As an empath, I had struggled my whole life trying to find a balance between being kind and being firm. It is something that I still continue to struggle with but I have made peace with the fact that I am simply wired to be sensitive and I will never operate like those who are less sensitive.
Trying to be someone we are not always sets us up for a world of hurt, self-criticism, self-blame, and sometimes self-hatred. When we are constantly comparing ourselves to those who consistently tell us “you need to be more like this” or “you need to be less like that” it creates an unrealistic expectation that inevitably leads to feeling less than.
Whatever message we are exposed to often enough, we start to believe, whether it is true or not…and oftentimes, it isn’t! We are told that we should somehow be different, that we will never be as good as others, or our kindness gets mistaken for weakness.
Ring a bell?
What does it mean to be an empath?
There are several definitions and interpretations of what an empath truly is but for the purpose of this blog, we will keep the definition simple.
An empath is an individual who has the ability (and sometimes curse) of feeling other peoples’ feelings as if they are their own.
As you can imagine, operating on this level can be totally and utterly exhausting! This means that empaths not only have to learn how to navigate their own feelings but they must learn how to manage the emotions that are absorbed from others.
How to tell if you’re an empath:
You’re more introverted and prefer a lot of alone time
It takes you a little longer to recover from social interactions. You also do not prefer large crowds and they can be quite overwhelming. It is important to note that there are extroverted and ambi-verted empaths as well.
Have food sensitivities and/or allergies
Become stimulated through the 5 senses
Sight, smell, taste, hear, and touch) easily, oftentimes becoming stimulated without understanding why or what caused it but simply knowing that you feel overwhelmed
Have extrasensory abilities such as ways of “knowing:”
Perceiving things or events in the future
The ability to feel the present, past or future physical and emotional states of others, without the use of the normal five senses (i.e. being able to see inside of a building without being in the building)
Hearing what is inaudible
When you have that feeling that you just know something, similar to a gut feeling
You’re a “people pleaser”
You tend to be a “yes” person for the sake of not hurting others’ feelings. You bend over backwards for others even if it is at your own expense
Have a history of chronic trauma
While not all empaths have a history of experiencing something terrifying and.or life-threatening, this attribute occurs enough to be correlated
Types of empaths:
Sense and absorb the emotions and energy of other people, and feel them as well. They will just know whether someone else is sad or depressed, or happy and ecstatic. An emotionally receptive empath will feel the same and know how the other person is feeling without having to ask
Feel or know where other people’s aches, pains, and illnesses are when they are in their presence. This may be an intuitive awareness or sense of what symptoms someone else has. They may actually feel the same physical symptoms or pain in their own body
Communicate with different vocabulary and jargon. This can happen in different contexts and in an instant. They may find their communication style and use of language and phrases just adapts to what another person is using. They do not consciously think about mirroring behavior or trying to build rapport, it just happens.
Have an innate sense of knowing. This may be something that cannot actually be physically seen or be something that is about to happen. Their dreams may be precognitive — they become reality and actually happen in the following days or weeks. They know when someone is lying, and are very perceptive about other people’s overt or covert intentions.
Usually the horse whisperers and dog whisperers of the world. These empaths have a sense of what an individual animal is feeling, experiencing and needs. They not only love the animals they connect with, they may prefer their company than that of other people! And vice versa, animals feel the pull towards an empath as well.
People with strong connections to nature and what plants and trees need and offer. They are the green-fingered gardeners and growers who love being in nature. Plants will thrive in their presence. They will intuitively know how to care and tend to any type of foliage. Plant empaths also have an awareness of plants uses and functions. They will know what is edible and what the environment needs for ecological balance and sustainability.
Environmental or geomantic empaths intuitively sense what has happened or may happen in a physical space. Similarly, psychometric empaths can ‘read’ a physical object. When they enter a room or new location, they are sensitive to what may have happened within that environment before. When they hold or touch objects, they may be able to glean information about the owner.
Have a direct connection to other realms. Also known as medium empaths, they may feel they connect with the deceased or other spiritual beings from their belief systems. Their psychic empathic ability will include being able to feel emotional and physical symptoms from their communication with the spiritual world. This works in the same way as an emotional empath connects with other people in the physical world.
Empaths and Relationships
Navigating relationships as an empath can be particularly challenging as the empath tends to be viewed as a “door mat” or “too sensitive” by those who do not understand what it is like to be an empath.
Empaths oftentimes have a difficult time setting AND enforcing boundaries as it can feel cruel and therefore does not feel consistent with their true, authentic self.
The danger here is that while setting boundaries can be difficult, it is also necessary in order to establish and maintain self-esteem, self-worth, and for others to respect you.
Empaths and Narcissists
If an empath is on one end of the personality spectrum then the narcissist is on the other end of that spectrum. Due to the fact that opposites attract, it is no wonder empaths and narcissists find themselves attracted to one another; however, this can be a dangerous combination.
The narcissist is a master of manipulation and empaths’ giving and open nature makes them vulnerable to falling into the narcissists’ trap. The empath must be firm in his/her efforts to assert their wants and needs or the narcissist will find a way to get the upper hand every time. Additional help is often needed in order to learn how to navigate this dynamic.
No matter the personality type, it is important to understand the characteristics of your and your partner’s personality type in order to learn how to best navigate the relationship.
How to protect yourself as an empath:
Establish and maintain a support system with other empaths or similarly-minded individuals.
Relying on your tribe consistently will help you remember that you are not flawed and there is nothing wrong with who you really are. This step is crucial.
Establish a cleansing routine/ritual to rid yourself of the absorbed energy throughout the day.
Taking walks, hot baths with essential oils, sage, deep breathing exercises, and meditation are all great ways to rid yourself of the extra energy that no longer serves you and is keeping you disconnected from your authentic self. This is, by far, the most important strategy that must be followed daily. When empaths are feeling low and/or weak, it’s usually because they have fallen away from his/her cleansing ritual.
Challenge yourself/get out of your comfort zone
Attend trainings that are designed to help you connect with your authentic self by breaking down barriers and self-limiting beliefs. I always tell clients “if you’re not experiencing growth-oriented pain consistently, you are not growing.” Take a public speaking class, a cooking class, an exercise class, read a book on a subject you nothing about. Do things that scare you while still maintaining good judgment.
Seek therapy with a holistic practitioner
It is very easy to feel isolated and alone when your perception of the world leaves you feeling as though you don’t belong. Having an objective third party who knows what it is like to be an empath can help you learn how to cherish your uniqueness, see it as an asset, and learn how to grow your abilities to serve you rather than to hinder your experience on this earth.
It can be especially difficult for empaths to reach out for help as it is in our nature to tend to hold things in.
If you are an empath and need some help either getting started or if you’re simply looking to reconnect with your empathic nature, connect with a holistic counselor in Charlotte, NC today by contacting Blue Sage Counseling and Wellness today.
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