The Trouble With Being An Empath

What I discovered learning how to navigate life with heightened senses and emotions, but without having to absorb everyone else’s stuff

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Empaths are the people who often get labeled as oversensitive, overemotional, or even “drama queens.”

Yes, we are highly sensitive. It’s a by-product of our tendencies to take on too much, and give too much. Because we’re also really good listeners and advice givers (or so I’m told), others frequently seek our support. And because most of us have an instinct to nurture, others frequently seek our attention. We have an almost incessant need to alleviate the pain of others. It’s not enough that we want to help someone who’s hurting; we actually go an unnecessary step further and almost inhabit the body of the person suffering, to the point where we absorb their energy and we feel their pain on some level ourselves. This causes us to have unusually strong reactions to witnessing violence (even if it is only a movie.)

Empaths have strong (and usually accurate) gut feelings.

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Empaths absorb other people’s emotions like a sponge.

Empaths are highly — almost to a fault — in tune with other people’s moods and energy, or the vibes they put out. We’re not only in tune with these things, but we take them on (good or bad) even when we shouldn’t. We feel everything. This tends to work out well for everyone if we’re surrounded by love, positive energy, and other good things, but what happens when it’s the opposite? When we’re surrounded by negativity, we take that on just like we take everything else on. If we spend time with someone who’s a chronic complainer, or someone who’s grumpy or pessimistic all the time, we will absorb that and become physically exhausted in response. Empaths may even get physically ill when surrounded by continual negativity or chaos. We’re also more likely than others to have chronic pain conditions and other health issues or diseases.

We need time alone to recharge.

Being an empath is mentally draining. Even though it’s our innate ability to be able to “read the room” and know how to handle various social situations, it still depletes us of all our energy. It’s for this reason that we always, always will need some period of time alone (or “alone” with our pets) to recharge after social events or gatherings. Sometimes we may need to step away and recharge during the event or gathering. Please don’t take this to mean we’re being rude or antisocial. It’s just that experiencing the world so intensely takes its toll, and if we’re removing ourselves to recharge, that’s a good thing. It means we’re listening to our bodies and doing what’s in everyone’s best interest. Whether it’s moving from a crowd into a quiet room for a few minutes, or insisting on driving separate cars so we can a.) leave when we want, and b.) decompress on the drive home, we will always find a way to get our recharging time. Please don’t take it personally — it’s not about you, we promise.

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We may seem like extroverts, but at heart, we’re introverts.

We often fool people with this one because we’re adept at engaging — whether in small talk at a spouse’s company party, or among a group of our own friends; we appear at ease when holding conversations. Many of us are comfortable with public speaking, presenting, or lecturing, and many of us even enjoy acting, singing, or performing in public. These are a few things that make us seem extroverted.

Our five senses are hypersensitive.

Picky eaters? Scratchy tags? Sensitive stomachs? That’s us. We absorb and process many things that other people seem to be able to filter out. For this reason, we may notice sensations, smells, or tastes that others don’t. Please don’t say we’re only “imagining it” when we notice that the milk smells “off” and refuse to drink it. We know you don’t smell it, and we know we may sound ridiculous, but please just go with it.

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Empaths often have intense mood swings

We can go from giddy to depressed and back to giddy so fast it’ll make your head spin. Both our highs and our lows can be extreme. It’s important to note this is not always indicative of how we actually feel, but rather, what we’re picking up in others’ cues. Which can be understandably frustrating and confusing for those who have to live with us. Empaths are also capable of coming off as needy, or demanding of our loved ones’ attention, whether it’s justified or not. Until we learn to better manage these emotions, we can even come across as being somewhat narcissistic, especially when we feel we’re not being heard. (It’s likely not narcissism, but more an inability to self-regulate when we become overwhelmed with input and emotion).

Empaths have really strong moral compasses.

We are sometimes known to have “trust issues” due to past hurts or breaches of trust, which we never tend to forget. Empaths absolutely abhor being lied to, manipulated, or played, especially by someone whom we’ve chosen to let into our inner circle. If we learn that we’ve become victim to these things, we not only feel deeply hurt, but also deeply disappointed and possibly even disillusioned. Equally, we can’t stand witnessing social injustices in the world, and we can’t handle practices that don’t appear to be morally sound. We have an extreme dislike of bullies and tyrants.

Photo by Dương Hữu on Unsplash

Dismantler of gender norms. Political news junkie. TikTok aficionado. Mom of 3. Work seen/heard @ HuffPost, Scary Mommy, NPR, SiriusXM, LTYM, TIFO podcast, etc.

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