“Empath” has become a popular term in self-development circles.
In brief, an empath is someone capable of absorbing the feelings and physical symptoms of those around them.
To understand what it’s like to be an empath, it’s important to appreciate the difference between sympathy and empathy.
Sympathetic people show kindness and compassion when someone is in pain; they have a sincere desire to help.
However, if you are an empath, you will literally feel their sadness, anger, or despair.
This can make everyday life challenging, and the ability to feel someone else’s emotions can make intimate relationships overwhelming.
On the plus side, empaths also benefit from picking up positive energy from people and places.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff, empaths all share key traits.
Here are 7 signs that you are an empath:
1. Your mood and energy levels change when you are around other people
Because empaths absorb other peoples’ energy, they can soon feel depleted – or energized – depending on who happens to be around.
If you tend to feel uplifted or exhausted after just a few minutes around other people, you may well be an empath.
Empaths pick up physical symptoms along with emotions.
For instance, if an empath spends time with an anxious, stressed individual who suffers from tension headaches and back pain, they might develop the same symptoms.
2. Your senses pick up on subtle environmental cues
All empaths are highly sensitive people (HSPs).
As a HSP, an empath quickly notices smells, sounds, and textures that may go unnoticed by others.
For example, if a friend changes their air freshener, you will be able to smell the difference immediately.
3. You love spending time in nature
Most people report that spending time outdoors relaxes them, but the natural world is especially soothing for an empath.
Quiet parks, woods, and lakes are probably your idea of heaven.
Empaths enjoy being near water; it seems to hold cleansing properties that rebalance their delicate energy levels.
4. You have a great appreciation of the arts, even if you do not consider yourself artistic
Great art is an expression of emotion, so it’s unsurprising that empaths are drawn to creative activities of all kinds.
You probably find yourself moved to tears by sad music, or awed by a dramatic painting.
Many artists show empath traits.
If you haven’t got a creative hobby, why not take up drawing or playing an instrument?
It doesn’t matter whether you have any innate artistic talent; you will still find it therapeutic to express yourself.
5. You find it easy to interact with children and animals
Your gentle, sensitive personality and desire to nurture others attracts animals and young children.
If you are a parent, your children will never doubt your love for them, and you will feel driven to protect your family at all costs.
If you have pets, they will receive just as much respect and love as any human being.
Empaths cannot abide animal cruelty. Many are vegetarian or vegan, and are happy to support animal charities.
6. You are not competitive; you would rather strive to cooperate with others than to win at all costs
Empaths see all human beings as equal, and they don’t often like to beat others, whether at work or in their personal lives.
For example, as an empath, you prefer to work together with colleagues to bring a project to fruition rather than see them as competitors for a promotion.
7. You seem to attract needy or toxic people who drain your energy levels
Unfortunately, empaths are a target for energy vampires – those who exploit kind, sensitive individuals for their own gain.
Not all energy vampires are malicious, but they are all destructive.
A common example is a so-called friend that uses you as a sounding board for their complaints.
If you are an empath, your wonderful listening skills and capacity to understand the suffering of others often means that unscrupulous, disrespectful people treat you as an unpaid therapist.
This can be emotionally tiring.
Living as an empath
Empathic abilities are a gift, but they also come with a set of struggles.
As they are so easily influenced by other people’s feelings and busy environments, empaths often become overwhelmed.
If you are an empath, you need to develop a strong sense of self-worth, defend your personal boundaries, and build a self-care routine that helps you relax and recharged.
To stay emotionally and physically healthy, you must learn to care for yourself as you care for others.