To Hug or Not To Hug

Looking back, I was a hug monster when I was a kid.

I loved to wrap my little arms around my family members and squeeze for minutes. No one was safe, not even my grandmothers.

I was taught that hugging was a wonderful way of expressing one’s love to another and I loved how they felt … which is why my little head couldn’t understand why my sister always avoided them — whenever I tried, she would either tense up or run away as if I was afflicted with some contagious life-threatening disease.

I wasn’t particularly hurt because I knew that it wasn’t personal — I simply found it odd.

Why didn’t she like hugs?

It took me years to understand — through the experiences of others and my own.

As I grew older, I realized that I sometimes had an odd reaction towards hugs. Sometimes my body doesn’t want to be touched and, when someone approaches me, I can feel my body retract into itself in an attempt to escape their touch.

Through time, I have also met others who are sensitive to the touch of others — from casual acquaintances to awesome best friends. They all have their own reasons for why they prefer not to be touched and, as hard as it can be for some people to believe, they are not always due to past personal experiences.

Some people are simply born with higher sensitivity to physical stimuli and that’s normal — there’s nothing wrong with you.

Regardless of whether or not you have this higher sensitivity, it’s important to be aware of it and respect those who have it.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t hug people or touch them — these are all wonderful things. However, before doing so, make sure that the other person feels comfortable with it.

Ask them.

A hug serves no purpose if any of the people involved feels distressed or uncomfortable.

For example:

What did I do:

One of the families I babysat some time ago had a seven-year-old girl that loved unicorns and coloring — for privacy, let’s call her Z. During my first day working with them, her mother told me that Z did not like being touched much and not to take it personally.

  • Whenever I arrived at the house, I asked whether or not I could hug her — and that it was alright if she said no.
  • When it was time to put her to bed, I always grabbed one of her plushies and asked her who she wanted a goodnight kiss from: me or the plushy.

I never minded when she said no or when she chose the plushy and I made sure she knew that.

To this day, my proudest accomplishment during babysitting was that, by the end of my babysitting days, Z was running towards me to hug me whenever she could and would occasionally choose me instead of the plushy.

This doesn’t always happen — occasionally, regardless of how much bonding one develops with another, one still doesn’t feel comfortable being hugged.

Hugs aren’t for everyone and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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