What Does It Mean To Be an Empath?
Most people feel a certain amount of empathy when they notice someone else struggling, feeling sad, or experiencing pain. But others go above and beyond basic empathy – they feel the emotions of others like they are their own, or they find that it’s easier than normal for them to bond with other people than most. If this describes your experience, you may be an empath. Today, let’s break down what it means to be an empath and how to manage your empathetic emotions.
What Is an Empath?
An empath is a highly sensitive person (HSP) who is more tuned into the feelings of people around them than the average individual.
Empathy, which is related to but different from sympathy, is the experience of feeling similar emotions to another person. For example, if you see a friend crying because of a bad situation and you feel like crying too, you’re experiencing empathy.
But empaths typically experience or “reflect” the emotions of others on a far deeper level than others. Empathic abilities may also include reflecting on people’s emotions more frequently, including people they don’t know very well.
For instance, most people only feel empathy when someone demonstrates intense emotion or if they see a close friend or family member expressing an emotion they can relate to. Empaths, on the other hand, may absorb and reflect the emotions of people they just met on the street or in a coffee shop.
You can also think of empaths as emotional sponges. Rather than allowing the emotions of others to sometimes bounce off them or not bother them, the empath may find it difficult to ignore those emotions even if they want to.
Empaths, because of this effect, usually have related personality traits. They may be more conscientious than the average person, as well as more:
- Willing to listen to problems
- Helpful or active in organizing events
Note that these aren’t universal personality traits, of course. Anyone can be an empath, so even if you don’t have these traits, you might still have a higher-than-average amount of empathy!
There are even different types of empaths that share different traits. The two types you may be most familiar with are emotional empaths and intuitive empaths.
What Are the Benefits of Being an Empath?
Being an empath carries some personal and professional advantages in your day-to-day life. For example, being an empath often means you have greater than average emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence means understanding what people feel, what they want to hear, and how to navigate tense conversations wisely.
Being an empath also allows you to benefit from deep emotional connections with friends and family members. You may find it easier to make friends in general, and once you build friendships with people, you quickly become a close confidant for everyone you meet. Those strong relationships can provide other benefits, ranging from emotional support for you to job opportunities to social experiences and more.
Empaths can also often accurately read people’s energy based on visual stimuli like facial expressions and behavior. If an empath feels like something is off, chances are that you should listen to them. That all said, being an empath is not always fun or beneficial. In fact, many empaths struggle with the level of emotional absorption they feel when they’re around others.
How Do You Know if You’re an Empath?
Not sure if you’re an empath? You can tell if you have a higher-than-average level of empathy for others by looking for the following empath traits:
- You take on the feelings of others very frequently and very strongly, even if you don’t know them very well
- You have an excellent sense of intuition, and your gut feeling is often correct, especially when dealing with others
- Feel other people’s feelings reflected in your own body language or facial expressions.
- You care deeply about everyone you meet, especially people you like or animals
- You come across as tender or warmhearted to others
- You are high sensitivity, meaning you respond more dramatically and intensely to both the positive and negative emotional experiences
- You have a hard time separating your own emotions from those of the people around you.
If you are still unsure whether you’re an empath, consider taking an online empathy test.
Is It Always Good To Be an Empath?
While being an empath can be beneficial, and you may even enjoy it in aggregate, it’s not always fun or easy to deal with.
Everyone has an emotional “battery” or reserve of energy to use when dealing with and understanding others. Even the most vibrant, sociable empaths can find that their batteries get drained. In fact, introvert empaths often have their emotional reserves or patients drained faster than others; after all, they use their empathy for just about everyone they meet.
As a result, empaths can frequently become stressed out, tired, or anxious. They may feel that they don’t have any time for themselves or their interests, or they may become bitter toward their friends and family members if they are constantly draining their emotional energy.
Because empaths are so affirming, they can sometimes attract unwanted attention. In particular, narcissists enjoy the company of empaths because they want to have their experiences validated. Furthermore, empaths often struggle with minor day-to-day conflicts. They may take a slight or moment of rude behavior to be more than it is. In this way, empaths feel both higher highs and lower lows when dealing with others or when experiencing emotional situations.
This is also true with emotional processing. Empaths can feel things so deeply that sometimes, they may not be able to process their emotions properly. Unprocessed emotions can lead to panic attacks and mental health issues, which is why empaths need to unpack their feelings with licensed counselors.
What Are Some Ways To Manage Empathy Without Negative Effects?
High levels of empathy can be difficult to manage, especially if you have an emotionally demanding job or have to be around many people. Fortunately, there are ways to manage your empathy and minimize negative effects without shutting yourself off completely.
Set Firm Boundaries
One of the best things you can do as an empath is to set firm and healthy boundaries. That includes boundaries with your close friends, loved ones, and family members, who may inadvertently take advantage of your willingness to listen and reflect their feelings.
Setting firm boundaries means doing things like:
- Saying “no” when you don’t want to go out or do something
- Telling friends and family members when you don’t have time to listen
- Making reasonable demands of others’ time when you require support, not the other way around
Setting boundaries is important for everyone, of course. But empaths often have a harder time doing it because their empathy makes them exceptionally sensitive to rejection or disappointment from others. Still, this is a good habit to start practicing so you can protect your emotional energy reserves. And just remember: if someone is coming to you with negative emotions, you have every right to take a break or walk away completely.
Plan “You” Time for Self-Care
Alone time is critical for self-care, which is important for managing your feelings as an empath and promoting overall well-being.
Self-care just means doing things that provide wellness benefits to you and you alone. It means something different for everyone, so it could include reading your favorite book, practicing recreational hobbies, or spending time with your spouse.
Whatever the case may be, remember to carve out some time each week just for you. Do what you like to do, and you’ll find that your mental health and energy reserves are much more resilient than otherwise.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the world around you and allowing yourself to feel sensory pleasure and novelty in your day-to-day experiences. Mindfulness is important for grounding your thoughts, promoting self-awareness, and preventing you from getting too stuck in your head: a major potential problem for empaths!
Meditation, meanwhile, is a tried-and-true method of improving your mental health. As you practice and get better at meditation, you’ll learn how to control your thoughts and reduce stress and anxiety. Combine meditation with physical exercise like yoga, and you’ll be well on your way to being healthier across the board!
Give Yourself a Break
Empaths frequently self-criticize to a much greater degree than everyone else. It’s important to give yourself a break from time to time and not be as self-critical as you might be naturally. You do your best to provide emotional support to your friends and family members — don’t ruminate on the mistakes you make; you’re only human, after all.
Spend More Time in Nature
Spending extra time in nature may also be beneficial, especially away from other people. Go on a walk in the local park or simply sit in your backyard soaking up the sunshine. Spending time in nature is great for your mental health and could allow your emotional battery to recharge after a long day talking with people.
Empaths are emotionally connected individuals who can have rich, deep relationships. But they also need to know how to manage their empathy to avoid becoming emotionally drained or experiencing other negative side effects.
1AND1’s meditation guides, advice articles, and other resources can help you practice self-care and safely manage your empathy. Let us help you be the healthiest person possible and get 1% healthier each and every day!
What is self-care? | Self Care Federation
How to set boundaries with family — and stick to them | NPR.org