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Am I just too sensitive?

Camden

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I had a situation today that took a lot of will power to overcome. Out of nowhere, my boss snapped at me about something that I was helping with.

I was taken aback at first and then dived into copious apologies. All the while I felt my throat tighten up and tears filling my eyes. I took a deep breath and didn’t dare cry. We had a pretty good meeting after that, but I still feel bad for my mistake and for nearly showing emotion in this employee-boss interface.

This is an ongoing thing and I’ve developed physiological symptoms regarding going to work and interacting with my boss. I’ve lost sleep, been sick, and developed stomachaches before work most days.

I feel like I work really hard and get everything done I need to get done. Not to brag, but I was recently nominated by a fellow colleague for a company values award. I feel like my boss is resentful for some reason and is offloading as much of their work on me as possible. I don’t get any praise or positive feedback when I do something right. However, with any issues regardless of whether or not it deals with me, I get rude, passive aggressive emails, and I’m expected to pick up the pieces no matter who needs help. I think my boss thinks I’m a good employee and therefore tries hard to find something stupid to nail my butt to the wall about almost every week. My boss can also be very aloof and cold, intentionally ignoring me when I actually need backup.

I dread individual meetings with my boss like the plague. I expect to be verbally assaulted and have a lot of work that’s not my responsibility dumped on me. It even upsets me when my boss criticizes and complains about my other coworkers to me behind closed doors. I think that’s uncalled for.

Am I just being too sensitive about all this or is this a real problem that can be improved?
 
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MATD

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I think you have a couple things here. Most people with anxiety are sensitive to many things, criticism being one of them. It stems from lack of self confidence. Another issue is your boss does seem to be an a@@. He doesn’t really show leadership abilities like fairness, etc. You could kiss his a@@ all day long but it wouldn’t get you anywhere and would not be good for your confidence issue. You have anxiety, but you are not stupid. You could approach him and lay your cards on the table, but that takes guts and a lack of fear in losing your job. It doesn’t sound like you are ready to take that kind of stand yet. Keep working on yourself and acceptance first, learn that it is ok to put issues on a shelf for later, when you are stronger. And understand that he is the one who is not in control of his emotions ( for whatever reasons). Don’t accept this behavior as a reflection on you, you don’t have to own it. Bad behavior is always the responsibility of the one who uses it. And keep giving yourself credit for trying to do your best. In the end, our confidence stems from what believe and know about ourselves, we are the only one who will truly stick up for ourselves when the going is tough. You are literally your own best friend. Keep going forward, don’t look back.
 

Camden

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Thank you MATD, I really needed to hear this today. It’s been a tough road and having this type of support certainly helps!

It’s true my self-confidence needs work. I wouldn’t have thought of that contributing to my sensitivity to these types of situations. I think lack self-confidence fuels a lot of my anxiety at work and other parts of my life. It’s not something I talk about much, because I’ve never gotten any good quality and compassionate support or advice about self-confidence issues from anyone, besides on this site and from my counselor. Thank you for that!

My boss is a power-hungry bully, it is what it is. Most people in my office (including the higher ups) are scared of them. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but I had a situation like this in a previous job where someone was promoted to a management position, and they immediately began abusing their power and treating my team and me very poorly. This person thankfully left the company a little over a year later and it was all good after that. I just don’t function well with an intimidating and micromanaging boss who creates a stressful work environment. I just want to be treated with respect, and be trusted to do my job.
 

Jonathan123

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There is no doubt from my considerable experience that the vast majority of anxiety sufferers are very sensitive people. The fact that you nearly broke down when you were got at shows that. I was over sensitive when I had GAD, and on many occasions got upset when someone said something unkind. But now I just couldn't care less about what others think of me. I do what I do from a caring position so that's ok for me. If we listen to ignorant people while in anxiety we would go crazy. Most of their opinions are worthless unless they have suffered. As MATD says, it's a matter of self confidence and self esteem. We are all valuable beings and all are worthy of respect.
Anyone like your boss has problems, and are usually in an emotional state themselves, so they take it out on others. A very common problem in the workplace.
 

Camden

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There is no doubt from my considerable experience that the vast majority of anxiety sufferers are very sensitive people. The fact that you nearly broke down when you were got at shows that. I was over sensitive when I had GAD, and on many occasions got upset when someone said something unkind. But now I just couldn't care less about what others think of me. I do what I do from a caring position so that's ok for me. If we listen to ignorant people while in anxiety we would go crazy. Most of their opinions are worthless unless they have suffered. As MATD says, it's a matter of self confidence and self esteem. We are all valuable beings and all are worthy of respect.
Anyone like your boss has problems, and are usually in an emotional state themselves, so they take it out on others. A very common problem in the workplace.
I am very sensitive to criticism and angry, confrontational interactions, especially from authority figures. I get shaken up very easily by these things.

