Being an empath is an incredible gift. To be able to tune into another person’s thoughts and feelings as well as understand them on a deep emotional level are wonderful abilities that ought to be cherished. I have always felt that having highly attuned empathetic skills is one of the most valuable gifts any person can possess and indeed this skill can definitely help in navigating some of the more messier emotional situations that you encounter in life. The highly sensitive, intuitive and creative skills that empaths possess make them truly remarkable people as well as so unique in their outer perspective.
However, despite the wonderful gifts that being an empath can bring it is definitely not all fun and roses. Many times it comes with some very tricky lessons to master and can also, at times, be a rather heavy emotional burden. This is especially true for the ultra-sensitive empaths who find that their sensitivities extend to absorbing the emotions of those around them or who get bogged down with the energy of their environment.
As an empath, I have found that there are many things that I struggle with and one of the lessons I feel I have really had to master is where to lay boundaries and how to prioritise my own needs. This is one of the hardest lessons that most empaths will encounter but, in my opinion, is really the most important one. As empaths, we so eagerly give and give in order to ensure that those around us are happy and content but so often we do this at the expense of our own comfort and happiness. For us, it is crucial to avoid the agonising feeling of causing anyone pain or discomfort, which would be just as painful as experiencing it for ourselves.
The lessons that we have to learn as empaths are plentiful and if we don’t manage to stay balanced we can actually end up living in a way that is to our detriment rather than to our benefit.
So here I have listed some of the lessons that I believe most empaths encounter in their lives and need to learn in order to be kind to themselves as well as others.
1. Learning to Lay Boundaries
As I mentioned before, laying boundaries can be one of the trickiest lessons that empaths need to learn. So often we want to give beyond what we can really afford in terms of emotions, time and energy that we can so easily burn ourselves out. It is so important to learn exactly where our boundaries should lie and how we can assert them in an effective manner.
I have found that sometimes stepping back from my empath ways can be useful. I attempt to draw in those emotions that make me so focused on what other people want and need to see if a boundary needs to be laid somewhere. When I start to feel uncomfortable in a situation that’s when I notice that I need to say no to something. This is so important because if we don’t lay down boundaries with others, they will unfortunately just take – it might not even be on a conscious level but it is sure to leave us feeling frustrated, frazzled and often completely worn out.
The best way to assert boundaries is with a polite firmness that is unapologetic. Again, this may take moving away from some of your more natural empath qualities but ultimately you will be doing the most important thing and that is looking after yourself!
2. Learning to Prioritise Your Own Needs Over the Needs of Others
The subject of boundaries leads me into the next big lesson that empaths need to master and that is how to prioritise your own needs. Really these two lessons go hand in hand, as boundaries need to be put in place before you can learn how to give yourself that self-care that you so deserve.
As I previously discussed, empaths can often so easily delve into a bottomless pit of giving everything that they have until there is nothing really left for them. This can be dangerous and so often can leave us suffering from, what I like to call, Empath-Burnout Syndrome. We empaths tend to thrive on making those around us happy as well as satisfying the needs of others before our own. Sometimes the happiness we feel from this can blind us to what is really happening to us on a personal level.
To avoid this burnout, learn to put yourself first from time to time. Indulge yourself and find activities that really give you pleasure. Make time for them over doing other things that you feel ‘need’ to be done. Try to get into a self-care regime and make a habit to do nice things for yourself. In the same way we need to assert boundaries, we need to stop putting ourselves to the bottom of the list.
3. Handling Narcissists or Abusive Personality Types
Many empaths will be well aware that narcissists are attracted to empaths like a moth to a flame and the dynamic between these two personality types is well known to be as toxic as any relationship can come. The crux of the problem is that empaths want to give and give and narcissists, as well as other abusive personality types, merely want to take and take. The empath recognises the hurt and broken narcissist and goes into overdrive, trying to heal them and bring happiness to their life. The narcissist then plays on the empath’s willingness to please and heal their broken spirit and a toxic spiral soon ensues.
