Updated: Jul 27
I am an empath.
Often to my own detriment.
I would always rather have my heart broken than be the heartbreaker. It seems like I can never win, because I either feel bad for not putting others first, or I feel bad for letting myself down.
I am highly sensitive and conditioned by guilt, so I only seem to feel good when circumstances allow me to feel amazing. Put me barefoot in nature, surrounded by happy people, and I’ll be over the moon. But God forbid just one of those people get angry or mopey, and my exuberance disappears.
If someone is sad, no matter how exhausted I am, I can’t help but try to make them feel better. The emotional labour I invest into making random people smile goes farther than the emotional labour some people invest in their relationships.
When I enter a party, I immediately notice the outcast and try to make them feel like they fit in. Even if I try to forget about them and worry about having my own fun, I’ll always notice them from the corner of my eye.
Even when I remind myself that everyone is responsible for their own emotions, deep down I know that statement doesn't apply to me. Because somehow, somewhere, I picked up the belief that everything is my responsibility.
When the teacher gets mad even though I know I’ve done nothing wrong, I immediately tense up and feel compelled to explain how sorry I am for my actions, no matter how quietly and properly I've been doing my work. It is sometimes also followed by that uncomfortable, warm wash of shame that tells me that I have not only done something wrong, but my existence is wrong. I have not only done something bad, but I am bad.
To take it another step further, I can’t even enjoy designer things. Because I know some people will get jealous, and some people will feel bad because they can’t have them. And I just can’t stand the thought of making anyone sad or mad. The only place I’ve enjoyed wearing my somewhat expensive products was at my rich aunt’s get-togethers, where those products are seen as expensive anyways.
The worst part is that no matter what I do, no matter how much I guide every action by the thought of how others could feel, people still get mad at me. And even when it’s for totally irrational bullshit reasons, I still feel the need to fix it.
I’m always the one who ends up apologizing just to keep the peace.
And I’m so God damn tired of always being the bigger person, and feeling hurt that I care more about being on good terms than others, but if I don’t do something to “fix it,” it eats me alive.
I also struggle with receiving, because clearly I've somehow learned that it's not ok for me to do so, at least not without giving twice as much back. At least I've gotten better at that since I've started thinking of receiving as giving others the gift of giving. I know I matter too, and I know it should be my turn to take sometimes too. I'm working on it.
I have read that empaths are created by environments where children need to tune to the least safe person in the room to protect themselves, often as the result of a neglectful and unpredictable parent. And, well, I certainly fit the bill.
So how do I get out of this rut?
I’m tired of never winning, and I just want to feel free. Guilt has me in shackles, and I'm looking for the key.
I desire the ability to focus on myself without thoughts of what I shouldn’t have said repeating themselves in the back of my mind. I desire the ability to laugh without abandon instead of lowkey paying attention to how everyone else feels. I desire the ability to have my own life experience, and my own happiness, regardless of how others feel.
Although it can be a blessing, being an empath is also a curse. I would give anything to find a magic potion that frees me from this hyper-awareness and absorption of other people’s emotions. Please let me know if you find it. I'll certainly let you know when I do.