‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’
I have been thinking a lot about the word empathy, how the word’s meaning has changed for me over the years and where it fits in our modern world.
Since I can remember, I have been an extremely strong Empath. I have always been able to ‘feel’ what others are feeling and connect with their emotions so strongly it feels as though it is happening to me too.
Over the years I have been attacked over having this quality in such a high degree. I have was accused when I was younger of being a ‘drama queen’ who is trying to put the attention on herself.
I was accused of being ‘over-sensitive’ and needing to ‘relax’ and most of all to stop ‘taking everything to heart’.
To say that those words hurt me would be an understatement. I did not understand why I felt so strongly connected to those around me. It made me so sad. I hated that quality about myself. Why couldn’t I just have a ‘thick skin’ and let things just happen as they happen in life and not get so bogged down by other people’s issues? I tried so very hard to distance myself from this particular character trait but I had no idea how to do so…. how do you stop caring about people? How do you stop feeling everything so intensely? All I wanted was to be carefree and happy and not feel everything so deeply.
I clearly remember being sat down by my parents when I was in primary school and them explaining to me that I was a beautiful, caring soul and that was a wonderful trait, however if I didn’t work on protecting myself and my heart I would constantly be hurt.
My Mum worked with me a lot on how to embrace who I was, and love myself and my Dad worked a lot with me on toughening me up so that I wouldn’t be broken in this harsh world.
Unfortunately as much as they tried, it just didn’t reach me. I’m not sure if it was the timing or other factors but ultimately they were right, no matter how hard I tried I always had my heart broken.
My best friends would turn on me, my relationships would brake up, some girl on the netball team didn’t like me, someone would start a rumour about me… the list goes on and on… it didn’t matter the circumstance, every hard life challenge nearly broke me because I felt it so deeply and severely.
The worst part about being an empath means that it’s not just your own pain that you feel at that deep level… it’s everyone else’s too. If someone I knew would have something happen to them I would feel their pain, their loss, their sadness just as much as they would. I desperately wanted to fix things for everyone around me. I wanted everyone to be happy, to get along and to stop hurting.
I have had so many things happen to me, particularly in my adult life (which I’m sure I’ll venture into in future blogs) but I found that the saying is true. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
This is true for me.
I have been through some horrific experiences, that I thought were going to break me, but you know what? They didn’t.
I decided that I wouldn’t be beaten, so I got up and got myself some help. I decided that ultimately life is good. It is a miracle which we are all blessed to be a part of.
Yes I have had some awful things happen to me, but I have equally had some amazing things happen to me also.
Throughout my journey of helping myself through some very difficult times I started seeing a therapist. She is the most amazing woman, and has helped me so very much. I have been seeing her for years now and I think the best thing that she ever helped me realise was that my ability to empathise with people is what makes me special. Yes I needed to work on building some boundaries for myself and my own protection, however I am proud of who I am and how far I’ve come.
I’m not a drama queen, I don’t need a thicker skin and I am not ashamed of my deep emotions. They are what makes me different and they make me love people in my life on a deeper level as I feel so very connected to them.
So perhaps I am the person who cries in a movie, as I forget it’s a movie and I put myself in the characters positions and feel all their emotions.
Perhaps I am the person who cannot watch any news, as I feel so deeply for the victims of crime that I have nightmares and cannot sleep for days thinking about what they are going through.
And perhaps I am the person who has panic attacks, as I worry so much about everyone that I love and the fact that I cannot keep them all safe causes me to get very overwhelmed… but do you know what? That’s ok with me.
Why? Because I am also the person who will sit with you for hours in the middle of the night and just hold your hand.
I will feel your pain and do everything in my power to ease it for you.
I will stand by your side through thick and thin, and never let you suffer alone.
So when I see my little girl crying because a little girl on a movie lost her favourite toy and is heartbroken, I tell myself it’s ok and I tell her it’s ok too.
I am raising a little empath and that’s ok.
I will help her, I will guide her and I will teach her how she is a very special little soul who is going to change the world with her kind heart. We will help her set boundaries so she does not break in this harsh world we now live in, but I will always encourage and support her caring, empathetic nature.
Do not underestimate the value of kindness and empathy. It is a rare and precious gift in this modern world and I think we need more of it.
I will leave you with this thought… who do you know who is struggling, be it with a minor or major issues in their lives.
Why don’t you call them, or send a message just to let them know you’re thinking of them?
It will cost you nothing, but may be the tiny little thing that this person needs to keep them going or pull them back from the edge of despair.
Kindness costs nothing, but gives so much.
Stacey 💜 xx