People who are tough and aggressive on the surface but incredibly sensitive deep down usually have these 9 character traits

We as individuals and as a society, are overly prone to seeing each other in two-dimensional ways. 

The truth is that people are complex and have many layers. The truth is that many of us are paradoxical and always evolving. 

This is especially true when it comes to socially conditioned ideas of being “strong” or “weak.”

Some of those who seem the toughest and roughest on the outside are actually the most sensitive and sincere on the inside. But they hide it: often out of a fear that vulnerability and admitting how they feel will get them hurt. 

So how can you tell that a tough customer is actually a sensitive soul? 

It comes through in the traits they can’t hide no matter how hard they try.

1) Unbreakable loyalty 

Despite their tough exterior, they’re loyal to the core. 

They are fiercely loyal to those they care about and very protective of their loved ones.

This can be intimidating to some or even come off as over-the-top:

But for this person, their aggressiveness and attitude towards some people is often motivated by protection of those they care about. 

Don’t let the hundreds of tattoos and gruff demeanor fool you: they have a heart of gold.

2) Secret empathy (when nobody’s looking)

This tough but secretly sensitive person has intense inner feelings and empathy, but they don’t show it. 

They are the type who might make an offhand joke about how homeless people are useless and then double back around the block later to give a homeless man some food. 

They do care: but they don’t really like people to see it. 

The reason is that they feel a bit embarrassed by showing this side of themselves, and they also feel it will make some people think they are a pushover or easily manipulated. 

3) Focused on a bigger mission

Those who are extremely sensitive but don’t show it tend to be very mission-focused. 

They don’t just “like” their job or their hobbies, they live and breathe them. 

To those who are a bit more “chill”, this intensity can come off as a bit much, but the drive with which these tough and sensitive folks tackle their goals is actually a sign of their inner vulnerability

They need a mission, because without it they go a bit wild.

As Jenn Granneman writes:

“Sensitive people are seekers, and their deep processing means they think deeply about all aspects of their life. 

“Simply put, a sensitive person will never be satisfied with an ordinary, shallow life.”

This ties into the next point:

4) Looking for the meaning in things

The mission means everything to these sensitive but tough individuals. 

They can bear almost any how if they have a why; conversely, without a real motivation or mission they can become quite belligerent and angry. 

They may look like an unhinged Type A personality or an Alpha male d*ck to others, but these individuals are often just extra sensitive underneath and looking for something to believe in. 

This burning need to find a reason and meaning can make them come off a bit obsessed and intense to more toned down people in their environs.

5) Anger at injustice and lies

Aggressive and tough people can come across as shooting from the hip or very opinionated.

They sound off about what annoys them and aren’t afraid to be politically incorrect or even offend somebody. 

But underneath their tough words and demeanor is often a deep sensitivity and an anger against injustice and lies, or at least what they perceive as lies. 

This can lead to clashes, and the tough person is very unlikely to back down. They’ll torch a friendship before they walk back on their ideals. 

They’ll get in online arguments that end with profanity and blocking. 

They’ll seem (to some folks) like the biggest jerk in the world. 

But the real reason is the sensitivity inside.

6) Picking up the atmosphere of a place immediately 

These sensitive but outerly tough people are often very sensitive to their environment and the atmosphere. 

They pick up on subtle cues and nuances in social interactions and situations that others may overlook.

Some of the best soldiers in history are remarkably sensitive to their surroundings and small changes; they can feel the mood shift as they walk through a town they’re patrolling. 

And this perceptive sensitivity can save teammates’ lives. 

Being tough or aggressive doesn’t mean somebody isn’t perceptive and sensitive to what’s around them. 

“Because you’re so in tune with your environment, you can quickly diagnose what’s ‘off’ about a space,” notes Granneman.  

“You know when the lights are too bright, the layout is claustrophobic, or the chairs are too stiff.”

7) Fierce independence 

Sensitive but tough people tend to be fiercely independent and self-reliant in a way that can be a lot for others. 

They prefer to handle challenges on their own rather than rely on others for support.

This can reach the level of actually going against their own best interests:

This person will turn down help or advice and prefer to do something wrong than to get help or knowledge. 

But they are guided by their own inner compass and sensitivity, which is why they find it hard to sometimes let others in and trust them. 

8) Overly defensive 

Tough folks with a sensitive core are often overly defensive. 

They don’t like to talk about their feelings and often put up emotional barriers to protect themselves from perceived threats or vulnerabilities.

They react badly to being judged and go out of their way to act tough and show their strong side. 

When they are questioned or criticized, they often lash out with anger or bitter comments. 

But underneath that bravado is usually a hurt and deeply sensitive person who just wants to protect themselves. 

9) An artistic and creative side that they hide

Many tough people who seem like big lunks of muscle or dominant vibes are actually quite artistic and creative under their tough exterior. 

They have a penchant for artistic or creative expression, whether it’s music, writing, carving or anything else. 

They don’t usually show that side of themselves to others, but it’s there. 

Hidden under their outer machismo or “bawse lady” vibe is a person who’s actually a very sensitive soul. 

Tapping into the sensitive person underneath

Getting in touch with the inner HSP is all about radical acceptance and self-honesty. 

It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. 

As Caroline Cole, LMFT writes:

“Remember, in a world where many tune out from their emotions and inner world, your ‘secret’ sensitivity is truly a ‘secret’ gift. 

“You are able to experience life through a deeper lens and see the beauty in your experiences.”

Being tough and sensitive may sound like a contradiction, but it doesn’t have to be.

The key is for the individual to turn their grit and strength inward, using it to face their own sensitivity and make it into a gift and a blessing instead of a curse. 

Their outer strength and aggression can be transmuted into the inner strength to face the wounds inside and help heal themselves and eventually those around them. 

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