Thin-skinned, hyper-sensitive, wimpy, spineless, wussy, feeble, weak, fragile, melodramatic, temperamental …
If you can relate to, or have been called a combination of any of these words, chances are you’re part of a unique group of people: the Empaths.
Occurring in an estimated 5% of the population, Empaths are known for their highly developed ability to sense the emotions and thoughts of the people around them. As author and Empath Christel Broederlow put it “empaths often possess the ability to sense others on many different levels”, this includes the abilities to intimately understand what a person desires, yearns for, and is currently feeling, suffering or thinking, as well as the ability to feel other people’s bodily illnesses. These occurances manifest themselves as energy vibrations that the finely tuned Empath can pick up on, or “tune into”.
Commonly identifying as clairsentients and HSPs, Empaths possess an ability that is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the Empath is an excellent listener and counselor, knowing the best way to comfort and assist those around them. On the other, being an Empath can be painful and tiring. It’s common for the Empath to be weighed down and constantly congested with the negative emotional energy of others, often creating physical and psychological disharmony.
Although the Empath has a wonderful gift, and is often greatly cherished by those around them, they are often challenged and confronted by a variety of misguided perceptions towards their innate gift.
Myths & Misunderstandings
“You need to grow some thicker skin! Stop being so overly sensitive.” I wish I could tell you how many times I heard that in my childhood! Growing up as an Empath, you may have experienced similar insults from your parents, friends or peers, and perhaps even worse.
It’s not at all trendy or popular to be sensitive or feeling in our society that values efficiency, cold calculation, and industrial resilience. Therefore, you may have experienced and still experience, a lot of antagonism towards your behavior as an Empath. I will explore four of these main misperceptions below.
Myth #1 – Empaths are navel-gazing and self-absorbed.
Truth – We often focus more on others than on ourselves.
It’s true that Empaths are often unexplainably moody and quiet on the outside. However, this isn’t because they’re excessively absorbed thinking too much about themselves and their feelings. Rather, the Empath is often deeply affected by the exterior emotions of others that he experiences as his own. The Empath’s ability to intuitively feel the feelings of others is what weighs him down so much. In fact, it’s characteristic of the Empath to pay more attention to others needs than his own.
Myth #2 – Empaths are mentally ill.
Truth – We are magnets of negative energy. This often creates psychological disbalance within us.
Empaths are excellent listeners, confidants, and counselors. For this reason, it’s common for people to be drawn towards their sincere and caring natures, almost like magnets. Therefore, Empaths often experience a lot of “emotional baggage dumping” from other people, and have difficult releasing themselves from the negative energy that remains in their minds and bodies afterwards.
Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of lingering depressive emotions that the Empath is left with. Thus, the Empath can appear to be mentally ill and depressed, and in some cases legitimately is. However, in most cases the Empath is congested with remnants of harmful emotional energy, like sinuses are congested with mucus during a flu virus.
The root of the problem doesn’t lie with the Empath, it’s a result of their outer emotional climate.
Myth #3 – Empaths are psychologically frail.
Truth – We are biologically programmed to be more sensitive and in tune with our surrounding environment.
As Empath Nicole Lawler wrote, Empaths are essentially “walking around in this world with all the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others”. Understandably, this results in a lot of inner emotional tension for the Empath who is more prone to crying and exhibiting other signs of “weakness”.
Additionally, the Empath finds it extremely difficult to partake in many “normal” activities. For instance, watching a movie about Nazi concentration camps is extremely emotionally upsetting for the Empath, and getting a job in an office is overwhelming and tiring for the Empath who is bombarded with other people’s emotions constantly. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the Empath is often perceived as “wussy”, “frail” or “weak minded” to the person who fails to comprehend the constant pressure the Empath lives under.
The fact that most Empaths aren’t driven clinically insane by the constant emotional flux they experience is testimony enough to their mental strength.
Myth #4 – Empaths are lazy.
Truth – We often lack mental, emotional and physical energy due to our intense empathetic ability to understand others.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) amongst other physical issues like headaches, insomnia and Fibromyalgia, have all been commonly attributed to Empaths.
If our minds are constantly overloaded with stress, tension and pressure, it therefore translates that our bodies are as well. This often results in sicknesses such as the ones mentioned above. Thus Empaths often lack the energy and therefore desire to do many things, preferring to relax (including taking naps) instead.
If you’ve experienced any of these misperceptions in your life, please feel free to share your experiences below. Also, feel free to take our Empath Test or read our empath book to get more in-depth guidance. Being an Empath can certainly be riddled with setbacks, however, it’s invaluable to remember how much of an asset you are to the world. Our planet needs a balance of both hard and industrious people, and soft and empathetic people. You form an important part in this great Universal Balance.
