Sensitive Snowflakes


In Missouri in the early 1860s, a ‘snowflake’ was a person who was opposed to the abolition of slavery—the implication of the name being that such people valued white people over black people. This use seems not to have endured.  Those words fell out of use while snowflake settled into the lexicon with its hushed and lovely literal meaning. In recent times, though, the word has been causing a ruckus. It’s developed a new and decidedly less pleasant use as a disparaging term for a person who is seen as overly sensitive and fragile. In the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. elections it was lobbed especially fiercely by those on the right side of the political spectrum at those on the left. And the snowball fight has continued since. -Merriam Webster

I want to say that this is not political, but I am pretty sure that I am going to say something that someone out there is going to quickly identify as belonging in the box on the left or the box on the right.  I have never thought of myself in political terms, and I can tell you that I have NEVER fit very well inside a box.  As an introvert, and a highly sensitive person, I can honestly say that I have avoided political debates labeled “democratic” or “republican,” because I don’t really like the sport of endless arguing.  I also don’t think in such restrictive terms.  I think in terms of people more than in terms of political parties. That statement in itself is probably enough to make most people stop taking me seriously right now, and I am sure it sounds naive, perhaps even a bit Pollyanna or childish considering how heated things have become recently.  I am by no means uneducated, unaware, or apathetic, but I have always considered myself more of a humanitarian than a politician.   

Right or wrong, I have spent the last few years immersing myself in the research of highly sensitive persons, introversion, mental health awareness, media influence on identity, and social emotional education.  I’ve enjoyed doing my podcast for highly sensitive persons called HSP SOS, and I’ve felt more comfortable allowing myself to be vulnerable and authentic for the very first time in my life.  That being said, I have not turned a blind eye to political issues or what has been going on in the world.  As an HSP, and a truly empathetic person, it troubles me deeply to see hate, intolerance, fear, loss, and intimidation of any kind.  Social and humanitarian issues are my issues.  They have always been my issues since I was a little girl. 

I don’t want to drone on and on.  I want to try and be as concise as I can, and the best way to get to my point is to share a shift I have felt in the past few months.  Like I said, I have never been traditionally “political,” but recently I can’t speak without this overwhelming feeling that I am supposed to be picking up a pitchfork and choosing a side- a side to defend, as well as a side to destroy.  In the past two weeks, I have been accused of being un-American for posting a video in a language other than English on my podcast page.  I have also been labeled a “sensitive snowflake” twice in casual conversations, as well as been witness to endless arguments between family and friends over a variety of political issues.  Right now, if I show concern for all the things I’ve always been concerned about, things like sexism, racism, inequality, hate, intimidation, dishonesty, etc., I am somehow dismissed as just being a “sensitive snowflake.”  On the other hand, if I choose not to make political statements on social media or daily conversations, I am being told that I am also weak for not taking a stand.  I disappeared for a while, enjoyed a bit of my own company, but none of it has really helped me clear my head or figure out what exactly I want to say in this climate.

I guess what scares me is this trend of oversimplifying sensitivity and assigning it haphazardly to a political stance.  As if all sensitive people are this or that, and caring about this issue or that issue makes you weak or strong… American or Un-American.  I probably do sound like a “sensitive snowflake” writing about this right now with everything else that is going on in the world.  It is as if I can still hear the adults of my youth telling me that I need to just “toughen up,” “deal with it,” “get over it,” or “get a backbone.”  There is a reason, however, why as a nation we still struggle so much with bullying mentality.  It is because we oversimplify everything.  We like to keep things in neat little boxes to help us live our lives… bully vs. victim, right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, and now left vs. right.  We like to compete.  We like to blame.  We like to be on the correct side of things.  All of these are things I’ve struggled with my whole life.  Choosing just one side, or seeing things as black or white, is nearly impossible for my INFJ mind.

Even when confused, I think I am strong.  Names don’t hurt me personally, but I think they can hurt us all collectively.  I think neat boxes prevent us from understanding the complexity of the issues we face today and the reasons why people are so passionate in this nation right now.  I think it allows for us to have two-sided debates, and two-sided problems, without multi-faceted solutions.  

I am usually a bit more articulate, but lately I am at a loss for words.  I am not certain how to wrap this up.  I kind of feel like I’m just trying to work my way through to figure it all out.  I know I want to clarify my thoughts for all the people oversimplifying my “sensitive snowflake” beliefs.  I do want to demonstrate the complexity of a highly “sensitive snowflake” for anyone that is quick to toss out the term without much consideration.  I guess that’s what I will do.  Maybe other HSPs are currently having some of these same struggles.  Maybe other HSPs are overwhelmed by the nature of conversation right now, and they don’t know whether to be political or quiet.  Maybe there are other people out there that have so much to say, but like me have no idea how to gracefully start a productive conversation.  Maybe there are people just trying to figure out what it means to be a “sensitive snowflake” too.  I don’t really know if this will resonate with anyone, but if nothing else, at least it will let me get some of this out.  Sometimes as a highly sensitive person, do something just for yourself as a kind of release.  That in itself is a good enough reason to do anything I suppose, so here it goes.

