Updated: Jul 23
Empaths make up a small number of people in society and are born with a different nervous system and brain responses. The innate trait allows us to register more information, smell more deeply, hear stronger, have strong intuitive abilities, and even pick up other people's emotions and life force energy also known as 'prana' or 'chi'. Empaths belong to the group of highly sensitive people (HSPs) however differ in the way they can also register prana and other people's emotions – and sometimes, depending on your type of empath, even physical pain. This means all empaths are HSPs, however not necessarily the other way around. Since we process more, as well as more deeply, highly sensitive souls reach the threshold of the maximum amount of stressors and stimuli more quickly (i.e. we are "prone to sensory overload" as Dr. Judith Orloff describes it), and therefor need certain life adjustments and good personal boundaries to function and lead a happy fulfilled life in this non-HSP world. In my workshops and private sessions I share proven strategies on how to keep yourself balanced, nourished and in harmony.
Luckily awareness and research are increasing about the trait, which supports those of us who are born this way to understand better who we are and how we function. It helps us and our environment to appreciate and respect the trait.
So are you an empath? Here are 41 signs you might be:
1. You recharge when being alone
2. You love to surround yourself with the presence of nature
3. People describe you as soft, kind, loving, open, sensitive, forgiving, deep and compassionate
4. You feel other people's emotions exactly like your own (being around people means feeling all the feels all the time and it can be hard to distinguish what belongs to you)
5. You might even feel other people's physical pains
6. You are more sensitive to sound, smell, tastes and light
7. You have a good eye for beauty, quality, colours and design
8. You tend to get more quickly overwhelmed than others
9. You struggle to set boundaries
10. Crowds are very difficult to be in (from standing in line, to clubs, to big offices)
11. People always come to you to ask you for help, advice and support
12. Harmony and peace in relationships are very important to you
13. You are self-inquiring
14. You have a supreme intuition
15. You have a deep connection to the universe, you have spiritual experiences
16. You're sensitive to stress & pressure
17. You're sensitive to antiques, second hand clothing, crystals and objects (positive or negative, you feel the energies attached to the objects)
18. You have a love for deep and meaningful conversations
19. Small talk is exhausting and difficult
20. You easily pick up people's hidden motives, dreams and desires
21. You deeply feel and think
22. You prefer to avoid conflict as this is very stressful
23. You can feel quickly drained and tired when being around people and in cities
24. You feel you have to help and relieve suffering
25. You occasionally have to deal with sensory overload and get overstimulated
26. You feel alone and misunderstood about the way you are
27. You easily know when someone is lying or telling the truth
28. You're an uplifting and healing presence (people love to be around you)
29. Looking people straight in the eyes is difficult and overwhelming, as you see their soul, pains, hopes and dreams while trying to focus on the conversation
30. You cannot stand clutter and chaos
31. You dislike being the centre of attention (as this is very stimulating)
32. You have a way bigger need for unwinding, downtime and peace
33. You prefer to sleep alone (other people's auric field and emotions can keep you awake)
34. You have unpredictable mood swings (someone steps into the room and you suddenly go from perfectly happy to anxious or depressed)
35. You are prone to use food or other ways to numb yourself and cope with stimuli / emotions / energies
36. You're creative (creative energy is life force energy and empaths are connected to this)
37. You feel very strongly about injustice
38. You're honest (sometimes too honest as lying doesn't make sense to you)
39. You process things long and deep
40. You tend to disassociate (this feels like things slow down, feeling spaced out, not wanting to feel or be here)
41. You cannot switch your sensitivity off
Research shows that only a small percentage of the population are empaths, so realistically the chance is fairly small you have the trait. Many people think they are an empath or HSP, where in truth they're actually hyper-vigilant, stressed out, are on the autistic spectrum or feel they have a great capacity for being emphatic and understanding. However being emphatic is not the same as being an empath! It also doesn't mean we're more emotionally sensitive: empaths (and HSPs) simply process more input from their environment, it doesn't mean we're sensitive to criticism (ego) or break out in tears over nothing ;-)
As we're chronically out-numbered, it often happens that friends, family or colleagues tell you things are in your head and you cannot validate your own experience, as the non-HSPs simply cannot understand what you're going through. My advice: let go of the need for external validation and start to self-validate your experiences! This will save you a lot of time and energy.
Empaths are loyal supportive friends, kind dedicated colleagues and make wonderful loving partners. The trait allows us to experience everything in life more deeply, both the bad and the good, the pleasant and the unpleasant. It's a blessing and sometimes a curse, it is our biggest weakness as well as our greatest strength. Cherish yourself and protect your high sensitivity. As a loving friend once told me: you're a rose, not a cactus!
Having good boundaries is very important, or else you're taken for a ride on other people's emotions, needs and wishes. It is possible to leave the emotions with the other person and not to absorb them, only to register them and then let them go. Connecting back to yourself, your own feelings and body is very important daily practice to support this. Once you understand how to handle your high sensitivity and protect yourself and your needs, life is something beautiful and to be deeply enjoyed.
"I'm familiar with fast paced work environments and high profile companies, as well as the spiritual realms. As a yogini I stay down to earth while keeping my vibe high. Through my own experiences I've come to appreciate, understand and honour my own high sensitivity. Acknowledging my sensitivity I moved to a quiet home, changed my diet, let go of unbalanced friendships and learned what makes me stay grounded, nourished, balanced and happy. My goal is empowerment and self-acceptance of highly sensitive people around world."
The Empath Survival Guide by Judith Orloff
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron
The Highly Sensitive Person in Love by Elaine Aron
The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide by Ted Zeff
Hooggevoeligheid en stress by Susan Marletta Hart
Observations from working with clients
Can you find yourself in this article? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments below.
Do you feel you could use some support in how to handle your high sensitivity? You can reach out to me for a private healing or coaching session via the contact form below.
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