I used to wonder all the time why I’m so sensitive. I used to wonder why I’m cursed with high levels of empathy. And I used to see my heightened empathy and compassion as a bane. Perhaps you’re in the same boat with me, constantly feeling other people’s pain and wondering why you’re so much more sensitive and emotional than everyone else. But here’s the good news. Your heightened empathy and sensitivity is the result of superior intellect, and because of those heightened feelings you’re going to end up soaring high, going from one success to another.
The importance and value of empathy was scientifically proven in a study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership. The study investigated 6,731 leaders from 38 countries and concluded that empathy is positively related to job performance. This is especially true for managers. Manages with heightened levels of empathy are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses.
The definition of a highly sensitive empath is “an individual who is acutely aware of the emotions of other people.” You’ll know if you’re a highly sensitive empath from the following signs:
- You sense the feelings of other people,
- You have insight into what’s going on in the inner world of people
- You often feel isolated because you exist on an emotional plain most people never reach.
- You share the pain of others–“Empathy moves us to share in another’s pain, to really see the world through their eyes,” says David R Hamilton, PhD.
Note that this is different to simply being a highly sensitive person. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between a highly sensitive person and a highly sensitive empath.
Highly Sensitive Person VS Highly Sensitive Empath
The key difference between a highly sensitive person and a highly sensitive empath is that HSPs (highly sensitive people) are sensitive to things pertaining to themselves. They take jokes personally. They are easy to offend. They feel largely for themselves. A highly sensitive empath, on the other hand, is someone who is keenly aware of the feelings of other people.
Regardless of whether you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP) or a highly sensitive empath (HSE) it’s worth taking a moment to consider the root cause of your sensitivity.
Why you’re an empath
One of the most common reasons for heightened sensitivity lies in your upbringing
“Research has demonstrated that exposure to conflict and violence in the home can shape children’s neurobiological, cognitive, and behavioral responses,” says clinical psychologist Rick Nauert.
The environment we’re brought up in changes our neurological pathways and alters both our recognition of, and response to, the emotions of other people, leading many to heightened levels of empathy.
To elucidate this reality, let me share with you a little of my own story.
I have always been extremely emotional because I had, for many many years, lived in a turbulent and explosive environment. There was a lot of arguing in my home when I was younger and a lot of emotion. Because of this, I essentially became conditioned to think that any minor issue would lead to a full blown argument and a lot of emotional suffering. That mindset made me incredibly sensitive to any negative emotions. It’s from this upbringing that I have become a highly sensitive empath. I’ve become extremely sensitive to the emotions of other people. My mind has trained itself to know precisely what’s going on with the people around me. Perhaps you are the same.
If you too are highly sensitive, then there are a few important factors to be aware of. There are some complications of the HSP personality that are worth bearing in mind. The truth is that while highly sensitive empaths are vitally important people they are also prone to some issues.
Problems for empaths
Highly Sensitive Empaths are extremely valuable individuals, but they are prone to some problems
“When empathy goes into overdrive, people put themselves at risk for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and physical complications such as heart disease and high blood pressure,” says David Sack M.D.
Many people, and especially clairsentient, sensitive, intuitive and lightworker types, can suffer from problems of overly active empathy.
If you’re one of them, you may have noticed that you do everything to make sure other people are happy, and it’s rarely requited. You care more than other people. And then you wonder why other people don’t care as much as you do. This sense of caring-for but not always being cared-about can lead to to a sense of isolation.
Aristotle said, “To perceive is to suffer.” When you’re a highly sensitive empath you are more perceptive of other people’s emotions, and this can lead to suffering.
Taking up other people’s emotions leads to a lot of emotional weight on your shoulders. This is why you may sometimes struggle in social situations. “There is physical evidence within the brain that proves that highly sensitive individuals respond especially strongly to social situations that trigger emotions,” says Dr. Aron, a Research Professor in Psychology at Stony Brook University
Highly sensitive empaths soak up other people’s emotions, and then those emotions come pouring out of them. That’s a lot of emotion to run through one person. And though on the one hand this ability to perceive and then soak up other people’s pain makes empaths extremely valuable to the people around them, they also suffer because they are made to face not just their own emotions but other people’s too.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Are you a highly sensitive empath? If so I’d love to hear about it in a comment below.
Making life easier
If you are a highly sensitive empath, there are some steps you can take to make life easier for yourself
1: Centre yourself: Learn to turn your empathy on and off. Yes, it is wonderful to be there for other people. But you matter too. And sometimes you need that down time.
2: Become more aware of the triggers of empathy. Learn to look out for the warning signs. You will be particularly sensitive to certain situations and certain people. Be prepared to distance yourself from those things when you need to.
3. Move from unconscious empathy to conscious empathy– Aim to always be aware of when you’re being overly empathetic. For your own sake, be prepared to step away from an emotional situation when you need to.
In conclusion, your empathy makes you special, but you do deserve a break from all that emotion. That’s why I want you to read this extremely relaxing guide to taking a break.
Being a highly sensitive empath isn’t easy. You are aware of the feelings of others and you feel responsible for them. But the truth is that there are times when you need and deserve a break. You can’t be the emotional go-to person for everyone. That’s going to exhaust you. You owe it to yourself to be able to distance yourself from the emotional needs of other people. You deserve an emotional vacation from time to time. So do yourself a favor, turn off that empathy from time to time. Relax. Put yourself first for a change.
So, over to you. Do you find yourself to be too empathetic? Have you suffered as a result? Do you agree that your heightened levels of empathy make you special? I’d love to hear from you in a comment below.