Although empathy is an ability that can be improved with training, being an empath is much more than being able to understand what someone is going through. Empaths are highly sensitive individuals who are in tune with others’ emotions, to the point where they experience these emotions as their own. An empath experiences the feelings of others on a deep, emotional level, which can be both a superpower and a super stressor.
Very few studies have been conducted on empathy, but scientists believe that one of the factors behind it may be hyperresponsive “mirror neurons” – neurons that mirror the emotions of those we come in contact with. Although empathy is a relatively common human ability, empaths are people with higher-than-normal sensitivity that only makeup around 2% of the population.
Here’s how you can tell if you are an empath, the pros and cons of being an empath, and what you can do to manage this rare ability that can become overwhelming at times.
Signs you may be an empath.
Once you identify your empathic nature, you can learn how to take better care of your emotional health. Here are 15 indicators that you might be an empath:
Friends have told you that you are hypersensitive or overemotional.
When someone is experiencing distress, you feel it too, as if it were happening to you.
You are able to relate to other people’s emotions (positive or negative) even though you’ve never experienced anything similar.
You tend to avoid conflict because your feelings are easily hurt.
You tend to avoid closeness and intimacy because you’re worried you might lose yourself in the relationship.
You have great intuition when it comes to other people’s emotions. You know before anyone else when a person needs help, is angry, stressed, or dishonest.
You enjoy spending time in nature because it gives you a much-needed break from overwhelming stimuli.
You are easily overwhelmed by crowds.
You experience physical discomfort when you come in contact with other people’s negative emotions.
You always care about what others are going through, and your first instinct is to ease their distress.
Your friends tend to come to you to talk about their problems.
After spending a long time with other people, you feel the need to recharge because you are emotionally drained.
Because you are naturally inclined to help others, you have a hard time saying “no” and setting boundaries.
You are hypersensitive to noise, smells, excessive talking, or disturbing images.
You are naturally drawn to professionals that involve helping others, such as nursing, social work, human services, or lawyer.
Is being an empath a strength or a weakness?
Being highly attuned to other people’s emotions may seem like a superpower, and there are indeed many pros to being an empath. However, hyper-empathy can also become uncomfortable and overwhelming.
One of the best things about being an empath is that you are naturally intuitive about other people’s emotions. When others don’t sense anything wrong, you can tell that a friend is stressed or needs help. You can easily relate to what others are feeling, which makes you a great listener and, for this reason, friends tend to come to you for support. Empaths also make great business leaders. Your ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes helps you establish meaningful connections with team members and drive them to success whilst working as hard as them. As an empath, you’re also better at spotting when someone is trying to manipulate you.
And yet, being able to absorb other people’s emotions can also feel like a burden sometimes. Because empaths experience others’ emotions as if they were their own, they can easily become overwhelmed – you can notice this especially during emotionally charged events, such as weddings and funerals. Although empaths aren’t necessarily introverted, they do need time to recharge after spending a lot of time with others because this leaves them emotionally drained. Because of their natural inclination towards helping others, empaths often forget to look after themselves and neglect their own mental health. This inclination can also make them more vulnerable to toxic and manipulative personality types because, while empaths are good at spotting the signs, their instinct to help is stronger.
How to manage your empathy
Being hypersensitive to other people’s emotions, be they positive or negative, can become your greatest strength, provided you know how to manage this ability. Here are a few strategies to help you find time for yourself and avoid becoming overwhelmed:
Empaths are personalities that want to make the world a better place. Given a chance, they will help anyone, even if that means neglecting their own health. In time, this can lead to stress, anxiety or depression, which is why it’s important to balance your needs and the needs of other people. As tempting as it might be to talk to others about the problems, you should also set boundaries and take some time to recharge. Empaths thrive in nature, where they feel at peace and get a break from overstimulation.
Know what people to distance yourself from
Some people are worthy of your emotional support. Others will try to take advantage of you, and it’s important to set boundaries and reduce contact with them. Empaths are often victims of narcissistic and toxic personalities because they attach themselves emotionally and find it harder to let go.
Spend time in nature
Because empaths are easily overstimulated by crowds and social activity in general, spending time in nature is the perfect way to recharge. If you feel emotionally drained after getting emotionally involved in other people’s problems, going for a walk outside the noise of the city will help you refocus on yourself.
Meditation is a great practice for everyone, but even more so for empaths because it helps them focus on the present, tune out negative emotions, and increase patience.