I’m sure you’ve heard of the words: Introvert and Extrovert.
Extroversion and introversion (E/I) are recognized as core aspects of people’s personalities.
In the 1920s, noted psychologist Carl Jung coined the terms “introverted” and “extroverted” in his 1920s work, Psychologische Typen (Psychological Types). In his model, differences between the personalities basically boil down to energy: Extroverted people are energized by social interactions, whereas those same engagements are energetically taxing for introverts. So after attending a party or other social gathering, introverts need time alone to “recharge.”
Extroverts are typically thought of as those people who are outspoken, outgoing and predominately concerned with what’s going on with the outer world. Introverts, by contrast, are quiet, reflective and focused on the inner (mental) world. However, E/I is often seen as a kind of continuum, with people exhibiting a mix of introverted and extroverted tendencies — “ambiverts” fall somewhere in the middle of this continuum.
Even Jung didn’t think people could be completely introverted or extroverted. “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert,” he reportedly said. “Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”
I like to think that I am more of an ambivert in terms of my personality; I have a high introverted side where I prefer and require my quiet time but I am also far from being shy and am not afraid to engage with others around me. In fact, I love being social and enjoy a great conversation. With that said, I am super selective of where my energy goes to and I am not a big fan of small talk (yes, I am that neighbour that will make you baked goods and a handwritten card on special holidays and consistently wave hello BUT will check the peephole before I leave the house to make sure nobody is there before I dash to my car to avoid small talk – ha!).
As I grew up, I began to notice some things about how I act during specific moments. There have been many times in my life when I’ve had to apologize. I had to apologize for either:
- leaving a bit earlier from an event or gathering
- not being able to attend an event
- being too quiet
- being too vocal
- being overly emotional
- not showing enough emotion
But after learning more and more about who I am, why I act and feel the way I do, I stopped apologizing. And I stopped feeling sorry for myself because I learned to accept and embrace my very special gift, being an empath.
So what exactly is an empath?
Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods.
Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people.
You either are an empath or you aren’t. It’s not a trait that is learned.
You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily. These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences and not so much yourself at all. Essentially you are walking around in this world with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others.
Is being empathetic and an Empath the same thing? → NO.
“Being an empath is about having empathy, but on a completely deeper level, explains Judith Orloff, M.D., author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. In short, Orloff explains, empaths feel on much stronger level than empathetic people. Take her quiz to see if you are indeed an empath. She differentiates between “ordinary empathy” in which a person’s heart goes out to another, and being an empath, in which those feelings exist on a much higher spectrum. “Empaths not only feel for others, but absorb those feelings in their own system,” says Orloff, whose private practice is in Santa Monica, California.
Additionally, empaths are often able to pick up on unspoken feelings as well, drawing on subtle energy fields that emanate around other people’s bodies. Energy absorption occurs and a strong sensing experience begins. Depending on the type of energy — whether around a joyful, happy person or around a fearful, anxiety-ridden individual — an empath will feel deeply, often experiencing shifts in mood and energy levels.
Usually when people hears the word Empath, their instant impression is someone that is emotional, fragile and highly-intuitive. But bear in mind, an Empath’s compassionate nature and their ability to feel things more intensely and deeply than others is, in fact, something you should never take as weakness.
They possess one characteristic that makes them even more powerful — they’re experts on human psychology. They merely need one look at a person and can often immediately tell the persons true intentions and nature. Trying to hide your intentions from an Empath? Good luck! It simply won’t work.
But an empath doesn’t have to feel too much and be overloaded once they learn how to center themselves. The first step is to acknowledge that you are an empath. I have learned this (and continue to) as the years pass and have thankfully gotten so much better at managing my internal responses to all types of negative energy. In fact, I often get asked how I am able to remain so calm during very high-stress situations.
So not sure if whether you are an Empath or not? Check out this list below to better grasp the signs of a true Empath.
13 Signs of an Empath
1. You take on other peoples’ emotions as your own
This is the classic, number one trait of an empath. No matter what someone else near you is feeling, even if they think they aren’t showing it, you’re likely to pick up on it immediately. But more than that: you may actually feel the emotion as if it were your own, essentially “absorbing” it or sponging it up.
How exactly this works is a subject of some debate. But we do know that people who have high levels of empathy also have very active mirror neurons — the part of the brain that reads emotional cues from other people and figures out what they might be thinking or feeling. In other words, if you’re an empath, it’s likely that you can pick up on tiny changes in expression, body language, or tone of voice that others miss — and immediately sense what the person is feeling.
Those same active mirror neurons, however, mean that you basically live through the feeling as if it were your own. That can be a powerful gift, but also exhausting and overwhelming at times.
2. Sometimes you experience sudden, overwhelming emotions when you’re in public
It’s not just in one-on-one conversation where you sense the emotions of others. It can happen at any time when there are other people around, and without warning.
If you’re an empath, it can be challenging to go into public spaces, because you may suddenly find yourself filled with an emotion that came out of “nowhere” — or, more accurately, from someone else in the area.
3. The “vibe” of a room matters to you — a lot
Perhaps unsurprisingly, empaths are extremely sensitive to the “feel” or atmosphere of their surroundings. When surrounded by peace and calm, they flourish, because they take on those qualities internally themselves. For the same reason, places of beauty can be transformative for empaths, whether it’s a quiet garden, a lovely bedroom, or the halls of a museum. Likewise, chaotic or depressing environments will quickly pull the energy out of an empath.
