What It's Like Being An Empath
I'm about to introduce you to an entire world I exist in every. single. day.
Many reading this have no clue that this is who I am because I have learned so many secrets to exist in the world regardless of these traits and make them work for me instead of against me.
If you're an empath, you will likely feel yourself in this article. If you've never even heard the term or have heard it, but have no clue what it means, then you're in for some real education.
Being an empath is quite a gift most of the time - sometimes it doesn't feel like it, however. I'll get into that in a sec, but first here's a definition I wrote that is truest for me:
Empath is my word of choice because it better portrays what's actually happening - an intimate interaction with empathy as it relates to others only empaths can even begin to understand. The spiritual, emotional, & psychological receptivity of another's emotions, motivations, and hidden nature on a consistent basis.
Disclaimer: So that I don't have to say it a hundred times throughout this article, this is my personal experience as an empath. It isn't and shouldn't be taken as implied through any of my statements that these traits or experiences should or do apply to ALL empaths.
The Elements Needed
There are many elements that soothe me throughout the day as an empath. One is water, so I tend to shower in the mornings, sometimes twice a day if I had an evening workout. I love music in the mornings as well - almost always worship music to get my spirit right for the day. Hardly ever anything else. Once I'm headed out for the day, I switch gears to another side of me - rap & hip-hop music to get my energy going for the day. This is not all the time, but most of the time what I'm driving to in the car. Driving is also an element I enjoy - sometimes I just go for drives to de-stress, think, and process. There's something about it I love.
Other elements I love are green tea, mints, flowers, lavender, candles, lamps, and home decor. All of these elements you see on my Instagram are for a purpose - they soothe my emotional state. Ever wondered why I'm always surrounded by flowers? It's the effect they have on my mood. It's not frivolous spending; it's necessary for me to have emotional stability in my day.
Quiet is another element I must have during the day. I will sneak off to the most un-used restroom, an empty conference room in a building, my Jeep; wherever I can get total silence for a bit. Works like a charm to re-focus me.
I find it works best for empaths to be "in their element."
Throughout the day, I have hundreds of conversations as an IT business analyst. In a given day, that can include meetings, conference calls, IM's, incoming and outgoing emails, and physical conversations. As an empath, this can get extremely exhausting because empaths are unable to not pick up on non-verbal queues most people miss, people's good moods, their bad moods, their pissy moods, and their eff you moods. It allcomes with the territory. We soak it all in and feel it all. Everyone in the whole room.
The average person can only pick up on the 2-3 people immediately around them. Empaths, conversely have the ability to detect and soak up every single mood in the room. While that seems extreme, trust me when I tell you, it's not an exaggeration.
This goes hand-in-hand with explaining why many introverts are also empaths and vice versa. The "huge crowds" thing is less about the people count for an empath and more about the emotional energy count. Can you imagine what that's like for us?
Now, in full disclosure, this is a powerful gift. I'm not going to lie - I've used it to my advantage countless times. It CAN be abused or misused to manipulate or make scenarios play out exactly how you want them to. Immature empaths will use it this way and not for good. Mature ones use it for service and in service to others' happiness, goals, forward movement and the benefit of a relationship.
Cell Phones & Social Media
Imagine sitting at your desk having all of that conversation coming in, deadlines to meet, and your cell phone starts going off. Someone blowing up your phone practically demanding your time or that you respond to them and give them attention immediately.
For an empath, this is like death. There are MANY days I want to casually go to the restroom and flush my phone down the toilet, never to be communicated with again through it. Sometimes I go through phases where it just simply drives me NUTS. I will either a) turn it off for hours at a time or b) start blocking people. I have no choice - I'm exhausted from the constant contact and my emotional energy to lend is out; exhausted; done for; retired.
I tell people who think I'm kidding that I have a specified percentage of emotional energy I can emit in a given week. Once it's out, it's out. When I discovered my friend Jennah took her own life recently, it my emotional energy was gone in 2 days. I had to make it through the rest of a week with nothing to give to anyone.
Empaths, introverts, and INFJ's are notorious for drawing toxic people and people who are emotionally needy. People who want your wisdom in their life and your friendship, but they don't want to give it back to YOU when you need it OR they're obsessed with you being there for them constantly and freak out when you need space or don't get back with them on their timetable. Again, another death feeling for an empath. There's no quicker way to get a door slam with an empath than if you take from them all the time with no reciprocation OR disregard their huge need for space to re-set their emotional landscape.
I will tell you - personally, if I get a hint someone can't WAIT for me to respond to them when I can or they are obsessed with my responding to their correspondence daily or whenever they want, I cut that energy off quick, which leads me to my next item.
For an empath, it's imperativewe have relationships that give AMPLE space (and I wish I could type ample bigger - like in an 800 size font). My very best friendships, both male & female are almost all introverts, people who need a ton of space, and even maybe a little enigmatic and neurotic like me.
I'm an empath, but also an INFJ (introvert). For some reason, I can sometimes draw people who want to take from me every chance they get or glean from being in my circle, but rarely reciprocate, or they want WAY more time and validation than I can offer in friendship, so I'm forced to cut it off either suddenly or after I've seen enough to make the decision.
As an empath, the VERY best friendships I have right now are the ones where they have their own exciting lives and don't need to talk to me every week - most of them not even every month. One of my greatest friends lives on the other side of the U.S. We speak about once or twice a quarter. A QUARTER! That's all we need and we both love it. Would we like to see each other more & hang out? For sure. But in the meantime, we both have our own independent and exciting lives. We're not expecting contact a certain number of times. When one of us needs some time, we send one text or email and wait for the other to respond. We then set up an actual time to talk and almost always honor it. It's just so beautiful.
