Being an empath means that you will often feel quite different from everyone you know. The good news is that there are more empaths than you might think, AND that we all have a lot in common — including these 7 life experiences:
1. You’ll be overwhelmed by large crowds and not know why.
As an empath, you feel everything going on around you, whether you are aware of it or not. Because of that, being in large crowds, whether it is for a party, a concert, a shopping trip, or any other place that lots of people convene, can be absolutely overwhelming for you.
In such a situation, you may start to feel anxious and even want to flee. You’ll likely think (or be told) that something is deeply wrong with you.
There’s nothing wrong with you; you are just too open to everyone’s competing emotions and energy and are getting totally overwhelmed.
Which brings me to my next empath experience…
2. You’ll sometimes feel like you feel the pain of the whole world and want to completely shut down.
I used to come home at the end of the week, climb in bed fully dressed in a suit and heels, and pull the covers over my head. I literally could not take one more bit of stimulation and needed total quiet. I would describe it to my husband as if all my nerves were on the outside of my body and felt like they were guitar strings that could not take one more person plucking them.
If you’ve ever felt like that, you are definitely an empath. Science is finally catching up with what those of us that have been empaths for a long time know: Our nervous system is literally wired differently than non-empaths. Because of this, we walk around sensing the subtle changes in environmental pressure, emotions, sounds, temperature, and everything else that most people are blissfully aware of.
Needless to say, this is pretty damn overwhelming. I liken it to being shut in a room with 400 speakers pointed at you, with 400 different kinds of music and talk radio on full volume blaring at you. ANYone, empath or no, would be overwhelmed and frizzed out after a short time of that.
As an empath, this is literally what is happening to you as you walk around all day, especially if you don’t have tools to shut it off. So, it’s pretty reasonable if you sometimes feel like I did, and need to hide under the covers for a while to recover.
Of course, this can also lead to the next empath experience….
3. You will feel out of control of your emotional state sometimes.
Because you pick up on others’ emotional states whether or not they say anything about how they are feeling and whether or not there are any visual cues to tell you what’s up, there will be times when you will enter a space feeling totally happy and good, and suddenly feel extremely anxious and sad.
This emotional swing can seem like you might be bipolar*, but, if you are an empath, it’s just a moment-by-moment reality of being too open to everyone else’s energy.
4. You’ll be told that you are “too sensitive.”
Or a crybaby. Or a wimp. Or a tree hugger. Or a hippie. Or a “softie.” Or a doormat. Or weak.
In our culture, strength and dominance are often glorified, and emotional vulnerability, kindness, and compassion are often seen as a sign of weakness.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that you are still standing even with all the emotions you feel every day is a freaking testament to your strength. It’s easy to go through life with even the saddest or most traumatic things barely making a dent to your emotional state. But, when you are carrying the trauma, difficulty, worry, stress, and sadness of everyone you meet and the whole world every day, and you are still expected to function as a normal human being - and you DO manage to function as a normal human being, that deserves a freaking badge of honor.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are an empathic badass, and that is real strength.
5. You’ll be bullied.
It’s an unfortunate reality that the more sensitive kids are the ones who are bullied. Or, as was the case for me, the empath kid will stand up for another child who is being bullied and then become the target.
This can carry forward into adulthood, where an empath adult finds themselves targeted by a bullying boss, friend, or even partner.
People shrug off bullying as a “rite of passage” for children, but that ignores the incredible long-term impact on the victim. In fact, bullying has been identified as one of the ACE predictors for issues such as alcoholism, depression, and certainly low self-esteem. In my practice I see how these emotional wounds are carried and cause pain and disease as well as negative life patterns, such as not believing in oneself enough to choose positive experiences.
If you are an empath and were bullied, please understand that it wasn’t you. You were the target of kids that didn’t feel good about themselves and took it out on you for a sense of power and control. If you are struggling with the long-term impacts of this, please either reach out to me or a qualified therapist for help.
If you are currently being bullied - or if you have an empath child who is bullied - please consider signing up for the Empath Institute. I have a ton of tools in there to help stop the bullying as well as to recover from being bullied and reclaim your sense of self and power.
6. You’ll attract a narcissist, or be raised by one.
Empaths are like moths to a flame for people on the narcissistic spectrum. I cannot tell you how many I have personally encountered, and every day in my practice I work with empaths who either found themselves in a relationship with one, were raised by one, or both.
Narcissists have a huge vat of internal pain and lack of sense of self that needs to be filled by someone offering them love and support. Unfortunately, because of their own levels of self-hatred, they actually hate the person who loves them. They may act like they are better than others, but internally they have little self esteem, so the thinking goes “If this person actually loves and cares for me and I am such an awful person, then they must not be worth much.” At the same time, because they don’t really feel lovable, they are terrified of losing the empath who does love them, so they use all manner of intimidation, manipulation, love bombing, and whatever else they’ve got in their bag os tricks to keep the empath under their spell.
It’s disordered thinking that traps empaths in co-dependent and often abusive relationships. Because we MUST take away others’ pain in order to stop feeling their pain, we end up putting aside all our worries and personal needs to help that person. The problem is that you can never help a narcissist. You cannot help someone who doesn’t truly believe that something is wrong with him or her. There is no amount of logic or care or love or goodness that you can possibly offer that will help a narcissist to wake up and see how wonderful you are.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist now, please seek help to get out (or just get out). At the end of this article, I will list a bunch of resources I love that can be a huge help to you.
If you were raised by a narcissist or have gotten away from one, please take time to heal yourself. Please understand that you were not a weak person for getting in to this relationship; you are just a caring person who tries to take away others’ pain. That makes you very attractive to a narcissist, who is hurting inside.
7. You’ll have a major difficulty saying “no.”
Empaths come into the world with a whole bunch of tools, such as the ability to heal other people, the ability to feel other’s pain and suffering, the desire to help the world, the desire to do good, and more.
What we do not come into the world equipped with is healthy boundaries. Because of that, saying “no” is almost impossible until we learn how to create a hold those boundaries, and that takes some work.
There are easy ways to start setting energetic boundaries in a way that allows you do so without feeling completely freaked out or weak. One thing I recommend is to start a “shielding practice” which allows you to start setting your boundaries from your core. It’s amazing how helpful this practice can be! There are many ways to Shield, I but I like to imagine that there is a bright, powerful ball of light that is in my solar plexus/core/stomach. Imagine that this ball of light is whatever color you would associate with safety or empowerment. Then, on each inhale, imagine that it gets bigger and brighter, starting to move out and around your body in steps (for instance, on the first inhale, have it surround just your core. On the next inhale, have it go all the way to your knees and all the way up to your shoulders, etc). Finish by having the light go all the way over your head at least a foot, and all the way under your feet at least a foot.
I have the entire Shield practice as well as a downloadable guided Shield meditation - and lots more tools and practices that can help you with all of this - in my Empath Institute, so consider getting on the list to join when it reopens, and you’ll have access to all of it!
What other life experiences have you had that seem to be common to empaths? I’d love to hear about it.