My “Sensitive Snowflake” Thoughts 

  • I dislike making fun of people and name calling.  I don’t like it in life, and I don’t like it in politics.  It doesn’t make me weak.  It makes me kind.
  • It upsets me that we accept mocking a candidate’s appearance when we don’t agree with his or her political policies.  It infuriates me when attack a candidate’s child or spouse on the same premise. 
  • I believe in free speech, but I don’t support hateful speech.  I understand that everyone is allowed a perspective, and everyone should find a forum for what they are passionate about.  I am passionate about empathy, kindness, inclusion, diversity, rights for minorities, and combating social injustices.  If someone lacks empathy, supports exclusionary practices, makes fun of others, or has viewpoints opposed to mine, it doesn’t make me against free speech if I walk away or stop listening.  If I choose to challenge opposing beliefs, that is my right.  If I choose to tune-out opposing beliefs, that is my right.  Neither action makes me stronger or weaker.
  • I don’t believe an entire race, religion, or country is the enemy.  I think there are good people, and bad people, in this world.  Sometimes terrible acts of terrorism take place that are impossible to predict.  I want to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of  closing the door to anyone sheerly out of fear.  
  • I believe that if you are in a position to help someone with less freedoms, less power, less money, less opportunities, or less education, then you should.  I don’t believe that everyone poor is lazy, or that everyone without an education is unintelligent.
  • I see a need for innovation and progress.  I understand wanting to strengthen a nation’s economy, and I do not believe all businesses are only concerned with money.  I think businesses are run by people, and different people have different values.  It is important to look at the upside and downside of every business deal to know if it is a good one.  Some regulations do need to be in place to help protect us from situations where profit becomes more important than people.
  • I am worried that a year ago, I felt more comfortable talking about topics like this more publicly.   I have always talked about social issues like women’s rights and social activism, but today I know that if I do talk openly about these same topics,  I will most likely be labeled a “cry-baby” or  called a “nasty feminist.”  I know this, because it has happened.
  • I can understand why an entire race of people feels the need to remind us that their lives are important.  I don’t believe that one group speaking out to ensure their rights as a people takes rights away from me.  I acknowledge that because of how I look, I have been granted opportunities and privileges I never even knew other people were being denied.  It is not about apologizing or blaming.  It is about doing better and genuinely acknowledging a problem exists.
  • When I hear talk about strengthening our military or defending America, and I ask questions, it is not because I am a clueless, “bleeding heart liberal” that doesn’t understand that sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in.  It is just that I want to make sure I understand what exactly it is we are fighting for or against.  My apprehension about embarking on a war before understanding the reasons and consequences, doesn’t make me anti-military.  It just means I am concerned, and I place a lot of value on the lives of family members, friends, and former students that now serve our country.  I don’t take war lightly, and I don’t think anyone ever should.
  • I know that I am providing a good quality education to my students, and I feel confident that my daughter is receiving  a good quality education at her school.  I recognize, however, that there is a disparity in the system.  I worry about children beyond my neighborhood, because I know that a good education can lead to opportunities in other areas of life.
  • I don’t believe in violence, but I believe in a desperate need to be heard when you feel like you have no voice in your own life.  I don’t believe in destruction, but I do believe in disruption.  Disruption of the workday, a roadway, or entertainment is sometimes necessary to gain the attention needed to be heard.  I would never advocate violence, but not all protests are violent.  Some of the biggest changes have come about from peaceful, well-timed words. 
  • I believe that highly sensitive and empathetic people are needed in this world possibly more now than ever.  I worry that we are sending the wrong message to future generations when as adults we make fun of a man for passionately crying, or we mockingly label people as “sensitive snowflake liberals” or  “insensitive republicans.”  Sensitivity does not belong to one side or the other.  

If being a snowflake means I am a multi-faceted person trying to look at this from the vantage point of a mountain top, so I can get a clearer picture of it all, then maybe that term fits.  The term doesn’t even make much sense to me as an insult anyway. Snowflakes are usually well balanced with delicate sixfold symmetry.  They are unique in that no two are exactly the same, yet when they land together on the ground,  they appear as a blanket of uniformity.  They can be glistening flurries, blinding blizzards, or devastating avalanches.  Being called a snowflake is a lot like being called a human, and I said from the start, that I have always been more of a humanitarian than a politician.  

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.