Is it wrong to be an empath?
There is no problem with being kind, and no problem with being empathic, good-hearted, and sensitive. The issue I take with the empath ideal is that many descriptions of the empath paint the picture of someone with weak emotional boundaries. The empath is a person who often is at risk of neglecting their own needs to help others. I'm writing this article not because I am against empaths – but because I have struggled with these issues myself and because I am searching for a better option. A more authentic way to show compassion.
Empaths are said to feel others emotions, but neglect their own. They care for others, but forget about themselves. What empaths are doing are in many ways honorable, but they've been tricked by society. Society puts impossible ideals on people to either be kind in ways that are selfless, or not to be kind at all. Good people are taught that it is wrong to be selfish or to have personal feelings of their own. We're told it's hypocritical to care for ourselves if we claim to also care for others. And many have bought into the deception.
Idealists appear particularily prone to being empaths. And perhaps there is a good genetic reason. A high responsiveness to social information, people's actions, smiles, expressions, and experiences. A tendency towards daydreaming about others and about deeper social issues. An intuitive tendency to imagine and spin information and to make social deductions about others. Yet I have found nothing in this that leads me to think that Idealists are doomed to forgetting about themselves. While genes may predestine you towards these behaviors, genes don't tell us to neglect our own personal issues. We should be just as likely to be able to empathise with ourselves, as long as we practice thinking about ourselves as a person worthy of empathy.
Still, I keep finding that most empaths I meet love others, but they are often far too often hurtful and disrespectful towards themselves. While empaths tend to offer many gifts – energy – passion – healing – inspiration, they have often taught themselves not to stand up for themselves. They often practice a kindness that compromises the self. They often neglect their own goals and passions to help others. And they struggle with feeling used and drained by others, having one-sided relationships, often purely focused on their partners, friends, or family members. I think the issue is influenced by our culture and our education system.
Is it shameful to accept help from others?
The reason is that they have taught themselves that it is shameful to show self-care and self-compassion. They may think that self-care is narcissistic, or they may think that who they are will “inconvenience” others. They struggle to take time to their needs, but they go out of their way to fill others needs. Because empaths have taught themselves not to accept others kindness, empaths often have difficult times relating to one another, rejecting each others kindness, and instead becoming the targets of people who take but never give back.
Empaths are often said to be natural targets of narcissists. This is not because empaths have some kind of hidden power that narcissists love, or because empaths are on some higher frequency than others, but because empaths struggle to recognize manipulation and gaslighting. Where other people have taught themselves not to accept being manipulated, empaths somehow tolerate manipulation techniques from others. While empaths on the average have a high empathy, many appear to have huge blind spots to their empathy.
When gaslighted into doubting your own sanity, many would say “how dare you?” – but the empath does not. The empath says “Maybe he's right.” – leaving the door open, when others are playing games. This is because empaths try to practice an ideal of love and understanding of others – but not a love or understanding of the self. Empaths may feel inside them that they are angry or hurt, but they discard this feeling, telling themselves it's bad to feel hurt or angry, instead choosing to be “selfless.” – which means to systematically distrust any personal feelings or inner values.
The goal of the deception that taught you to discard yourself and your ego was to eventually show you that kindness is a weakness. But it's not. Kindness is a strength, kindness from the self is a superpower. The ego does not stand in the way of giving and love, the ego is the bridge to it. Too many people eventually give up on being empaths, deciding it was futile, making a 180, going into selfish independence. Too few seek the middle road – being kind, but also being authentic.
Going from being selfless to being selfmore
You can be empathic while practising self-care and understanding. And your power to do so is already close by. You already know how to love, and you already know how to be kind. All you have to do now is start building up your own personal judgement and boundaries.
- When you feel sad, hurt, or angry, don't push that feeling away. Trust your judgement that something is wrong in the situation.
- Understand others, but also understand yourself. See their perspective – but also see your own.
- Express your own understanding and your own perspective – nobody else is going to do it for you
- Don't feel bad for voicing your own needs – you're showing others how they can love you
- Let others know when you feel stepped on or when you feel burdened by others. Don't take on things that you think are too much.
- Don't compromise so much that you forget about your own goals and hobbies.
- Take your time to recenter if you feel lost or unsure – find a quiet place
- Don't hide from your own journey and process – don't try to walk someone elses journey for them.
- Never second guess another persons judgement, and never make their problems yours. Let them make the decisions for themselves.
- Trust what feels right to you, your decisions must come from a strong, well-grounded judgement. Don't let others decide what's right for you.
Are you an empath? Then this is your next lesson and your next step to becoming a more loving person.