Many of you who read this have “Empath” (aka highly sensitive to other people’s emotions) in your makeup or “type”. Have you identified this trait in yourself?
It’s taken me a long time and a lot of working on loving and trusting myself to get to grips with my empathetic streak and know how to incorporate it healthily into my life.
Most people talk about empathy from a “you feel what other people feel – what you need to do to protect yourself” point of view. But I want to take it a step more basic and share my wonderings about how lack of self-acceptance and self – valuing could result in the empath taking responsibility for the other person’s feelings as well. Empathy is a powerful, wonderful thing – it just doesn’t mix well with low self- esteem or habitual self – blame.
I think most empaths have a love - hate relationship with their ability to be very sensitive to other people’s inner states. I can’t count the times I’ve automatically put myself in someone else’s shoes and imagined what it would be like if it was me in their situation. Result: I feel sad and anxious. Pretty often I know something’s troubling another person long before they verbalise or even seem to feel it themselves. Result: for years when that happened I jumped to the conclusion that it was me that had done something to upset them.
Let’s face it, almost all of us come out of our early years with “I’m not good enough – there’s so much wrong with me” thinking. So it’s a short jump from there to thinking that other people’s upsets are our fault. I think the big learning for the empath is to realise that they are not responsible for other people’s emotions - either for causing them or for making them better. The thing that’s worked best for me is to practice (and get good at) self – acceptance: “I AM good enough. There’s nothing wrong with me”. The effect of this is that you stop automatically blaming yourself and going into fix-it mode when someone else is upset.
If you get good at seeing yourself through loving and self-valuing eyes and you also get an ability to become skilled at ‘vetting’ feelings as you become aware of them. What I mean is you get an ability to discern “is this mine or is it theirs” and to stand firm in a place of “I’m responsible for what is truly mine, but that’s all”.
If you suspect you too have ‘complicated’ your empathy with low self-value try asking yourself these questions (take a minute to really reflect on them).
Is it true for me that I tend to have thoughts that:
It’s really hard to use the “Is it mine or is it theirs?” strategy if you’ve got the above going on.
My empath clients get much better clarity and inner equilibrium in the face of other people’s upsets when they build up their self – value and belief by using affirmations like these:
So, love your emotional sensitivity radar. Have empathy for yourself being an empath! And look at it as an opportunity to learn to trust yourself, recognise your innate goodness and stop taking the blame for everything.
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