Are you sensitive to noise and light?
Were you—or are you now—bullied or called “crybaby,” “wuss,” or “wimp”? Are you constantly saving animals, insects, and people? Are you inconsolable when you watch something sad or violent? Are you totally overwhelmed by the insane state of the world at the moment?
If so, it’s likely you are more than just highly sensitive; you’re likely an Empath.
An Empath is a person who experiences others’ feelings as their own. This is different from just caring about another person; an Empath actually feels others’ sadness, pain, worry, or even physical ailments in their own bodies. More often than not, the Empath doesn’t know why they feel as they do; they just know it doesn’t feel good.
In day to day life, this means that an Empath (you) may suddenly get a headache or stomach ache when around a certain person, which goes away as soon as that person leaves. Or you might become very shaky or feel extremely emotional or angry for seemingly no reason, but you’re actually reacting to the overload of other’s emotions you’ve picked up throughout the day.
Because you don’t know that you’re soaking in all this like giant feeling-sponges, you likely have no idea what’s really bothering you and can’t articulate it effectively to others (or even yourself). You may find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed and think that something must be really wrong with you because none of your friends or family seem to feel so deeply.
It’s exhausting. It’s isolating. And for many Empaths, it can be such a burden that it develops into anxiety disorders, stomach issues, and depression.
I hate seeing any Empath feeling isolated and in despair, so let me give you a pep talk right now! Here are 6 things you need to hear right now that will (hopefully) help you feel accepted, loved, and supported:
1. You’re not weird.
The best data I can find indicates that about 3% of the population is a true Empath. That means that growing up, if you were in a class of 30 kids, you might have been the only Empath. So, yeah—you likely felt like the odd kid out. You may have even been made to feel like the weirdo as you might have been the target of bullies (or, if you were like me, stepped in to help another kid who was being bullied, thus becoming the target of the bully).
That feeling of isolation stays with you into adulthood as you go into the work world and find yourself in conversations with people who tell off-color jokes, laugh at someone else’s pain, and stab each other in the back for commissions or raises (all things reprehensible to your very soul). Again, if you are in a workforce of 200 people, there might only be 6 of you that are Empaths.
It’s so isolating and depressing to feel like so many in the world are totally fine with hurting other living beings, as long as they get what they want. Even in the work I am in now (where you would think there are higher-frequency, kinder people), I have been horrified to learn how heartless and self-serving some “gurus” can be.
Needless to say, you do feel weird—like you don’t belong anywhere.
Here’s the thing: You’re not weird, you’re unique. Empaths are just an extreme minority of the overall population, so you may feel like you are completely alone and such an alien, but you are not. There are many of us out there; you just have to seek your tribe. You aren’t alone (and I am glad you are here!).
2. You’re not crazy either.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I must be the crazy one”?
I certainly have. Feeling so much more than others can make you feel that you are irrational or not quite right. In fact, if you’ve ever sought help from a therapist or counselor, you might have even been diagnosed with a mental illness that you don’t have. Unfortunately, the medical establishment can take the characteristics of being an Empath—such as feeling overwhelmed by the pain of others, feeling debilitating sadness after a trauma, etc—as a disease and might even try to medicate you. (It happened to me. Thankfully, I knew that there was nothing mentally wrong with me and walked out of the office. More on that in another article.)
However, feeling other’s pain is not a mental illness*. It is not something to be medicated. It is the core of who you are, and once you understand that, you can learn to live with it, honor it, and even use it in your life for good.
3. People don’t feel things as deeply as you, so they may not understand.
I can remember sitting in the movie “Braveheart” with my family. I was 21 years old and unaware I was an Empath, but I did know that I could not take the torture being given to this poor man. Feeling physically sick, I left the theater. When my family emerged at the end of the movie, they could not understand what was so upsetting or why I had to leave.
And so it will be in your life; it doesn’t matter if it’s a TV show, movie, YouTube clip, or even book, you’ll empathize so strongly with anyone in pain (human or animal), that you’ll be unable to watch what others can. You may feel very alone or misunderstood because of this, but know that it’s okay to say that you can’t or don’t want to watch things that are upsetting to you. It doesn’t matter that they don’t understand; it’s not your job to convince them of the reality of how you feel.
4. It’s not wrong to want to help anything or anyone that is in pain.
When I was a child, I would pick up worms from sidewalks and place them back in the grass (I still do this). I would steal the magnifying glasses from people trying to burn ants. I would stand up for kids that were being picked on; I couldn’t stand seeing anyone or anything that was in pain.
I felt like a total alien, because I could not understand how others could be so mean and uncaring.
You’re not an alien; you just feel the suffering of others as your own pain, and you need to make it stop. That’s a really good thing, but it can be very exhausting, too.
5. People may make fun of you or bully you because you are sensitive.
People make fun of things they don’t understand. That’s just a fact. However, know this: Feeling deeply does not make you weak; it makes you strong because you are willing to feel the pain and do something about it. In fact, you are likely to be the kid that stands up for other kids who are being bullied, which often turns the bully on you. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or that you are unlovable. You are lovable and perfectly okay as you are.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you are an empathetic badass and a hero. You are willing to both feel the pain and actually DO something to help - and that’s pretty freaking awesome.
6. It’s okay to set healthy boundaries and stand up for yourself.
You do not have to take other people bullying you. You also do not have to save everyone all the time. It’s okay for you to say “no” when you are tired or just can’t do any more, despite the fact that those that only want to take your energy might beat on you to keep paying attention to them. You cannot carry everything all the time, and you shouldn’t. It’s okay that you need time to be alone; this allows you to recharge your batteries.
Honor the truth of your soul and spirit. When you are overwhelmed, know that you need a break and walk away. You can come back refreshed and ready to do more.
It can be seriously rough being an empath in this world; if you’d like to join a community of others like you and get the support, tools, resources, and coaching you need to be able to go from being overwhelmed to being truly empowered, sign up to find out when my Empath Institute is re-opening!