Are You Being Picky, or Just Being Highly Sensitive?

by Caroline van Kimmenade

Is there a difference between being picky or Highly Sensitive? Or do they boil down to the same thing?

Does being Highly Sensitive mean being picky? It can, right? When you’re more sensitive, certain things have a bigger impact on you, so you can end up being a lot more picky about these things than other people are. That is totally fine!

But what about the reverse argument: does being picky mean that you are Highly Sensitive? Does High Sensitivity equate and guarantee being picky? If so,”should” there be limits to how picky you can be?

I just couldn’t resist. I was putting together a media page of interviews etc. and found this single, lonely comment below one of the interviews I’ve done:


podcast comment screengrab


And I’m going to actually break this down as a case study on what is being picky and what is being a Highly Sensitive Person.

You betcha!

I’m going full nerd on something most people would say I should just ignore! But, for good reason, you’ll see at the end. Teachable moment and all.


1 – First off, getting annoyed when someone does something you don’t like is pretty human (and being human is a good thing – just want to clarify that for the robo-enthusiasts out there).

I actually learned to speak English as a kid in California – dude! – so I do say “like” a lot more than many people do. It was conditioned into me for two years and even though I say it less now, clearly I still say it.

(I went back and listened to the interview – yes, there are many places where I say “like”, like, a lot, like really.)


2 – Secondly, everyone is entitled to stop listening to anything for any reason. Mais oui. Especially online. Well, except maybe if you’re in an undercover briefing or something. Or when you’re driving in heavy traffic (tuning out traffic sounds is not a good idea). Or in an important class on how to use dangerous machinery at work. Hmmm. But podcasts online? Do whatever. You can play them in the background and sing over them, out of tune, just because you’re alive. Whether you are being picky, Highly Sensitive, or both, you are absolutely entitled to stop listening to podcasts.

  • You can burn them on a cd and use them as a coaster.
  • You can play two podcasts at the same time, so you don’t know what anyone is saying.
  • You can pause the podcast every 30 seconds and imagine you have the power to make The Like Lady stop talking.

But here’s where things are getting tricky: why leave a comment? Especially when it’s the only comment on a virgin page. (Not like on some youtube channels where people comment like it’s a fart).



We get it Sarah, we do.

I think anyone reading this comment can imagine having a similar thought at one point or another. Sure. You wonder to yourself “maybe I’m just being picky, but…”

But would you publicly post it as a kind of “review”?

Would you walk around and point at people, yelling out: your hair is too long for your face! That car is ugly! I hate this streetlamp! That sale is dumb! He has a fat nose! She is too thin! Those colours are not coordinated!

I mean, if you did that, what on earth would be the point? All you’d do is create a stink.

So, that part of it is just a little weird. Being picky or Highly Sensitive doesn’t have much to do with it. You can be picky and simply move on. You can be Highly Sensitive and just switch off something you don’t like. 


Nevertheless, I’ve come up with some possible explanations:

Scenario A. The Hero

Sarah wanted to warn other Like-AntiThusiasts about my use of the word like: “don’t get started on this podcast! You’ll hear the word like so much, you won’t like it!”

A bit like saying: “don’t buy your coffee at this place, the cups have little drawings on them! Also, the cookies are the wrong colour and don’t match the decor.”

Fair enough. I was completely unaware that there would be hordes of people who are allergic to the word like, but if they exist, they must be warned. (Also, they must make a note to NEVER go to California)

Perhaps, all my life, people have thought (but never said) to my face:

Gosh, this lady sure says “like” a lot, I really can’t listen to her any longer! Now, how about I use my time productively and make a shopping list in my head while I stand here awkwardly and she keeps babbling on.

If that were true, it’s pretty cool that people pay me for coaching sessions anyway. I mean all that money just to make a shopping list in their head!

I’m getting side-tracked into silly rabbit holes. Moving on.


Scenario B. The Expressor


Sarah was just thinking out loud and didn’t really have anyone to talk to.

Must express this thought, somewhere. Ah… a comment section! *relief*

Like emptying your bladder after being on a long bus ride.


Scenario C. The Underdog


Sarah was insulted and felt mistreated. She started on a free interview and it wasn’t to her liking.

How dare the internet! And that lady! And humanity in general. What a waste of time! *must get revenge and leave negative comment*

Also functions as a nice thank you for Kat – for doing all that work setting up the interview and getting it online. Double thumbs up.

Thanks (not!) for baking a cake, sending invites, and organising a party grandma.

Of course, we must remember that Sarah is the victim here and not derail into victim-blaming. I mean, who do I think I am? A white heterosexual mansplainer?

O.k. o.k., calm down Caroline.