Why can't all relationships have this level of patience, space, and conscious understanding?
People who aren't empaths or introverts really struggle with this need.
I can't keep up with photos, videos, text messages, phone calls, AND emails from one person multiple times a week. I'm not even built to handle that.
I talk to my own Mother only once a week, if that sometimes. She has her own life too. I realize this doesn't make sense to a lot of people, but it doesn't need to. I'm realizing how I best operate in relationships more and more as an empath.
I have begun to insulate myself from emotional vampires or people I can tell are only in it for something not completely genuine.
My sister-in-law is one of those people I can talk to almost every day. This is also rarefor me to find, so she's a special jewel to me. We're both earth signs - me Virgo and her Capricorn (I'm Capricorn rising, so go figure), so we have an understanding about MANY things. There's not a lot of explaining we have to do with each other to understand different points of view and values. It's so awesome, and I greatly cherish her friendship. We haven't always been close, but we worked on the relationship to get it to where it is today. For that, I'm grateful.
It takes a level of emotional maturity to befriend an empath for life. I have very little tolerance or patience for someone who needs my constant validation to make their own life decisions or who needs constant contact with me. I don't know how to offer that because literally, with the kind of energy drain just one day can put on me, I simply don't have it to give, whereas I have an almost unlimited supply to provide to those who reciprocate in my life and I genuinely know & feel are there for me.
Anything less completely drains me.
Sleep, Self-Care & Rest
Here's something else you don't know about me. I need a LOT of sleep. During the week, I sleep rarely. Maybe 4-6 hours a night. I'm a night owl, which creates quite the dichotomy and paradox here, so Monday through Friday I go full steam. I love staying up late and working late. I love playing Dominoes late or getting on Instagram late. I am writing this article at 11pm. It's just how I roll.
So on the weekends, I say no to a lot of shit. I don't go to parties OFTEN. I say no to happy hours on Fridays, weekend trips, weekend events, and a LOT of stuff. I say no a LOT. I have to because I need to re-charge. I don't mind a ton of quiet and alone time, and I am one of the healthiest people I know because of it. I'm confident, energized, focused, and I don't explain those decisions to anyone. I also notice how centered I am compared to those who don't take this time, and I am NEVER bored. I can be at home from Friday afternoon to Sunday night with no human interaction of almost any kind and have an amazing weekend watching TV, writing, podcasting, cooking, reading magazines, working out, or decorating.
Empaths MUST take pristine care of themselves. I eat mostly organic, work out consistently, keep spiritual things at the forefront of my mind as much as possible, but I'm not a perfect human. However, as an empath, things affect me more deeply that seem minute to others, so I have to retreat a lot.
One woman might spend hundreds or thousands on shoes or bags while I choose to spend that on my apartment. It's where I spend 75% of my time, so yes, it's a priority for me to make nice.
Where The Wild Emotional Things Are
Some other things that are difficult or special about empaths:
- Sensitive to pain of any kind; even emotional in themselves & others
- Always looking to relieve the pain and "save" those they deeply care about
- Someone who's not an empath can probably let something go quickly; empaths struggle
- All the senses are heightened; sounds, smells, tastes, touch, etc.
- In one day, you can go through multiple moods. Happy to sad to pissed off to happy again to blah to excited to crying. Not always, but sometimes. Emotional roller coasters might happen more than you want them to.
- Sense not only motives in a person's conversation, but the root of their emotion. i.e. they're trying to manipulate you or cause discord, but you actually sense the emotional pain that behavior comes from where most others would miss it
- Empaths are self-sacrificial to a fault. They can completely give all of their power to someone without realizing they're doing it OR they do and don't care because they want to make that person happy.
- Certain and specific images on TV, radio, or other media feel abrasive or can make you ill. (I passed out one time watching a special on sex trafficking in a friend's kitchen. I got ill when the girls talked about what they had to do on a job).
- Empaths are completely gifted to notice b.s. before others do (like LONG before) and/or trainwrecks before they happen. It's uncanny what we know before you do. ;-) We rarely share, but watch as it unfolds and we're confirmed again and again in our predictions. If we think we can save you from something, we might be inclined to share but more often than not, we don't because most people don't accept our foresight. Then we have to watch and experience a train (and months or years) of emotional pain when, if they would've just heeded our intuition........you get it. This has happened to me thousands of times in my life in relationships & even companies or churches I predicted were headed for doom. I'm gifted in this area in a ridiculous way.
- Empaths are exquisite listeners and draw people to emotionally dump on or otherwise confide in them, as a result.
- People can't hide hardly ANYTHING from an empath. If you think you are, you're not. We just haven't told you all we know about you.
- Empaths are creative, spiritual and usually dreamers or wonderers.
Wanna know if you're an empath? Take LonerWolf's Empath test here. If you score 60% or higher, you're an empath. I was 90% when I re-took it again. LOL. Inevitable.
I know this was long, but I appreciate you reading. If you'd like me to talk about how I cope with being an empath or continue this convo, let me know in email or leave a comment. I'd also love to hear your experience if you're an empath in the comments.
You know, you may not be an emapth yourself, but you likely know one or a few around you who could really use someone who at least tries to understand their world. Share this article, and let them know you're there for them too.
Empaths are always there for everyone else and rarely have the favor returned.
With so much love & appreciation,
Photo is my own