar with the term highly sensitive person (HSP) – this is a more general name for those who experience sensory processing sensitivity (or SPS), which is a personality trait or disposition of someone who tends to process “stimuli and information more strongly and deeply than others”; characterised by sensitivity and more awareness of their environment, empathy and self-reflection. 

It is not a recognised disorder, unlike sensory processing disorder, which can also be experienced by HSPs and is listed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

There is an estimated 15-20% of the population that could be considered highly sensitive. Neurodivergence can also present as hypersensitivity, particularly in the case of autism commonly associated with overstimulation as well as ADHD.  


Although I do experience difficulties caused by needing a long time to recover after socialising and sensitivity to loud noises, having this trait does, for me, come with its advantages.

Sensitivity is even regarded as an evolutionary advantage by some as HSPs are more aware of subtle changes in their environments and are more alert to danger. 

One of the upsides of feeling emotions more intensely is a deep appreciation of things like art and music. I have always been oriented towards creative hobbies like writing, reading, drawing and music and often would much rather spend the day immersed in a book than socialising, which was often to my detriment.

Whilst I’m sure many other more sensitive people have also been called things like ‘boring’ or ‘too quiet’, our inner world is anything but. 

Acknowledging our emotions, in my opinion, has led to the re-evaluation of how we are treated – both in society at large and in our personal lives.

Feeling deeply also means a tendency to be highly conscientious of others’ feelings. Speaking from experience, some people do not see this as a strength, however more empathy and being thoughtful towards others is something I personally feel the world would benefit from.

Emotional dysregulation and intensity of negative feelings can be a pain, and is often met with confusion or even ridicule, but these intense emotions and empathy is what makes HSPs great friends.

The ‘Snowflake’ Generation: Are We Getting More Sensitive?

Despite all of these strengths, being ‘too sensitive’ is often framed as a weakness, seen as an overreaction and being a ‘spoilsport’.

After the term ‘snowflake’ was coined and popularised to describe younger generations around the same time as the US presidential election in 2016, with The Guardian naming it the “defining insult” of that year, this seemed to have even more of a consensus.

Although there is an assumption that people are more sensitive nowadays, there is actually no evidence to support this, and is likely simply a hereditary disposition. 

Upon further reflection and as the discussion around mental health and neurodivergence has evolved in recent years, undermining someone’s feelings in this way not only feels ignorant and rude, but also could be used in dangerous ways; such as dismissing someone’s reality or discussions about abuse or unfair treatment whether on a personal or societal level, as seen by labelling younger generations with legitimate complaints as ‘snowflakes’. 

Acknowledging our emotions, in my opinion, has led to the re-evaluation of how we are treated – both in society at large and in our personal lives.

Rather than this being a hindrance as framed by certain right-wing media outlets in particular, I think it has enabled younger generations to more readily recognise when they are mistreated or when conditions are unfair, promoting healthy assertiveness in their personal lives as well as more awareness of social issues.

Regardless of whether you have a more sensitive disposition, it seems that younger generations are generally regarded as more sensitive but I personally don’t see this as a bad thing.  


So embracing sensitivity can be positive, despite the way the younger ‘snowflake’ generations are presented. Having this disposition, though it may come with plenty of obstacles, actually comes with a lot of strengths that aren’t often acknowledged. 

To echo neurodivergent movements, rather than feeling as though we should change, I think it’s more important to accept yourself for how you are and how your brain works.

If you are neurodivergent or simply identify as particularly sensitive, it’s important to understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with you – the world just isn’t built with us in mind. 

Alice Bennett

Featured image courtesy of Katerina May via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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