Scenario D. The Confused

Sarah was annoyed about something else. Maybe something I said hit home. Maybe she had a bad day. She wasn’t really sure what irked her, but she did notice I said “like” a lot, so that must be it!

Pro tip: that is ALWAYS it.

  • Weather got you down? The weatherman said like too much.
  • Politics going to hell? Someone said like too much.
  • Your cat ran away? Someone said like too much.



So, was Sarah just being picky?

I don’t think so, I think she was just missing the point.

Picky would have been “I enjoyed XYZ about the interview. Too bad the lady said like so much, that really annoyed me”. Picky means that you are not easy to please. It doesn’t mean that you’re impossible to please. (When people use “picky” to describe someone who IS impossible to please, they’re just sugar-coating.)

Being picky means you have certain criteria that you use to evaluate things. Your criteria are stricter than most. Yet, for someone who listened to at least part of the interview, she has surprisingly little to say about the content.

Isn’t the content what matters most?

Isn’t it what someone shares that is most important?

And if she thought the content itself was garbage, wouldn’t that have been a much better burn? I mean, wouldn’t that have made for a more useful review?

And if she couldn’t hear my words because she was bombarded by likes, why even bother listening for more than a few minutes?


scared lady getting attacked by likes


(I have to assume that when she says she couldn’t make it halfway through, halfway being 22 minutes, that she still would have listened to 15 minutes or so. Otherwise, it would have made more sense to say “I only listened for 2.5 minutes” and that would have undermined the gravitas of her comment. Because WHAT IF I only say “like” the first 3 minutes of any interview? That wouldn’t be a lot).

So no, I think comments like this are not “just being picky” and they are not “just being HSP”.

And I think it’s like, actually kind of like dangerous when like, people equate getting really annoyed easily with being HSP.

Because guess who gets annoyed very easily and often also feel like they need to tell everyone about that and just “share their truth”? Narcissistic people.



And Now the Point: The Big Misunderstanding about Sensitivity

Now, I don’t know Sarah. And she probably doesn’t know me. Otherwise, she would have probably mentioned me by name. So, I’m not here to make any assessments about what kind of person she is based on one little comment.

Just like (I hope) she isn’t here to make a grand assessment about what kind of person I am, based on my use of the word “like” in that particular interview.

But I want to use that comment of hers to point out a huge misunderstanding:



If we start to allow for this kind of reasoning, then we’re blurring the distinction between HSP sensitivity, and narcissistic sensitivity.

And that is a distinction I believe is crucial to keep.

HSP sensitivity is about simply noticing more things. And then you can get overloaded because there is too much input.

Narcissistic sensitivity is about blaming other people for experiences that are mostly the result of inner thought and feeling processes.


So HSP sensitivity in itself is just:

Oh look, so many things are happening

While Narcissistic sensitivity is a version of:

I feel bad, now whose fault is it?? It’s definitely nothing to do with me.


Getting annoyed a lot over little things others do, is often more about a judgment made about observations, than it is about what actually happened.

Someone can notice: “Oh, interesting, she says “like” a lot. Maybe she spent time in California”.

In other words, you can notice without being annoyed about it.

Yet if your thoughts go like this:

And there, she does it again. Says like again. It’s as if she never even prepared. She doesn’t give a hoot about the listener! Otherwise, she surely wouldn’t say like so annoyingly much! Who does she think she is, with her “like this, like that”. If I were interviewed, I would definitely not do that, and I also wouldn’t say “ehm!”

Keep thinking like that and you’ll be in a bad mood in no time!

It’s like going to see a show and there are some good things about it and some bad things. You were looking forward to going but rather than focus on what you enjoy about it, you hone in on one thing you don’t like and then that becomes all you think about. And at the end of it, you blame the show. The lighting issue was so annoying that you missed the show completely, it’s their fault!

This is not sensitivity in a HSP sense, it’s letting negative thoughts spiral out of control and then blaming “what started it” on someone else.

So in other words, when little things become huge distractions, it’s important to check in:

  • Is there something else going on with me right now? Was I already wound up and am I taking it out on something / someone else now?
  • Are there lots of negative thoughts running through my head right now that make me more and more frustrated? If so, I need to pause that loop!

And yes, these things can happen to anyone, including Highly Sensitive People. But let’s not attribute it to “I’m just Highly Sensitive” or “I’m just picky”.

And if we’re going to be all blamey about something, I actually prefer the teenage version: “you suck with your dumb “like” all the time. Hahaha.”

It’s not very nice, but at least it’s clear and honest: “I think you’re dumb and I’m cool and I wanted to say that.”

Go ahead dude, say it. I like, really don’t mind.




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