I wish I could let my self-confidence and self-esteem heal and get to where I can brush off negative interactions as nothing.

I have a very hard time talking about this to most people I know. I’m embarrassed about opening up about my sensitivity and wounded self esteem to them because they will just counter my words with all the good things I’ve done in the past, ultimately making me feel foolish for feeling this way. They make me feel guilty for being sensitive and inconfident. I also feel like I’m expected as a 28 year old guy to be tough-as-nails and be able to handle any challenge or confrontation without any grief or weakness. That’s just not who I am.

I’m so thankful for this online community, and for access to counseling and my aunt who is a retired counselor. It makes a difference to seek support!
 

MATD

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The fact that you shared this indicates that your confidence has grown. That’s a good thing. And as long as you stick with the method, it will continue to grow. Every time you counter the anxiety with the voice of truth, you are standing up to the anxiety, just as a frightened little child stands up to the playground bully. It is helping you grow in confidence even if you aren’t aware of it. And then, boom!, there it is one day, obvious as the nose on your face. This recovery is indeed a strange yet wonderful journey. Do not for one second be ashamed of yourself or your “issues.” All they are is symptoms of anxiety. And you are on the way to recovery. One day you’ll look back and see how far you came and be grateful for the experience. It was worth it!
 

Jonathan123

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The fact that you shared this indicates that your confidence has grown. That’s a good thing. And as long as you stick with the method, it will continue to grow. Every time you counter the anxiety with the voice of truth, you are standing up to the anxiety, just as a frightened little child stands up to the playground bully. It is helping you grow in confidence even if you aren’t aware of it. And then, boom!, there it is one day, obvious as the nose on your face. This recovery is indeed a strange yet wonderful journey. Do not for one second be ashamed of yourself or your “issues.” All they are is symptoms of anxiety. And you are on the way to recovery. One day you’ll look back and see how far you came and be grateful for the experience. It was worth it!
You raise an interesting point about anxiety. It may seem awful at the time, and of course it is, but later, maybe much later, we may be thankful that it happened. I was! I needed a good kick up the pants and I got it for two years. But it changed me beyond recognition.
Never be ashamed of being sensitive. Whether you be man or woman makes no difference. If only more men would recognise their feminine side. Oh yes guys, you do have it like it or not. Just as women have a masculine side. The assertive side. Now when either of these swings too much in the wrong direction, like over assertive women or a submissive man it can cause emotional problems.
'Men don't cry'. That is something I was brought up with and its's utter nonsense. We do! I have done so a lot on my life and I am by no means ashamed to admit it. Emotions should be allowed to express themselves not bottled up which can be mentally dangerous.
I am not suggesting we open up to anyone anywhere. Emotions are very much part of our private lives and should be kept as such, because so much misunderstanding can occur. But on sites like this where we understand it's a good thing to express emotions. Unloading can only be beneficial. It's why counselling can be so useful.
 

Camden

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The boss strikes again :confused: Acceptance helped:)

They (let’s just call him Gordon) as he acts like Gordon Ramsay sometimes, wrote me a very aggressive email today about a relatively small matter. The kitchen faucet sprung a leak earlier this week, constantly dripping and seeping some water onto the counter. A minor nuisance, but nothing to stress about too much. I said I’d call a plumber with our affiliated company, and I did. It took them 3 days to show up to fix this leak. That did not make Gordon happy with me.

It shook me to my core, but I knew better then to crumble under the stress. I knew to accept this bad behavior as something I can’t control, and knew I have the power to navigate this tough situation. I wrote back an assertive email explaining how I did everything in my power from daily follow up phone calls, to calling corporate with this repair company, and finally saying that the plumber showed up today to complete the repair. I listed and documented all of my calls with the company in my email to Gordon to show how diligent I was about getting this fixed. I still got a very curt message back from Gordon saying how disappointed he is with me and the company we use. Not a single “thank you” by the way…

The power of acceptance, some simple relaxation exercises, and a few quiet moments of prayer have helped me to get to a better place mentally. I know what I can and can’t control and I’ve focused on that to help me through this hard day.
 
