Understanding the world of an Empath and a Sensitive Person

If you feel easily overwhelmed and drained by negative people or in social company, tend to feel emotions that you can find no reason for and have been often called “too sensitive”, you may be an Empath or a Highly sensitive person.

Is this you?

  • Do you feel overwhelmed when you have a lot to do in a short span of time?
  • Have you ever been told that you’re “too sensitive” or “too emotional”?
  • Do you have high sensitivity to strong sounds, smells and sensations like bright lights, perfumes, coarse fabrics, or loud noises nearby?
  • Do you get more affected by violent movies, conflict, TV shows and News?
  • Do you cry while watching particularly heartwarming videos and can really empathize with the feelings of others, both negative and positive?
  • Do you try to avoid situations that leave you feeling overwhelmed?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you tend to care deeply about your friends and tend to form deep bonds with the right people?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?

Sensitive people (or as Elaine Aron refers to as ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ or HSP) are the ones who feel everything deeply and intensely. For them feelings are important and something that cannot be ruled out. Sensitive people see the world differently, they are more aware of subtleties and process information deeply.

Empaths are deeply sensitive people who can also easily feel other’s emotions and energies. For empaths, the experience goes even further as they can even experience others’ feelings and pain as their own, often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense.

All empaths are sensitive people but not all sensitive people are empaths. 

Understanding the world of an empath and a highly sensitive person 

Before we dive into the world of an empath and a sensitive person you need to understand that this is a normal trait. It is found in about 15 to 20% of the people around the world. It is not a disorder. Sensitivity, if anything is a cultural issue, because every culture deals with sensitivity in a different way. Most of the sensitive people and empaths suffer from low self-esteem because sensitivity is not considered a “desirable” quality. 

Being sensitive simply means that you process the world in a very different way, you are much more aware of the subtleties and you are perceptive about the energy around you.

Kim Egel, a San Diego-based therapist, expands this further: “Empaths have a higher sensitivity to outside stimuli such as sounds, big personalities, and hectic environments. They bring a lot of heart and care to the world and feel things very deeply.”

Here are a few things that will help you understand yourself or your loved ones who are sensitive, better.

  1. High on feelings

As a sensitive person or an empath, you tend to feel more and are aware of the subtle energies around you. It is easy for you to read the room, read the energy of the people around you. This is the reason you are easily able to perceive what your friends or loved ones are feeling without them having to even tell you about it. 

You tend to form close bonds with people. However, you also tend to feel overwhelmed with close and intimate relationships and friendships especially if you don’t create or set healthy boundaries. 

You are very intuitive. Your intuitions are your radar or a compass for your life and can easily guide you or help you find the best possible path for yourself. However, if you have been raised on a diet of self-doubt or if you have a lot of self-doubt within you, chances are you would not trust your intuition even though you know they are right.

2. Sensory overload or overwhelm

As an empath and a sensitive person one of the striking features is the feeling of overwhelm. Hectic schedules, work pressure, having to do a lot in a short span of time, tensions etc can be overwhelming for you. Daily stressors tend to stress you out more than other people, for example, hangry instead of feeling hungry. 

You also tend to have high-sensitivity senses such as sounds, smell, taste, sensation and temperature. For example, loud music, sirens, strong perfumes, and temperature differences in the room. As a kid, I used to often complain about noise in the classroom or loud voices even in the school assembly and it would be surprising for the teachers and my parents because nobody else complained about noise from kids. It used to be very jarring to my ears and would put me in a lot of distress. Even today I prefer to listen to music that is at a moderate volume because high volume makes me feel spaced out.

You also tend to avoid conflicts. You can easily sense the undertones and the subtle language of conflict, and if it is very loud it can be very rattling for your senses too. You tend to get easily hurt and you also tend to absorb the hurt and tensions of the people around you. This makes it even more challenging for you to face or handle conflicts or arguments. It is easy for you to cry when you are overwhelmed whether it’s because of something good or something bad.

3. You are your own worst critics

You tend to care deeply for people around you, especially your loved ones, and you also tend to feel responsible for others’ happiness. Sometimes you even tend to blame yourself for their emotions because you can even feel it intensely within you. This is one of the reasons why it is difficult for you to say ‘No’ or to disappoint someone because you can literally feel their hurt or rejection and you want to avoid it at every cost. This leads to a cycle of guilt and frustration. 

If you haven’t healed and learnt to set healthy boundaries it is difficult for you to even forgive yourself for your personal mistakes or failures. 

Many sensitive people and empaths are perfectionists. Always wanting to be the perfect version of themselves takes a huge toll on their personal and professional lives. This in turn creates another cycle of guilt and self-criticism.

