I have a problem with empathy.
I think I feel too much at times.
I find myself longing to be present when a friend needs another soul to share their pain with, but I don’t know how to set boundaries.
I have a hard time defining when I am feeling my own pain and when I am feeling someone else’s pain.
So I ask myself the question, how do I walk with someone without walking with myself?
This question leads me to the Pinterest app on my phone where I type, “Empathy quotes” in a search for an answer. I scroll through the endless quotes, some touching me, some not, until I reach this one:
“No, I’m not insulted when people call me sensitive. Feeling things deeply is my super power. I’m an empathetic badass.”
First step: Admitting to myself that I am an empathetic badass. Not everyone “feels” like I do. Not everyone can “read the room” like I can. Not everyone knows how to appropriately respond to a friend in need by listening carefully to their use of words, their tone, body movements, eyes and subtle facial expressions.
I scroll down further until I reach another quote that again validates the core of who I am–an empath.
It reads, “I used to dislike being sensitive. I thought it made me weak. But take away that single trait, and you take away the very essence of who I am. You take away my conscience, my ability to empathize, my intuition, my creativity, my deep appreciation for the little things, my vivid inner life, my keen awareness to others pain and my passion for it all.”
Whoever wrote this gets me. Have you ever found yourself listening to a song or reading someone else’s writing and feeling like they are reading your mind? Sometimes I wonder if that’s God’s way of speaking to me.
Second step: Being present with my imperfections. So now that I’m at peace with who I am, a person who feels deeply, I think it’s appropriate to reflect on the danger that comes with this super power.
As I mentioned before, sometimes I find myself carrying the burden of other people’s pain on my shoulders. I try to validate it by telling myself that in order to respond appropriately I must know what it feels like to carry it myself.
But now as I reflect on a deeper level I realize that maybe the part of empathy I’m screwing up on is the “stepping outside your own emotions to view things entirely from the perspective of another person” part. I have the tendency to forget to separate my own emotional well-being from the other person’s emotions. Therefore, their emotions carry over into how I operate.
Final step: Taking care of myself. In order to do this, it is essential for me to take time to self-reflect. Asking myself the questions, “What today made you feel most drained?” and “How can you improve your response to the needs of others?”
I must take time to be present with the strengths and weaknesses of my newly identified identity. I am an empath. I have the responsibility to take care of my own soul before I can enter into the souls of those I love.
To end this self-reflective and self-empowering blog post, I would like to share truth I find in the words of Buddha: “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”