When “being sensitive” becomes “being petty”

I’m a sensitive person–in a bad way. I remember what people say to me and I let it get to me forever after.

A few months ago, my dad laughed at the fact that I lacked eyebrow hairs when his were so bushy. “Where are your eyebrows?! How come you didn’t get any of mine?” he joked. Just because of that one comment, I now obsessively ogle at people’s eyebrows and lust after the thickest ones I see.

A year ago, my good friend stopped me before I could offer a homeless person my leftover food. She pointed out that it seemed “mean” to give a person something that was basically my garbage. She made a good point, but rather than acknowledging this, I instead stayed hooked onto the fact that she called my action “mean,” took it personally, and cried right in front of her.

Three years ago, I took my glasses off in front of my two guy friends who proceeded to tell me I looked “weird” without glasses. Ever since, every time I wear contacts, I secretly hope to hear compliments from other people to validate that I don’t look weird. If I don’t hear it, I’m in a visibly bad mood.

My reactions don’t make sense. My dad was just joking around. My friend was critiquing my actions, not insulting me. As for my two guy friends, well, they were just being jerks, but they probably didn’t think that their words would have this effect on me.

I wasn’t always this sensitive. I remember as a kid up to high school, I lived with a childish sense of confidence that enabled me to roll my eyes at anyone who talked bad about me. I think I developed this sensitivity about three/four years ago, but back then, I had a valid excuse. I was suffering from depression and I was surrounded by people who said some actual messed up things to me. I have my ex to thank for comments like, “You’re stupid,” “You’re useless,” and, “You look like you’re pregnant.” And of course there was the usual good stuff from my family and friends, a la: “Depression/anxiety/your problems aren’t real, it’s all in your head.” These comments, combined with my negative thoughts, upset me to the point that I didn’t want to leave my room for days. I became scared of criticism.

Fast forward to the present, I have come to the point where I understand that these malicious words of the past, no matter how hurtful, are not true and don’t deserve my attention. Despite knowing this, I am still sensitive. Or perhaps the word “sensitive” isn’t the right word to describe how I’ve been feeling. Three years ago, I was “sensitive” because I was actually going through a difficult time. I needed love and support more than ever, which I eventually was fortunate enough to find. Now that I no longer have the excuse of my depression, I view my sensitivity in a different light. I’m “sensitive” in that I’m actually “petty.” If anyone makes any form of criticism against me–even if it’s a joke, even if it’s constructive, even if it’s not even about who am but just about something I did–I take it personally, I get upset, and I hold long, deep-seated grudges.

I don’t want to be petty. I don’t want people to think they have to walk on eggshells around me. I want them to be nice, courteous, but not afraid of hurting my feelings all the time. If they have an issue with me or a suggestion on something that I could do better, I want people to be able to feel comfortable with confronting or critiquing me.

Besides, being petty just doesn’t help me in terms of my overall happiness. It just makes me obsess over words that people say carelessly. It’s stressful. It’s a waste of time and emotions. And as someone who wants to become a writer or to at least work in the publishing industry, I need to be able to take criticism all the time and actually improve based on it.

Currently, I’m trying to stop myself before I can react to something in a petty way. A few days ago, my friend stopped talking to me mid-text conversation after I asked her a question. Two days ago, I realized that an acquaintance I thought was following me on Instagram had at some point un-followed me. Yesterday, when I tried to squeeze past a guy seated in the library, he gave me a look, scoffed, shook his head at me, before proceeding to make room. These are all small things that would usually be enough to upset me for a good hour or two. But I stopped myself. I told myself to calm down. I told myself not to overreact. I reasoned with myself:

Maybe my friend was busy? And it’s not like I never dropped text conversations. People get distracted. It happens. 

It’s not like this acquaintance is a close friend. Maybe she realized she didn’t really care about my life updates. Why do I expect her to care?

Maybe the guy with the weird look had a bad day, hence the random attitude? Anyways, why do I even care about how a random stranger looks at me?!

The result: I asked my friend the question again. I shrugged off the guy’s look. I moved on with my life.

As for that acquaintance… hell, I un-followed that bitch in a hot second. Petty or not, it’s an eye for an eye, right? (Clearly, I still have some issues to work out.) – Eunice

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