I am a highly sensitive empath. This is not your everyday “I’m-sensitive” story, though. For me, it’s more like an “I’m-so-sensitive-that-my-brain-isn’t-even-functioning.”
A highly sensitive empath is someone who has the ability to feel and perceive emotions of others. This can be a gift or a curse, depending on how you choose to live your life.
@delphinacarmona provided this image.
Oh, to be a wise, discriminating adolescent once again. In high school, I recall taking a lengthy drive on back roads to decompress, hand out the window performing the ubiquitous “roll wave” while listening to Jewel’s “Sensitive” on repeat (probably did not anticipate that one, did you).
Sure, the mixed CD typically included other, more conventional teenage fare like Red Hot Chili Peppers or Ben Folds, but on the days when I was most vulnerable, their songs provided the empathy I couldn’t find among my friends. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I realized that my sensitivity was not the impediment or defect I had always assumed, but rather a gift to be welcomed with open arms.
“You wear your heart on your sleeve, face, and trouser leg,” a college buddy once remarked (jokingly), to which I replied, “Yes, and it just gets rubbed against a lot!” I’d spent the greater part of my life wishing I wasn’t this way, imagining how much easier life would be if I didn’t feel so strongly about everything.
That is, until I began doing more self-work and purposefully began putting yellow tape between worry, empathy, sensitivity, and other emotions. The boundaries had been totally blurred till then, as I’d spent more and more time listening to external noise. Once I started drawing those clear lines, I understood that these aspects of myself could, just might, be a gift.
The more we let the venom of how others believe we should respond to permeate into our beings, the more fertile ground we create for silence and shame. When it comes down to it, the problem with sensitivity is that we’re caught up in our own internal monologue.
The remarks from others that we are “too sensitive” may be the easiest to blame for our discomfort with being empaths, but the pillars of shame would not exist in the first place if we did not put them up and solidify them. The more we let the venom of how others believe we should respond to permeate into our beings, the more fertile ground we create for silence and shame.
If you allow it, being extremely sensitive may make you feel socially disadvantaged. I strongly advise you to master the skill of not distancing oneself if you’re in a scenario where you’re considerably more impacted by something—whether or not it’s apparent to others. (It’s difficult, which is why it’s a practice!) Of course, take a break if you need to, but do your damnedest not to shut down.
When you’re experiencing things at a higher frequency, it’s tempting to pull up your imagined hood and zip it all the way up. However, the more we lean into it, the more things change. This guideline applies to you whether you are extremely sensitive, empathic, or neither. When it comes to how things make you feel, just listen to your rhetoric.
People, without a doubt, make us feel things—that is the wonder of life, of human connection and trade. However, you and only you have control over your response. And if you are hypersensitive, like I am, and feel like you can’t control it because it reaches your heart before your head can catch up, consider how you will respond to your response.
Will you be kind in your dealings with yourself? Will you close your eyes and mock yourself for being “too much” or “too sensitive” to that person’s emotions or situation? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes Because electricity occurs when you are able to channel that awareness into action.
People, without a doubt, make us feel things—that is the wonder of life, of human connection and trade. However, you and only you have control over your response. And if you are hypersensitive, like I am, and feel like you can’t control it because it reaches your heart before your head can catch up, consider how you will respond to your response. Will you be kind in your dealings with yourself?
Keep in mind that this is a lifelong project. As a highly sensitive and/or empathic person, you are almost certainly navigating situations with these burdens on your back on a daily basis. But what happens when you make them into a cape? The transformation is gradual, and you will ultimately feel lighter and more prepared to fight evil. You will be more proud of others as well as yourself. When we can, in a sense, “crack the fourth wall” of a stranger, it cuts through distance. It makes room for togetherness and allows for a common understanding.
Permission will set you free—permission to wash away a discourse that has been tainted by circumstances in which you have been labeled “too much” and urged to “be less.” Finding a way to see your high degree of sensitivity as a gift is critical. That after you rinse so hard, all you’re left with is what didn’t wash away; what’s left are these precious nuggets, which will act as your life’s superpowers. But these abilities don’t come with instructions or a manual; you’ll have to figure it out on your own, child.
So you’re an empath and/or extremely sensitive. That’s fantastic. Here are a few things to remember in order to harness your sensitivity and use it as a gift to yourself (and the world):
Because you can imagine yourself in their position, you can be the buddy who offers the most steadfast support. You may make others feel less alone when your sensitivity enables you to experience their emotions. Being noticed is the most wonderful sensation in the world. What about you? That is something you can do for others.
Addendum: It’s ideal to do this while also keeping in mind that their emotions don’t have to match your feelings in order to be helpful (I’m constantly learning this). This will enable you to show up for them without exhausting yourself.
If you’re a parent, you’re probably an expert at detecting when your kid needs something on a deeper level before they can articulate it. Recognize your own triggers. For example, I just cannot watch violent films. I’m not afraid of blood; I just can’t cognitively separate reality from fiction, even if I know it’s fiction, or not incorporate the emotions that emerge into whatever I’m doing next.
Because of FOMO, setting limits may be difficult, but I don’t value slasher flicks, so I don’t watch them, and my husband has accepted that he will have to watch them alone on the sofa. Learn to recognize the habits that keep you from enjoying particular activities and politely decline: “That’s a no for me, dawg.”
Outside emotions may seem “contagious” when you are extremely sensitive or sympathetic. Alternatively, you may feel compelled to publicly share and discover that others are afraid of “catching it.” But don’t get the wrong idea: being vulnerable isn’t the same as being weak. These aren’t mutually exclusive, and don’t let anybody convince you differently.
Your best buddy is a set of boundaries. Pay attention to everything that produces an unpleasant gut response. Do you recall Harold and the Purple Crayon, a children’s book? You, too, may make room for that which does or does not need to be in your lane if he can draw the moon and the sheets up to his head. (All right, this is a stretch, but I’m going with it.) There’s a good chance the author was indicating something here.)
Your emotional and environmental gauge is not the same as the next guy’s. And that’s OK. Two individuals in the same room may have very different experiences. It’s strange and strange, but it’s also the human condition. It may be irritating that others aren’t as affected by little details, but that’s alright.
As I complete this post, I’m watching a program with my kid because sometimes you simply need to bring out the heavy guns to get things done. I had turned it off until this phrase caught my attention: “Sometimes you have two emotions at once, and that’s okay!” Even Daniel Tiger is aware of what’s going on, and to be honest, I’m all for embedding this narrative in people from the start; let the collective sigh of relief reverberate.
The empath meaning is a term that has been used in the past to describe someone who’s sensitive to other people’s emotions. But it can also be seen as a gift.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you be an empath and a highly sensitive person?
Why are empaths so sensitive?
Empaths are sensitive because they have a high level of empathy. They feel the emotions of others and often find it difficult to understand why people do not reciprocate their feelings.
Why being highly sensitive is a gift?
Being highly sensitive is a gift because you are more likely to be in tune with your emotions, and understand them better.