One day I decided to take Dr. Judith Orloff’s quiz called, “Are you an Empath?” I’ve read a bit about being an empath and have just presumed I am one. However, I like to be relatively sure about my claims before I make them, so a quiz felt like a good first official step.
My results said something like, “Oh my gosh, how do you function in life, YES, you are an empath, 100%! Are you okay? Can I get you anything?!”
Mo’ Empathy, Mo’ Problems
Over the years, as much as I have tried to work on it, I have annoyed certain people in my life with the persistent question, “are you okay?” Even my husband, God bless his soul.
More often than not, the annoyance has happened for one of two particular reasons, I’ve learned: (1) people think they’re great at hiding that something is wrong and resent someone picking up on it; (2) people just have one of those faces – you know the kind I mean – and they’re actually perfectly fine and don’t want to keep being asked this frustrating question.
What people probably don’t understand is that I force myself to try and not ask the question but it physically pains me not to ask it.
At first I thought this was because I felt unseen and invisible growing up. I was hiding so much deep-rooted pain and no one seemed to pick up on it unless I couldn’t hold my tears in anymore. I want to be the kind of person who notices, and I’ve always been committed to that noticing.
However, it’s more than that. I’m like an emotional thermometer! I can pick up on your vibes at times even when you’re laughing away, skipping through life, acting like you’re on the set of a romantic comedy. It might sound great, and sometimes it feels like a gift, but sometimes it feels like a curse.
Being an Empath in a Hurting World
Times like – I don’t know – a global pandemic.
Times when you have a family member battling a horrendously painful cancer.
Times when you are trying to elevate the voices of the voiceless in your community and in your society.
Times when, yet again, you have to post another news article about a black man or woman being killed with zero justice.
Times when you read about hospitals using refrigerated trucks as morgues because of the number of lives being lost.
It’s too much.
Seasons like these are hard for everyone. There is so much uncertainty and so much pain. Nothing about life feels very simple right now.
Being an empath in a hurting world is really, really difficult. It’s physically painful in your body.
I’m learning, slowly but surely, how to guard myself from picking up all these emotional energies around me because no one person can bear them. I am reminding myself that this gift is not calling me to solve the world’s problems but perhaps to continue to notice, to hold space, to pray, to weep with those who weep, to see and to care.
Let’s use our voices and our hands and feet to “do the good we can whenever we can,” especially for those who are voiceless or whose voices the world has chosen not to hear.
But let’s remember that we, too, carry our own needs and wounds, and taking care of ourselves matters. Especially in times like these.