Put simply, empathy is the ability to understand and share the emotions of another person. It can be understood as “feeling with” someone. It involves stepping into their shoes to imagine what they are going through and being caring and compassionate in order to make them feel better. This caring, this desire to help, is what separates empathy from sympathy. Although they both deal with relating to another person, empathy is felt more deeply and reaches a broader range of emotions. Empaths are compelled to help because they grasp the experiences of others so vividly. Sympathy usually only extends to sorrow or pity.
Possessing empathy is obviously important because it leads to stronger, trusting connections with people and helps us figure out how to act appropriately in social situations. But being an empath can be draining because the intensity you feel as one is powerful. Being flooded with emotions is difficult and can negatively impact your mental health. This is even more significant when the emotions aren’t yours. Awareness is key.
It is therefore important to know if you’re an empath. Here are five signs that you are might be one:
1. You are emotionally intuitive
When you’re an empath, you can quickly tell what someone is feeling without really thinking about it. You probably don’t do it consciously. Maybe you instinctively read a person’s body language and nonverbal cues, or maybe you just know how to listen actively, but the result is that you take on the pain, the anger, the happiness, or the excitement of the other person. At times you feel like an emotional sponge, absorbing everyone else’s feelings.
2. You jump at the chance to help others
As an empath, you do whatever you can to help others because you can clearly see how their struggles are impacting them. You relate to what they are going through because you are going through it too. You don’t want someone else to feel negatively so you offer to help without thinking of the consequences of constantly doing so. And the consequences are often that you neglect your own emotional wellbeing.
3. You think with your heart rather than your head
The way you do things may not always logical, but it tends to always be from a place of care and concern. You are compelled to do the loving thing, even when it doesn’t exactly work for you, because you feel it is the only thing to do. In short, you get other people which makes you care about other people.
4. You are sensitive
As an empath, you are constantly doing emotional work and it makes you vulnerable. When your friend is enthusiastic, so are you. When your sister is experiencing emotional discomfort, so are you. This takes a great deal of energy and is naturally overwhelming, so you become sensitive to even slight changes and stressors. Some may tell you to toughen up, but it isn’t always that simple.
5. You need time to recharge
Between their own feelings and the feelings of others, empaths are bound to be emotionally exhausted at times. Alone time is therefore necessary in order to fill up your emotional gas tank. Getting even a short respite from the overload can help prevent burnout.
Empathy can definitely be a good thing. It’s proven to be useful in a variety of jobs. Like in supervisor positions, which require thinking about the perspectives of employees at times. Empathy is also a necessary quality for actors to have. Not to mention it’s crucial in “helping” careers and in the medical field.
But if you relate to any of the above and define yourself as an empath, be sure to take care of yourself. Being empathetic is exhausting and can take a serious toll on a person’s mental health, especially because we tend to attract people who crave the empathy we give. So be aware of how your desire to help others is affecting you. Remember that you’re allowed to say no. Acquiring balance might be hard, but it’ll be worth it for you and those around you.