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MATD

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The moral of the story is that there are some people that you can never please. They just don’t have the capacity to be better (for whatever reasons in their own mental quagmire). Accepting this fact, especially with the proof you provided, is the way to go. You did your best and solved the problem. You also responded to the blowback in a professional way. Gordon is his own problem, you recognized it and you took mental steps to counter the effect. That’s how it’s done, you did good. Eventually, with continued practice and acceptance, things like this will cease to bother you. You will automatically know you did your best and be confident with yourself, and will be able to see Gordon for what he is, a very unhappy man who can’t be pleased.
 

ThankfulJen

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Are you sure you don't work for my mom, because it sounds like you do. Seriously, though, my mom is the same way. Always has been. And whenever I have gotten upset at her behavior she tells me I'm too sensitive. It doesn't matter how well I have done in life. None of my successes count. I will never please her. Because, as MATD stated, there is no pleasing these types. Never. They may even throw a crumb of appreciation here and there but it is short lived. Just a moment of happiness for them where they decided to be nice. It has to be very hard for you as you work for the grump. I had to spend less time talking to my mother, and thankfully, she moved away so I don't have to be told how I never come see her. You don't get that luxury and I'm sorry for that. But it seems you do everything you are supposed to and the best you can do, and that's what counts. No matter what, at least you know you have done what's right. I think that's what matters in the end.
 

Camden

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Are you sure you don't work for my mom, because it sounds like you do. Seriously, though, my mom is the same way. Always has been. And whenever I have gotten upset at her behavior she tells me I'm too sensitive. It doesn't matter how well I have done in life. None of my successes count. I will never please her. Because, as MATD stated, there is no pleasing these types. Never. They may even throw a crumb of appreciation here and there but it is short lived. Just a moment of happiness for them where they decided to be nice. It has to be very hard for you as you work for the grump. I had to spend less time talking to my mother, and thankfully, she moved away so I don't have to be told how I never come see her. You don't get that luxury and I'm sorry for that. But it seems you do everything you are supposed to and the best you can do, and that's what counts. No matter what, at least you know you have done what's right. I think that's what matters in the end.
Oh yes, I know there are unfortunately a lot of impossible to please people out there. Glad to hear your situation with your mom has improved. Sometimes distance can repair relationships.

I love the job itself. I imagine 95% of the issues I have on the job would disappear if my boss wasn’t there. That’s unfortunately not going to happen anytime soon.

My boss “Gordon” has a knack for asking for things to be done in a very specific way, but he asks me in the vaguest way possible. I spend a fair amount of time going to other trusted colleagues to translate what he is asking for. It’s very annoying and Gordon won’t give me the time of day anymore for me to come talk to him. There isn’t any office drama, because it’s all about him and everyone else is scared of crossing him. It’s a strange dynamic.

As my day goes on when the boss is on one of his warpaths, it brings me back to my sensitivity issues. I get nervous easily and have a hard time focusing on simple tasks like typing emails and sorting my letters. I get physical symptoms like headaches and upset stomach too. I startle at small noises like a slamming door or someone sneezing.

Thanks to acceptance, there is a light at the end of the tunnel that can help me feel better about my stressful work environment. I think I can tailor acceptance to accept others’ bad behavior and focus on the positives (i.e. how I am empowered to respond assertively and effectively and continue doing my job to the best of my ability).
 
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MATD

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You are learning friend, getting what acceptance is all about. Acceptance isn’t just about us in a small way, but encompasses the world around us. You certainly are growing, and in such a short amount of time! I’m proud of you. And I’m positive our Father is too.
 

Jonathan123

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Eventually we learn to sort the sheep from the goats. In life situations are unavoidable, and we should be ready for any negative reactions. As MATD says, these people have their own problems, although of course they would never admit it. It's only when we admit we have a problem with relationships that we can do something about it. Being honest with ourselves is so important. If we go into denial and blame everyone else for our actions then we turn in on ourselves and can become paranoid. There is an old saying. 'A man who never made a mistake never made anything'. Accepting life as it comes, good and bad, is essential for our mental wellbeing.

A letter written to a patient of Carl Jung.

"Out of evil much good has come to me. By keeping quiet. repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and hand in hand with that accepting reality - taking things as they are and not what I want them to be,- doing all this rare knowledge has come to me, and more powers such as I have never known. I always thought that when we accept things they overpower us in one way or another. Now this is not true at all, and it is only by accepting them that we can define an attitude to them.
So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow that are forever shifting, and in this way accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides. Thus everything becomes more alive to me, What a fool I was, how I tried to force everything to my own ideas".
 

