For the longest time, I associated being sensitive to the pain you would get in your teeth if you bit down on something too cold.  Sensitive people were girls like Mary Anne Spier from The Baby-sitter's Club, eyes prone to welling up with tears when she saw a kitten or possibly a lonely flower.  Sensitive people played peacekeeper and tried to make everyone happy, succeeding in making no one happy.  Sensitive people  enjoy riding an emotional roller coaster and experiencing the highs and lows from one minute to the next.

I didn't want to be a sensitive person, especially after seeing how they got stepped on or taken advantage of.  How they seemed to never stand up for themselves.  I think I have a certain knack for generalizations.

What I never saw coming and got blindsided by, particularly in the last few weeks, is that I am a sensitive person.  That I have been a sensitive person all along.  It bothers me if people are rude / not nice for no reason.  It affects me emotionally if someone's tone in a work email isn't exactly right or isn't erring on the side of politeness.  Or even if they look over their glasses at me wrong.  My eyes well up every time I read my little buddy's CaringBridge blog posts by his mom, reporting on his daily battle with cancer.  I do want all people to be happy, to get along and play nice.

I also pick up cues from my instant messages with friends on gchat, know when they're looking for advice or encouragement.  I can tell when a coworker feels insecure about a certain skill set and can respond appropriately when his manager asks me to boost his confidence.  I could read between the lines, within the first few pages, that Amy is batcrap crazy in Gone Girl.

So why do we hide that we are sensitive and pretend to have a thicker skin and laugh things off?  A girlfriend and I caught up in London last week and had an intense discussion about the status of her relationship.  But we kept punctuating the seriousness, concern and melancholy in her voice with punches of laughter and sarcasm.  Why are we afraid to get serious about the things that matter to us?  Azra touched on this with her blog post this week, in how it relates to not admitting to failure.

I think my personal aversion to being labeled as 'sensitive' is because it's an admission that things affect me.  I am influenced by other things.  That it might be interpreted as a weakness.  Which is silly now that I type it out.  We are all people living on a planet populated by other people and we are all influenced by things.  What does being unaffected, strong and independent all the time get you?  Does it leave you standing tall, proud and alone at the end of the day?  And if that's the prize, do you really want it?

Moral of the story (or the synopsis version): Don't be afraid to care.  Be you.  And be nice to people, as often as you can be.