4. You understand where people are coming from
Empath expert Dr. Judith Orloff explains that this is the core trait of an empath — even more so than absorbing the emotions of others. After all, empaths can learn not to absorb emotions as much, and some empaths rarely “absorb” them at all. But all empaths are able to intuitively sense what someone is trying to express, even when they’re having a hard time getting it out.
Empathy, after all, is fundamentally about understanding and connecting with others. And that’s what it means to sense where people are coming from.
5. People turn to you for advice
With such insight, empaths are frequently sought out by their friend for advice, support, and encouragement. It helps that empaths also tend to be good listeners, and will often patiently wait for someone to say what they need to say and then respond from the heart.
If this sounds like you, you probably know that it can be hard at times, too — people don’t always realize how much of your energy it takes for you to be the listener an advice-giver, and some people take it for granted.
6. Tragic or violent events on TV can completely incapacitate you
If you’re an empath, it doesn’t matter that a horrible event isn’t happening to you, you still feel it through your entire being. You may seem to “live through” the pain or loss of the event yourself, even if you’re thousands of miles away — or indeed, even if it’s a fictional event in a show. This reaction can be completely overwhelming at times.
Empaths, like HSPs, may not do well watching violence or human tragedy, even if it’s a movie that others find gripping.
7. You can’t contain your love of pets, animals, or babies
Sure, everyone knows that babies are adorable little miracles, and dogs and cats are cute — but for you, those feelings seem to be much stronger. You may not be able to help yourself from gushing over someone’s lovely child, or immediately crouching down to show some love to a puppy. Some people might find your reaction “over the top,” but for you, how can anyone not react this way?
In many ways, this is one of the many perks of being an empath. All your feelings, including positive ones, are turned way up.
8. You might feel people’s physical illnesses too — not just their emotions
When someone is sick or injured, you might even go so far as to feel their ailment as if it’s your own. This doesn’t just mean feeling sympathy or concern for them, but having actual physical sensations like pain, tightness, or soreness in the same areas of the body. It’s as if your empathic brain is not only mirroring what the other person must be experiencing but also projecting that experience physically into your own body.
And it can be uncomfortable — even debilitating. It’s probably not a “gift” that most empaths love to have. But it’s also at the root of why empaths are such exceptional caregivers. Without this ability, they wouldn’t be able to truly connect with someone who is in pain, or get them just what they need to feel more at ease.
It’s not surprising that empaths are drawn to roles like nurse, doctor, elder care provider, or healer. If you can feel everyone’s pain, it would be surprising not to want to do something about it.
9. You can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships
Relationships can be challenging for everyone. But imagine how much bigger those challenges are when you can sense every little mood, irritation or, yes, even lie from your partner. And positive emotions can also become overwhelming — as if the relationship may “engulf” you. Sound familiar?
But it’s more than that. Once you live together, the shared environment is also a hurdle. A cohabiting partner’s “energy” is always present for an empath, and can almost feel like an intrusion. Empaths view their homes as a sanctuary where they can get away from the constant demand on their emotional senses, and a partner changes that.
While some empaths choose to remain single for this reason, others learn to adapt — perhaps by having a room that’s their private space, or (extremely important) seeking a partner who respects their boundaries.
10. You’re a walking lie detector
Sure, there probably have been times when someone successfully deceived you… but even then, you knew you were going against your gut instinct from the start. The thing about an empath’s ability to process even the tiniest social cues means that it’s almost impossible for someone to hide their true intentions. Even if you don’t know exactly what a person really wants, you know if they’re not being completely honest — or if they seem shifty.
11. You can’t understand why any leader wouldn’t put their teams first
There are plenty of managers and group organizers who simply don’t pay attention to their team’s needs. If you’re an empath, this isn’t just rude or annoying — it’s a failure of leadership.
Partly, this is because empaths can make excellent leaders themselves, and when they do, it’s always by listening to their team and uniting people around shared goals. Empaths tend to be thoughtful and attentive, making sure each team member feels heard. The result isn’t just a happier group of people, it’s making better decisions by getting all the information.
Now I understand why I leaned towards human resources for my career and educational choice — it just made total sense!
12. You have a calming effect on other people — and the power to heal them
It’s true. Just as people seek out empaths for advice, they also just feel more at peace in an empath’s presence. In fact, people often unwittingly seek out their most empathic friends during difficult times.
This is something you can develop and use to actually heal people, in the sense of helping them work past serious emotional baggage and overcome unhealthy patterns. But you can’t do so if you hide your sensitivity and empathy — you have to embrace your gift if you really want to make a difference.
13. You cannot see someone in pain without wanting to help
Can you walk past someone who’s in need, without wondering how you could help them? Do you struggle to turn off your concern for others because “there’s a job to do”? If the answer is no — not even when you’re busy, not even when you’re rushed — then there’s good chance you’re an empath.
And this is why empaths are such a valuable part of the amazing kaleidoscope of the human race. For an empath, people are the brightest things on their radar, and it’s impossible not to see — and respond to — the needs of others. That is exactly where an empath’s healing ability comes from, and it’s something we could use more of in our world.