Camden

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Eventually we learn to sort the sheep from the goats. In life situations are unavoidable, and we should be ready for any negative reactions. As MATD says, these people have their own problems, although of course they would never admit it. It's only when we admit we have a problem with relationships that we can do something about it. Being honest with ourselves is so important. If we go into denial and blame everyone else for our actions then we turn in on ourselves and can become paranoid. There is an old saying. 'A man who never made a mistake never made anything'. Accepting life as it comes, good and bad, is essential for our mental wellbeing.

A letter written to a patient of Carl Jung.

"Out of evil much good has come to me. By keeping quiet. repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and hand in hand with that accepting reality - taking things as they are and not what I want them to be,- doing all this rare knowledge has come to me, and more powers such as I have never known. I always thought that when we accept things they overpower us in one way or another. Now this is not true at all, and it is only by accepting them that we can define an attitude to them.
So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow that are forever shifting, and in this way accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides. Thus everything becomes more alive to me, What a fool I was, how I tried to force everything to my own ideas".
This is really fascinating! I majored in psychology a few years back in college, and Carl Jung was one of the most interesting pioneers of psychology to me.

With Jung’s work in developing personality theory, I definitely see his explanation behind this letter. Accepting the bad with the good is basically taking other peoples’ actions for what they are and being honest with yourself about how to respond. Repression of frustration with others and pretending you and everything around you are perfect is actually detrimental to mental health.

It goes back to setting expectations. I admit I have unrealistic expectations of myself, some other people, and situations. Failing to have those expectations met (i.e. being criticized at work or going through life transitions with zero anxiety) leads to constant disappointment and frustration for me. This is something I’ve talked about in depth with my counselor, and I’ve learned that expectation management is key to being happier and accepting that life is not perfect. It’s one of the best strategies to do as Jung says and “take the bad with the good” and find contentment within myself when I let go of my unrealistic expectations.
 

Camden

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I’m going through a bit of a rough time now. Our dog has life threatening health issues and might not live much longer. With that said, My Mom, Dad, and I are all really worried and upset.

My aforementioned situation has raised my already high sensitivity with other stuff in my life. My boss (Gordon) has been on the warpath this week. “This has to be perfect.” “Those sandwiches from that place are sh***y!” “Get this guy to respond to me in 2 minutes!” are some of his finer moments with me.

We have had a horrible week at work with a lot of major issues outside of our control. Gordon is so reactive and intimidating, it just makes a bad situation at my work worse. His response is to email me petty demands and random questions (that he as the boss should know) every 15 to 20 minutes.

Is this just my heightened sensitivity talking? Or are the rapid fire emails, the profanity, and the hostile behavior grounds for me to take action (I.e. speak to HR)?
 

Vincent

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I'm sorry to hear about the problems you're having with your boss. I've had similar situations with a couple of bosses, and it took a chunk out of me. Actually, I think that's what those bosses intended to do. I took it personally with both bosses, then found out that my coworkers felt the same way I did. Part of the reason I didn't realize that was because these bosses had a group of people they liked. I took that to mean that the bosses were reasonable, and that something about me was falling short. Then I realized that it's just how they operated. They exploded and gossiped and generally needed to be at war with most things, but also had a group of people who fed into their drama. I'm perfectly fine not to be in that clique.

The lesson I learned is that I'm not their friend. I'm a company employee who was assigned to report to my boss. Not all bosses are friendly. Some of them think the workplace is supposed to be a meat grinder. If somebody displays sensitivity that the boss interprets as weakness (because to them, it's about strength vs. weakness), they think hammering the person is how to raise them up. Others don't care about raising up their direct reports. They're the boss and can act how they want, and their direct reports either deal with it or hit the road.

Of course, there's a time to hit the road for your own sake. As the bestseller book is titled, The Body Keeps Score. Too much of the workplace stress you describe can eventually make you physically ill. If the atmosphere starts wearing on you that much, it's a good time to update your resume.

As for the gender expectations, I suggest disregarding those expectations about how you're supposed to show up as a man. That can be hard to do, because society tends to interpret men who fall short of that expectation as sissies. Many men are currently in a period of much-needed examination of the roles that have traditionally been expected of them. They're blowing off those expectations and instead being the individual they want to be. If some of your personality happens to align with things traditionally seen as manly, that's fine. If other parts of your personality don't align with traditional manliness, embrace that as part of the individual you are. Don't let anybody presume to interrogate or "fix" you. You're the person who you determine you are. If you're sensitive to outbursts in the workplace, take care of yourself however you need to.
 
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