Many people are discovering just how empathic they are.
Thanks to their ability to sense what is going on inside others, they are naturally gifted at taking care of those around them.
The empath’s natural compassion, generosity, and caring are wonderful traits—the world would be a better place if more people dared to deeply (and skillfully) care for others. As Maya Angelou put it: “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”
At the same time, empathic tendencies can backfire when not properly balanced. Spending all of one’s energy taking care of others leaves empathic people feeling depleted and unsupported. This can lead to a habit that could be summarized as “give, give, give…give up.”
While navigating human relationships is a lifelong task for everyone, empathic people can make things easier on themselves by embracing the following ideas:
1. Learn to differentiate between service and sacrifice.
Often, we do not realize there is a fundamental difference between service and sacrifice. Empathic people often think that being of service entails self-sacrifice, and because they are so caring about others, they end up giving more than is beneficial for them.
The good news is that service and sacrifice are not synonymous—whereas the term “service” focuses on the value others receive from us, “sacrifice” describes what we give up for others.
If we come from a somewhat limited mindset, we think that others can only receive if we give something up. However, that is not true. If we smile at somebody, the other person can receive joy from that smile without it taking anything away from us—in fact, smiling at someone will typically make us feel better too!
While this is a simple example, it also applies in more complex situations. If we are aware of our own boundaries, we can serve others without sacrificing our own needs. This also helps us to realize that in many situations, sacrificing ourselves is simply not the best way of serving others.
Since empathic people often feel a deep desire to help, to simply stop taking care of others won’t do it for them. The key is to move from self-sacrifice to true service.
A first step to doing that is to notice the difference between the two:
You can tell you’ve sacrificed yourself for someone if it seems to you that you have less—less energy, less motivation, less happiness. This often leads to resentment later.
In contrast, when you’ve delivered in the spirit of true service, you have more at the end than the beginning. For instance, you might experience the sensation of love in your heart, a connection to others, a feeling of alignment with your purpose, and personal growth.
2. Learn how to manage polarities.
Learning about polarity management can help remedy an empath’s inner sense of imbalance. Polarity is the relationship between two opposites which are nonetheless interdependent. Self-care and other-care are two sides of such a polarity.
The interesting thing about polarities is that it’s impossible to only focus on one pole and expect it to go well. For instance, if we only give to others and ignore the need for self-care, we will ultimately become so tired and drained that we have less to give. By avoiding one pole (self-care), the other pole (other-care) also suffers.
The key is to create a well-managed polarity is giving both poles adequate and equal attention. You can read more about how to manage polarities within a relationship context in my article here.
3. Learn to receive from others.
Most empathic people are so averse to people whom they see as “takers” that they will not allow themselves to receive much from other people even though receiving is much different than taking.
While being only a “giver” is a beautiful intention, it is imbalanced and thus eventually becomes unsustainable. If we limit the amount of support we receive, we also limit what we can give to others. In contrast, receiving support from others can help us become much more effective at giving back.
Thus, empathic people are called to move from being a “giver” to becoming a “receiver.” This can entail asking others for help, allowing yourself to fully receive compliments, and letting go of the idea that you have to do everything by yourself.
4. Learn to love your “no.”
We all have a limited amount of time in our days. Even if we neglect self-care (such as getting enough sleep), the hours in a day are still finite. As such, acting in alignment with healthy priorities is crucial for people who love to give and serve—and one way to do that is through the power of saying “no.”
Empathic and service-oriented people typically dislike the word “no.” However, their “yes” to something that is less significant has the potential to take away from something that is more important. For instance, a newborn baby will typically be the focus of attention for its parents. If the parent instead decided to spend a lot of time helping friends who are fully capable of helping themselves, it would distract from what’s more important at that time.
The lesson here is that our “yes” to something can only be as strong as our “no” to anything that distracts us from it. You can read more about how to learn to love your “no” in my article here.
Being empathic can be a great strength—and great strengths tend to come with equally great challenges. That presence of challenges doesn’t indicate that you need to change who you are.
It simply means that there are lessons you need to learn to have the best possible life as the person that you truly are.
If you enjoyed this article, I also invite you to also check out my complimentary Love & Romance Healing Call here.
Author: Bere Blissenbach
Image: Anh Phan / Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell