Haven't read any replies, Im really lazy (im sick its my excuse) so sorry if this is all repeat stuff.
So, this is a really interesting question because not only is it something everyone can relate to, but there are SO many ways it can go.
Is sensitivity a strength? a weakness? If you're crying every time you watch the news you might just change your news sources. Or.. you can see it as a weakness and an inability to function in something that should go smoothly. People that say things at work in a business like manner--neither particularly polite or rude.. are they being rude by default for not being polite because really how hard is it to just say please and thank you? Or are they okay doing that and you're the only one always upset about a culture that works fine sans you being there?
I think the strength/weakness bit completely depends on how it affects YOU. Are you constantly losing friends? Are people afraid to tell you the truth because of how you'll react? Do you notice yourself always very upset and distraught and it stresses you out vs being able to take a few punches in the daily grind? Because the reality is there are tons of sensitive people out there... you could change your sphere, your location, be around people just as sensitive.
But the truth is, what I found is most 'sensitive' people that go look for others like them find out that they're somewhere on the sensitivity spectrum. That someone is always more sensitive than they are, and they find themselves in the very position of the people they were getting butthurt about before. Something innocent is said out of culture/circumstance and the other person is offended.
I think that sensitivity to the RIGHT things is absolutely a strength. Right things being things that do not cause negativity in your life. Being sensitive to the plight of others is definitely a strength, for example. Not being able to be a park because when a child skins his knees and cries it makes you cry too? Probably not such a strength. Being sensitive to the stranger yelling in line because he's got anger issues? Sure, that's fine, get a bit offended by his attitude. Crying in the middle of your work place because of it even though you don't even want to? Probably not a strength at that point. If you feel beat up by the end of the day, then I'd say that it's important to ask how to stop being so sensitive.
Systematic exposure is best. Just like phobias, where people are irrationally afraid of spiders, being exposed to spiders over time helps. It's conscious, active effort. Will they ever be like "Oh yeah, spiders, I got this"? Probably not. But they won't scream, have a melt down, and try to set their own house on fire just because a daddy long leg happened to be in the corner of the garage. I think if you took the time to talk to others--both more sensitive than you, and tougher than you, and actively worked towards finding ways that help you turn a situation positive, you'll be on the right track.
I think I was a bit more sensitive as a teenager than I am now. I was a pretty sweet girl. The military definitely exposed me to both tough people and more sensitive people. And the reality was, I gravitated towards the more tough skinned people. I mimicked them, and asked them questions, and tried to wrap my head around it. It worked for me.
Even now, thinking I'm tough skinned and all of that, I realize I get butthurt very easily when it comes to someone I love saying the same things to me that wouldn't phase me from my friends. It's always a work in progress, but I like the challenge.
If your only motivation is because people are whining and complaining that you are who you are though, I'd say forget it. Peer pressure won't work that way unfortunately. We'd have a lot less rudeness if people could make others change. So if it's just others being all frowny faced, it's easier to give those guys the boot. If it's your family, I'd say move away and visit on the holidays. Otherwise, it'll build up resentment and make you feel like a failure and you'll start bottling up emotions.
For me, the best way to start was just to say nothing and smother people with kindness for a while. Didn't matter what they said to me, I had a formulaic answer and reply for almost anything. It helped me keep my distance as much as possible. I sort of got thrown into the sharks, but I learned to swim pretty quickly. I'd suggest something much slower. Maybe go to a place with some neutrality. For me, physical pain was much easier to figure out than emotional pain. Working out, lifting weights, shooting a gun, kickboxing, wrestling.. those things hurt. And I was okay with that. It was positive, and a good influence, and the crowds it attracts tend to be tougher people. I found myself among others in a way that bound us together for one reason or another. I didn't have to be tough.. I just had to focus on my lessons. The jokes and punches came as they would. I could figure out how to deal with them side-by-side. When my drill sergeant said something extremely sexist and it pissed me off, I could run.. and my legs burned, and my chest burned, and it felt like I was fire because inside that's how I felt. I went from being the 3rd slowest runner in the company to being in a decent regular running group. And I hate running.
My turn around point was when I saw a girl that was suicidal. She had attempted suicide.. and I was one of the girls charged with caring for her. Every day. All day. I watched her shower. Took her shoelaces on and off every night. She slept, and I didn't, and I'd only get 3-4 hours of sleep with a 17 hour work day of constant yelling in my face. I lost personal time. Time to write to my family, boyfriend, etc. No phone time when you're on duty. I was the last person to eat--I had to watch her eat, inspect her food and pockets before and after each meal, then go get my food and shove things in my mouth like a savage squirrel and chew on the way out the door. AND SHE COMPLAINED. CONSTANTLY. I listened to her talk to me like we were friends. Like I cared. I wanted to care--why wouldn't I hear someone out who was trying to take their own life? But... I became so numb to this sensitive little (I'll c-ensor myself here.. I rarely use the word, but that's what I called her in my head) that I just lost it. All my fucks were gone when they had my favorite item on the menu for a change (pudding with whipped cream) and I could actually eat it that day and I missed out on it because, hey, time to go. And I was so upset about this stupid pudding. She didn't care not one bit about it. Any of it. She slept like her mother was cradling her. And my drill sergeant walked over to her sleeping, and me awake, and she said, "Does it piss you off that she's just sleeping like a baby?" and I just said, "Yes, Drill Sgt." without even thinking. And she kicked that girl's bed and woke her up and just smiled and said, "Hey, Private, just makin' sure you're still alive." and walked off. This girl had attempted suicide not but 3 weeks ago, and it was just a joke to this lady. Because she sees stupid suicides every cycle. Someone always is stupid enough to join while knowing they're too sensitive to handle it. She lost all her fucks for people trying to take their own lives. And I thought.. God damnit, I wanna be like that. I'm tired of caring about this girl not dying. It's too much. Also.. I don't want anyone to have to be exhausted just dealing with me. I don't want to be exhausted dealing with others. That really cemented it in that maybe I wasn't the nice girl I thought I was and that people wanted me to be.. and that maybe I was just a little sensitive and butthurt over stuff easily, and I masked it with niceness and avoiding tough situations.
I've always been one of the guys. That part came easily to me; I was also rarely involved in joking around, or making fun of people, or shit talking. None of it was for me. Now-a-days, looking back, I'm not nearly as sensitive as other women. Clear as day I was a lot tougher than I felt at the time. But I grew tougher skin, and I did it with exposure. So.. that's what I recommend. Systematic exposure. Something you cannot just run away from, curl into a ball, and quit.