In order to avoid this situation, the empath needs to realise that they cannot and never will be able to ‘fix’ or heal the emotional issues of a narcissist. It is completely on them to heal themselves and that is the only way they can heal – by recognising their faults and shortcomings and owning responsibility for them.
In my own opinion, it is best for empaths to avoid narcissistic personality types as the dynamic between them is not one that is supportive of healing and growth for either party.
4. Staying Balanced
Empaths, by nature, are a particularly sensitive group of people and their sensitivities express themselves in different ways. As we have already discussed, empaths are particularly emotionally sensitive and this can definitely be a burden at times but what is experienced by possibly fewer empaths, is sensitivity to energies.
Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist, and author of the best-selling book The Empath’s Survival Guide, when speaking about the difference between Highly Sensitive People (HSP) and Empaths, says: “empaths take the experience of the highly sensitive person much further. We can sense subtle energy, which is called shakti or prana in Eastern healing traditions, and actually absorb it from other people and different environments into our own bodies…This capacity allows us to experience the energies around us in extremely deep ways.”
This is definitely something I experience often and I know many of my friends who are empaths experience it regularly. It can be incredibly draining if the energies you are absorbing are unpleasant and, vice versa, can be absolutely wonderful if you are in an environment with positive light energy and surrounded by loving happy people.
To protect yourself from unwanted energies there are a number of things you can do and many of them are beautifully simple. Even wearing a protective crystal such as black tourmaline or labradorite can help. However, the best solution to this problem, as obvious as it may seem, is to make an effort to avoid situations, people or environments that will make you feel energetically uncomfortable or drained. Again this might be a time where you need to assert boundaries with others but looking after yourself should always be your first priority.
When you do find yourself in a situation you can’t get out of and are feeling particularly energetically sensitive, it is best to find any nature nearby where you can ground your energies and come back to centre. This can also really help to replenish any energies you feel you may have lost from sliding into Empath-Burnout Syndrome.
It can also really help to surround yourself with those who are empaths as well. When you are a person with an incredibly sensitive nature, it really helps to be with people who possess that same sensitivity and gentleness as you. Forums can be a really wonderful way to connect with other empaths and reflect on the common challenges that individuals with an empathetic nature generally face. Personality Paradise is one such forum that freely offers this to its members.
5. Staying True to Yourself
As an empath is always absorbing and picking up on the emotions of others, it becomes very easy for them to absorb not only the emotions of other people but personality traits and quirks as well. This can happen particularly in romantic relationships where the empath starts adopting the interests and behaviours of their partner, becoming so immersed in everything that their partner does that they neglect their own interests and ambitions.
It can almost be that the empath absorbs so much of the energy of their partner that they take on what doesn’t really belong to them. Again it becomes another example of the empath trying to fit themselves around other people, rather than standing tall in who they are.
The empath needs to learn to stay true to themselves – to their own passions, ambitions and personality quirks. It is great to take an interest in the passions of others but not to the extent that you lose your identity.
Take time to concentrate on your own passions, hobbies, and personal pursuits. Spend time away from your partner or anyone you feel has too much of an influence on you. This can help you to again concentrate on you and give you the space to bring your inner potential to the forefront.
The lessons that empaths have to learn are difficult and it feels like we constantly are having to withdraw our attention from the needs of others to look within ourselves and see what needs healing. The question we really need to keep asking ourselves is: ‘What do we need?’ rather than ‘What do they need?’. If we can master this lesson then we really are doing a good job conquering the lessons before us.
However, what is also important is to keep our empath hearts open. As I expressed before, being an empath truly is a blessing and is something this, currently, toxic and hard-hearted world needs so desperately. Empathy needs to be encouraged and admired rather than be seen as weak or feeble-heartedness. It truly represents the gentle strength and power of the heart that this world needs right now more than ever.