4. Bad with boundaries

Empaths and sensitive people are good listeners and caring people. Because of this quality, you tend to attract people with needy energy, who are looking for attention, sometimes even attracting Narcissist personalities that thrive on the kind of attention that you can give. Such people can be energy vampires and you can end up feeling completely drained of energy after an interaction with such people. 

Very often, you are givers more than takers – you give a lot more than you receive and at times you feel guilt about receiving too. Your caring nature often overshadows your intuitions about the interactions and people. You also tend to feel a sense of guilt if you are unable to help someone. So at times, you tend to go out of your way to help someone, to be kind to someone, which leads to compassion fatigue coupled with physical and emotional exhaustion. 

A simple solution for this is setting clear and strong boundaries. But when you set boundaries, at times your partner or your loved ones may end up feeling hurt and you end up absorbing your partner’s hurt feelings which makes it even more difficult for you to set clear and strong boundaries. 

Your need to be helpful, kind and good often lands you in trouble especially when it comes to energy drain, feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and empty.

5. Crowds stress you out

For empaths and sensitive people, being in crowds or crowded spaces is a huge drain on energy. A crowd can be a bombardment of energy. If you have never learnt to have good boundaries as an empath or a sensitive being you will tend to absorb all the feelings and energies that are around you whether they are good or bad. Empaths and sensitive people are literally like walking sponges. 

If you are an empath, even a small group, at times, can feel like a crowd after a certain time. All that energy from the crowd is also known as emotional noise and it can be distressing for a lot of sensitive people. 

You don’t just pick up emotions and feelings, you also tend to sometimes pick up physical distress that can leave your body in pain that is often unexplainable.

6. Need to learn to relax

Empaths and sensitive people have been misunderstood for a very long now. It is difficult for them to relate to other people who do not share similar sensibilities and therefore try to fit into the world as non-empaths which can create a lot of stress for them and for their bodies. Because empaths tend to take on a lot of energies, the time needed to relax for them also is a little longer. 

As an empath, you need more time to unwind and relax. Even minor stressors can frustrate you. It is easy to get overwhelmed by distractions of the senses for example strong smell, strong perfume, bright lights, uncomfortable temperature in the room, loud sounds, hectic schedules etc.

You experience burnout easily too. This is the reason empaths and sensitive people need to invest more time in self-care, energy hygiene, being in nature and setting good boundaries.

7. Nature and beauty fascinate you

Being in nature is very comforting for empaths and sensitives. You tend to find solace when surrounded by nature. Whether it’s a forest, beach, mountains or a balcony full of plants, nature revives you and restores your scattered energies.

Animals give you comfort because they too speak the language of energy just as you do. Animals also tend to get attracted to you because they can sense your softer and calmer energies.

You tend to be touched by beauty. Anything beautiful like painting or a scenery or even a beautiful person, you tend to appreciate and be fascinated by them in a good way. If something moves you deeply, it is not uncommon for you to cry.

8. Deeply caring

Empaths and sensitive people are deeply caring. They tend to develop stronger deeper bonds with people. Because they care deeply they also tend to get disappointed if they are unable to help someone or ease their distress. 

As an empath and a sensitive, people tend to be very comfortable around you. They can easily tell their problems and share their thoughts with you because you are fantastic listeners.

A lot of empaths and sensitive people have bad boundaries due to which they end up becoming “emotion dumps” for people. Because you want to help people so badly,  sometimes you even absorb their problems and pains to just ease their distress. 

You can be bad at paying attention to red flags and toxic behaviours because you want to see the best in everyone around you and you want to help everyone. It does not mean that you don’t see the red flags, because you are highly intuitive. However, your need for caring for others overrides your intuition often. 

Something that you need to learn is that you cannot help someone if they are not ready. This is one of the biggest lessons empaths and sensitive people need to learn. 

9. Don’t easily fit in

Despite being highly tuned in, empaths find it difficult to relate to others. As an empath and a sensitive person, you may notice that people tend to feel comfortable around you and can easily connect with you but it’s not always true the other way round. At times you even struggle to explain your overwhelm and exhaustion. Sometimes you’re even struggling to understand what you are feeling. 

Many empaths and sensitive people quite often feel “Not normal”. Your sensitivity may not be common but it is an important part of who you are. Sensitivity is a trait that is absolutely normal and is found in about 15 to 20% of the population. This is not a disorder or a problem, it is simply a misunderstood trait.

Many cultures view sensitivity as a hindrance or value it less. This often leads to sensitive people and empaths having low self-esteem and low confidence. 

You need more alone time than others do, you sense subtleties that may not be easy for you to handle or explain, but you also see the world in more unique ways and that is what the world needs today.

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