If you would you some more free resources, check out our extensive collection of empath articles!
How do I release these bad feelings? I feel normal after reading this because the explanations fit so well. I don’t feel bad about myself for being weak or lazy or not taking certain jobs because of the mental weigh down they come with.
I love this article. I’m proud of my “super power”, lol. This is what I call it when I talk to other empaths like myself. I’ve learned to look at it in a positive way. There’s nothing wrong with us, and everyone is different.
I can totally relate with this!!! makes me afraid of everything :(
Ive always been able to see through people and know exactly what they were feeling and even in some instances what their intent was. Its helped me flourish being in the customer service industry but as of late it has been backfiring and making me bitter and downright difficult to deal with. At one point I had a handle on things but it eventually spun out of control and I went down the road of drug use to just get numb. When I feel things its almost like I feel what’s my emotion only magnified by thousands… Something small and simple can be blown out of proportion if there’s even one negative person in the room. As of late I can’t even muster up energy to practice reki… It almost feels like I have a parasite feeding off of all of my energy and it brings me to a negative place. I have long ago given up the drugs thankfully but I still have a short temper and can can be easily drug down in the dumps by negativity. I was diagnosed with massive depressive at the age of 12 but a lot of it was due to my environment.… Read more »
Thank you for this I have always felt like the odd one out always too sensative too caring it is an amazing feeling to know I am not alone and I am ok :)
I would only add that shutting down is another coping mechanism that leads to ill health and a tendency to go ‘cave dweller’ to avoid the energy of others. That strategy can also lead to anger and rage issues much like someone that has been repeatedly abused and occasionally chooses to lash out rather than shut down. I can only think it’s a ‘life lesson’ to learn how to either transmute those energies or to learn to be transparent so that they flow through one but do not impact one’s own state of being, and are recognized as not your own. It can be problematic when one’s health is too far gone to actualize those lessons at more than a superficial level.
Thank you for the article. It’s good to see more information out there for folks like us. (Also a type O+, Leo – though I’m an INFP) In my teens, I had episodes of crying for what seemed to be no reason, only to find out that it was somehow connected to the people around me. One time my best friend was fighting with his sister at the same time. Another embarrassing incident in HS was when I burst into tears in the middle of History class, left class right away to find a girl I didn’t even know sobbing about a break-up. I also found that things I ordinarily didn’t take interest in were fun in a large group setting… like feeling the rush of fan fervor at a football game… I’d usually much rather climb a tree and read a book. I luckily came to an understanding of what was happening with me in my late teens. I had the fortune to happen upon the local New Age shop in my town and got some answers from some marvelous women. I have struggled with major depression which was exacerbated by my gift and at the same time I… Read more »
Yea, I’m definitely an empath. When I was little, I thought everybody could read people like I could and it terrified me and led to a lot of my introversion/isolation/social paralysis, I was confused at how some people could be so cruel if they knew how it made their victims feel. Sometimes when I’m hanging out with people, it’s just easier to close my eyes and feel them rather than look at them because I’ll end up not hearing a thing they say because it’s too much information to process. But yea, I’m glad I found these articles, it’s nice to see people creating positive ripples in the world.
I’d never heard of an empath till I read this. I was often was called overly sensitive and fragile growing up and it hurt my feelings because I didn’t believe I was fragile. My parents hated it when I cried but I couldn’t help it, that’s how I expressed emotion. I can’t watch sad movies or read sad books because they get to me. Same goes for scary stuff. People open up to me so easy and I never understood it, now I get it. I’m definitely an empath.
I think this is what I have been referring to as “mood by osmosis”! Thanks for clarifying. I am not a super-empath but have tendencies in that direction.
I cried easily and a lot as a kid and to this day it can be hard to sit through a movie, listen to a song or even let my mind wander through it’s own thoughts without choking back tears. I spent a lot of my life having my sensitivity “beaten” out of me or beating it out of myself only spend the last three years trying desperately to get back what I lost and repair what I had damaged so I could feel whole again, and have a life I could live with (still in the works). My relationship with my friends is more as a councilor and I spend most of my free time in nature and alone in order to maintain peace of body and mind. Due to injury I was able to find a profession in the healing arts where being empathic by nature gives me an edge and natural ability to help others help themselves, while learning from and interacting with other empathic people. It can be draining but as I learn to filter what is mine and what is not, getting rid of what is not mine when it no longer serves, I am… Read more »