If you’re an empath, you already know that you experience the world in a unique way. Empaths have the innate ability to feel other peoples’ emotions as if they were their own. This allows them to understand people in profound and intimate ways, as well as heal emotional pain.
However, due to their compassion and caring, empaths are often taken advantage of. And it’s not easy to go through life absorbing the feelings of others (sometimes even those of complete strangers!). But I’m here to let you know that you’re not alone; there are more people like you out there than you might think. And there are things you can do to manage the emotional overwhelm you sometimes feel.
Upon discovering the term “empath,” it helped explain some things about why I am the way I am. There are a lot of ways I describe my personality: an introvert or a highly sensitive person (HSP), but I think being an empath is really at the core of who I am.
So, here are 11 things that helped explain some of the “unusual” parts of my personality that I felt confused about my whole life. Can you relate?
What It’s Like Being an Introverted Empath
1. Empaths walk in other people’s shoes with little effort.
One of the easiest and most natural things for an empath to do is understand what another person is going through. That is, in essence, the definition of the word “empathy,” which Merriam-Webster describes as the “action of understanding, being aware of, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” In short, empathy is walking in someone’s shoes even if they’ve walked a completely different path than anything you’ve experienced. Now, this isn’t to say that empaths have a supernatural ability to comprehend any human situation, experience, or feeling — we’re not psychics — but we pretty easily “get” you.
2. We feel deeply.
I don’t know how else to explain it, but it’s as if my emotions seem to be more heightened than others around me. This can be both a blessing and a curse. On the upside, I feel joy, peace, and happiness strongly. However, there are times where a greater tendency towards apathy would make my life easier; it’s tiring to constantly be experiencing intense emotions. For example, when I’m stressed or struggling, my insomnia worsens, my mood plunges, I listen to a lot of sad music, and it becomes all too easy to choke up and lose myself.
3. We can be brought to tears over seemingly insignificant things.
I’ve cried while looking at an exhibit in a museum, reading a book, listening to someone tell a sad (or heartwarming) story, and especially while watching or reading the news. Tears come easily to me, sometimes over seemingly “insignificant” things. When they do, I need to assess where they’re coming from: Is the emotion mine, or does it belong to someone else? For the deeply sensitive empath, the line can be blurry.
4. We are passionate.
One reason introverted empaths get emotional is we have a large capacity for passion. If there’s a cause, person, or group we truly care about, we will throw ourselves fully into the effort. Being an introvert, I do not crave the spotlight, and I generally avoid making myself the center of attention. But if I believe what I’m doing will truly make a difference, I’ll step out of my comfort zone. That’s when you may not recognize the enthusiastic, assertive person I become.
5. We listen because we truly care.
Introverts in general are known for being good listeners. Combine an introvert with an empath, and you magnify that ability. As empaths, it’s against our nature not to care. When you can sense other peoples’ emotions, you can’t help but care for them. You can’t help but be caught up in their triumphs and struggles. You can’t help but listen with interest.
6. We love serving.
It’s hard for us to turn a blind eye to suffering, whether it’s a friend or a stranger on the street. Because we take on others’ feelings, we take on others’ suffering, too. As a result, empaths have servant hearts. It doesn’t matter if there’s something else we’re supposed to be doing or previous plans we had scheduled. If someone is hurting — and we can do something about it — we will.
Of course, sometimes this causes problems for us. Other people see our generosity and take advantage of it — especially those who are toxic, emotionally needy, or even sociopathic. That’s why, if you’re an empath, it’s crucial that you have strong healthy boundaries in place.
7. Sometimes we understand other people’s feelings but not our own.
It’s kind of like knowing who is crushing on your friend but being completely oblivious to the possibility that someone likes you. Reading other people’s feelings? For an empath, that’s a piece of cake. Sorting out our own complex inner turmoil as an introvert? More often than not, a complete and utter fail! You’d think self-awareness is a fundamental human trait, but for some of us, it’s a bit trickier to figure out. Empaths feel and understand so much that separating their own feelings from the feelings of others can be a daunting task — albeit a necessary one.
8. We read people well.
People are the brightest thing on our radar. We read them well, noticing body language and tone of voice, a slight hesitation here, a sudden change of topic there. Perhaps this is what feeds our empathy. When you notice subtle emotional signals, you can’t help but be drawn in. And whatever you do, don’t lie to an empath. Because we notice so much about people, we’re practically walking lie detectors.
9. We make strong, lasting connections.
Once we bond with someone, it can take on a hint of “till death do us part.” Even when we’re separated by distance and time, we are probably still thinking about you — people mean a lot to us, even though we, as introverts, may not be the best at showing it. And when we do get to see each other again, expect us to pick up right where we left off.
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10. We’re labeled overly sensitive or emotional.
Growing up, I can’t tell you how many times I was told I was being “too emotional” or “too sensitive.” If you, too, have been told this, you might be an empath.
11. Empaths are sought after but under-appreciated.
Yes, empaths are emotional. Yes, we are sensitive. But we don’t see these as bad things. There’s nothing wrong with feeling deeply or caring passionately. In fact, the world would be a better place if we all had a little more empathy.
Perhaps introverted empaths experience this one more than extroverted empaths. When you listen attentively, genuinely care, and have little interest in hogging the conversational spotlight, people and their problems flock to you. It doesn’t matter if someone knows you hardly at all, but something about being an empath makes people bare their souls to you. It’s not really that much of a shock that this happens if you consider how good at being understanding empaths are, though it can at times become frustrating. We do care immensely about the wellbeing of others, and that’s why we may bite our tongues and sit down to listen to someone rant about the same things, again. However, empaths need to beware of one-sided relationships where they’re giving all of themselves and not receiving anywhere near the same in return.
A Final Note to Empaths
My dear empaths, you were born hard-wired to care deeply. To put others first. To understand. To heal. Your selfless attitude is both courageous and compassionate.
But don’t neglect to take care of yourself. There will be people who won’t appreciate your sensitivity or who will seek to take advantage of your empathy. These are the people that not worth anguishing over.
Instead, seek out people who value and support you as much as you value and support them. Being introverts, we have limited social energy, so we need to be extra selective about who we spend our time with. And as empaths, we must protect our sensitive hearts.
And don’t let anyone convince you that caring for other people isn’t worth it. But then again, I’m sure you know that already.