Perhaps inspirational speaker Anthon St. Maarten said it best when he said, “To feel intensely is not a sign of weakness, but a trademark of the truly alive and compassionate…There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings…and empaths are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world.”
The importance of being able to empathize with others is taught to us all at a young age, but as we grow older, values like drive, ambition, and competitiveness come to replace empathy in today’s success-oriented society. And as a result, empaths are often overlooked, misunderstood, and undervalued, in spite of their incredible gift to understand and connect with people on a much richer and deeper level.
Defined as “a highly sensitive individual with a keen ability to sense the thoughts and feelings of those around them” (Kossak, 2015), empaths are compassionate, insightful, nurturing, and uncommonly kind people. Want to know more about what certain traits and characteristics make an empath? Well, here are 10 tell-tale signs that you are truly an empath:
1. You’re highly intuitive.
One of the most notable things about an empath is their incredible sense of intuition. A rare and unique gift, empaths are easily able to sense what everyone else is feeling and read even the subtlest cues in their words, actions, and expressions — all without even trying! So if you tend to have good instincts about people and strong gut reactions to things that often turn out to be true, then that is most likely because you are a full-fledged empath with a good intuition.
2. You’re highly conflict averse.
There are few things an empath dreads more than interpersonal conflict. If it’s between them and someone else, they will most likely avoid dealing with it for as long as they can by acting like everything is fine. But if they’re caught in the middle of someone else’s conflict, that’s about ten times worse because, as an empath, they just can’t help but sympathize with both sides (Kossak, 2015)!
3. You’re everybody’s “life coach.”
Do friends and family often turn to you for advice? Or confide in you about their problems? Do you sometimes start to feel like you’re more of a “counselor” or a “life coach” than a friend to most people? If so, it’s most likely because, as an empath, people are drawn to your sensitive and compassionate nature. Empaths are also known for being good listeners, understanding friends, and just an overall comforting presence to be around.
4. You need time to recharge.
Another tell-tale sign that you’re truly an empath? You sometimes need time to recharge and just get away from everybody, even if you’re an extrovert. There are times when you feel suffocated by everyone else’s thoughts and feelings that it muddles your own and you can’t seem to think for yourself anymore. You feel drained just by being around them — which brings us to our next point!
5. You tend to self-isolate.
Being alone and spending time with yourself helps empaths recover from the stress of constantly being bombarded with other people’s emotions all the time (Greiner, 2018). But for those who don’t understand, it can easily be mistaken as a tendency to socially withdraw and self-isolate. So having your friends and family sometimes call you “flaky and unreliable” for this very reason is a common struggle for many empaths.
6. You dislike crowded spaces.
It’s no surprise that even the most extroverted and outgoing of empaths would dislike crowded spaces because of how they absorb both positive and negative energy from people just by being around them. So being in a bustling bar or at a wild party, for example, where there’s lots of people feeling a lot of different things is an almost unbearable experience of sensory overload for them (Schott, 2020).
7. You’re overwhelmed by intimacy.
No, you’re not afraid of commitment, and no. you don’t have a fear of emotional intimacy. It’s just that when you’re an empath, it feels like everyone is constantly being vulnerable around you, even when they don’t realize it, and it can be draining to spend a lot of time around them, no matter how much they mean to you. You often hear complaints from loved ones telling you “We don’t talk enough” or that you’re “not spending as much time together as they’d like.”
8. You have difficulty setting boundaries.
Empaths have a hard time knowing when to stop giving themselves to others, emotionally speaking, and they tend to prioritize everyone else’s emotional well-being because of how much it affects their own. But setting boundaries helps empaths to minimize the burden of feeling everyone else’s emotions all the time by giving them the time and space they need to recharge — only problem is, they’re too afraid to bring it up because it might start a conflict!
9. You feel like you don’t fit in a lot of the time.
Because the number of people in the world who are empaths are few and far between, it’s easy for them to feel like they don’t really fit in anywhere a lot of the time (Schott, 2020). They struggle to relate to most people, in spite of being able to know and understand what they’re feeling all the time, and are often misunderstood by those around them.
10. You have a hard time not caring.
Last but certainly not the least, finding it hard not to care about something is perhaps the most obvious sign there is that someone is truly an empath. After all, being highly attuned to other people’s emotions has its ups and downs, and this easily falls into both categories. Idealistic and altruistic, empaths struggle with their “bleeding heart” nature and are often told they are too caring for their own good. They feel compelled to help anyone in pain, and when they can’t, it eats away at their soul. They’re not like most people who can just rationalize their way out of their guilt and inaction.
So, do you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here? Have you ever wondered if you yourself were an empath? And did this article do anything to either confirm or refute these suspicions? Whether you’re an empath or know someone who is, the bottom line is that empathy is a beautiful and precious gift that doesn’t get nearly as much appreciation as it deserves. After all, everyone has a part to play in this world, and empaths help to make it a better place in their own special way.
- Kossak, M. (2015). Attunement in expressive arts therapy: Toward an understanding of embodied empath. Charles C Thomas Publisher.
- Greiner, J. (2018). Empath: Understanding Your Gift, Protecting your Energy and Finding Peace in a Chaotic World. Roland Bind.
- Schott, M. R. (2020). The Empath: Individual and Socio-Cultural Considerations of Deep Empathic Sensitivity (Doctoral dissertation, University of West Georgia).