Day 350: Know thyself

I discovered a new word this week: Empath. I’m not sure if it’s a word in psychology, or if it’s pseudo-scientific, or paranormal hoo-ha, but whatever it is, that’s me. I know that one of my greatest strengths (and weaknesses) is empathy. I have an overt sense of feeling what others feel. But when I read about the empath this week, I was a little alarmed over how many items on the list seemed to be written about me.

In the article I came across online [and I’m sorry I can’t credit it properly because it seemed to be someone who was sharing someone else’s blog, but I didn’t see a name], the first line of the article was:

Empaths be like…I don’t just listen to your words. I listen to your use of words, your tone, your body movements, your eyes, your subtle facial expressions. I interpret your silences – I can hear everything you don’t say in words. 

Empaths have been described as being a sponge…they take on everything around them as if it were their own. For me, especially over the past 5-7 years, I’ve learned not to take it all on me, but to understand what’s going on and interpreting it through a lens so that it’s not happening to me. As such, I can still feel empathy for someone, but not be sucked into their pain.

I have always been instinctive; I just know things and when I tell people what I think is going to happen, most often, they don’t get it…until later when things unfold as I had said. Maybe that’s what makes me a bit stand-offish, because I’ve tried to learn to be quiet and let people figure things out their own way. But being so empathetic, that is so tough because I know the pain they will be walking through and that I could alleviate for them if they would just listen to me on the front end. It often feels like a curse; but it really is a special gift once I understood things about myself and how to protect myself. Of course, I’m still a work in progress.

A few things from the article that really resonated with me. An empath…

  • Struggles to work out whether they are feeling their own emotions or the emotions of those around them.
  • Puts others needs before themselves as though everyone else’s pleasure and happiness is more important than their own.
  • Tends to connect with people who are suffering and often wants to try to make the world a better place for them.
  • Sometimes just know things, without having any idea of where they gained the information.
  • Constantly…theorizes and philosophizes.
  • Is very creative and highly imaginative; writing, art, music, painting, dancing, acting, building and designing are a few of the traits that empaths are often passionate about.
  • Is highly sensitive to sounds, smells, bright lights and the feel of certain fabrics (or tags…freaky).

Those who know me well are probably chuckling right now. Of the 25 things on the list, all but one or two were descriptors of who I used to be or who I am now. The nice thing about growing is that we can work on those things that make us weak, and turn them into strengths. I can now hear things from my friends and use what I hear to pray for them or otherwise help them, without debilitating myself in the process with the weight of their suffering being pulled down onto me. It’s a much better place to be.

DAY 350 HOMEWORK: Marcus Buckingham, an expert on strengths, always said too much of a strength is a weakness. When you know your strengths, see where you overuse it and then learn to pull back. That will allow your strength to shine.

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