As an empath, you have a unique set of abilities; a connection with the world and with people that few others possess.
But being such an empathic person comes with its own set of struggles and challenges. You will be faced with some important choices about how you live your life and how you use your gifts.
These choices will shape your life on so many levels: your relationships, your career, your love life, your psychological wellbeing, and your general level of satisfaction and contentment.
Here are 6 of the most important choices you, and all empaths, are faced with:
1. To Feel Or To Shield
You can sense things that others can’t. You are an empath and this means you soak up the energy around you like a sponge; good and bad, love and hate, peace and anger, you absorb it all.
At least, you can if you want. Or you can try to block some of it out. You can feel, or you can shield. This is choice number one and it’s a biggie. Both options have their pros and cons, and different people will find one approach suits them better than the other.
Many empaths simply cannot function – not in any way approaching normality anyway – if they do not shield their minds from much of the energy that bombards them each and every second. They will use various techniques to block incoming waves in a bid to reduce the interference caused to their own thoughts and feelings.
Others find that a more practical approach is to leave the raw nerve that is their empathic soul unmasked and free to feel all the energy that interacts with them. They accept the energy, let it flow in and then out, rather than expend their own energy putting up a force field.
Shielding has the benefit of restricting the inflow of negative energy and of helping to keep a clear head. It prevents the feeling of overwhelm that often occurs in empathic minds and lets you get better acquainted with your own feelings. The major downside is that the shield is often hard to adjust, making it difficult to let positive vibes through. Shielding dulls the senses and this can make everything a rather monotonous shade of magnolia instead of the bright and colorful spectrum that is life and the world around you.
Not shielding, and letting yourself feel all the different energy flowing through you, gives you access to the vibrant joy and beauty of life. You can experience tremendous highs when the energy is right and this can be a source of great meaning. Of course, the bad comes with the good and when negativity is rife, you will feel very low and find it incredibly difficult to go about your day-to-day-life.
To shield or not to shield is, then, the question. Trying to find a happy medium is tricky and so most empaths will drift towards one of the two extremes. But tricky is not impossible – you can, albeit with a lot of practice and effort, gain some semblance of control over a shield in an attempt to get the benefits of both options. You can’t get it right all the time, but it is worth giving it a go to see if you can make it work.
A must read about shielding: 3 Alternatives For Empaths Who Are Tired Of Shielding Themselves
2. To Help Or To Say No
Empaths will often find themselves in the role of helper. Their nature as feeling individuals means they can easily relate to other people and they are exemplary listeners.
But this comes at a cost; you may find yourself burdened with the problems of others and left with less time in which to live your own life. You, therefore, have a choice between helping and saying no.
Whether or not you identify as a lightworker, your gut instinct will probably be to help, but the reality is you can’t help everyone all of the time. As hard as it is, you must say no at times in order to preserve your own mental and physical wellbeing. You have to create boundaries and maintain them in the face of appeals for help.
It’s not an easy choice to make, but one you have to contend with on a regular basis. Every empath will have to strike their own balance between offering their services as helper and healer, and giving a firm, but polite, no.
3. To Embrace The World Or Hide Away
The big wide world can be an overwhelming place for an empath; the energy of others and of their surroundings is a debilitating and nearly constant force. Think of it like walking around with blurred vision and a ringing in your ears. It’s no wonder, then, that many empaths prefer the sanctuary of their home.
The risk is, however, that this safe retreat becomes the only place you want to be. You hide yourself away and venture into the open less and less often. You become a hermit, swallowed up by the very cave you think is protecting you.
The choice you have, then, is how you balance the need to find peace and quiet in your homely haven, and the desire to experience life in the wider world. It can be tempting to choose the safe option most of the time, but by doing so, you risk limiting your opportunities to really get the most out of your fleeting existence.
More essential reading for empaths (article continues below):
- The Dark Side Of Empaths
- 17 Survival Tips For Empaths And Highly Sensitive People
- 4 Signs You’re An Intuitive Empath (Not Just An Empath)
- 7 Signs You’re An Extroverted Empath
- 6 Relationship ‘Must Dos’ For Empaths And HSPs
- How To Discuss Being An Empath With Someone
4. To Love Fully Or Put Up Barriers
Relationships can be tricky for empaths. Their extra-sensory perception of energy makes them susceptible to bouts of severe overthinking, especially when it comes to the nuances of a loving relationship. This can harm their mental and emotional wellbeing and put a strain on any connection they may have forged with a partner.
You may, then, choose to put up protective barriers around your heart; thick ramparts to keep the powerful, marauding feelings of lust and love at bay. For you know that these feelings, while beautiful and breathtaking, have the potential to cause untold pain and misery. Arguments, conflict, abuse, and breakups lead to heartache of extreme proportions for the empath. The energy of such events is so severe that it renders you virtually helpless.
Yet, building such walls resigns you to a life devoid of the connections that bring so much meaning into our lives. It deprives you of the ultimate experience – a truly loving partnership that feels right and good down to your very bones.
And it’s not just romantic relationships that can suffer when the barriers go up; friendships and family bonds can all find themselves limited in their closeness if you attempt to keep people at arm’s length.
The alternative is to fully embrace love. Yes, this comes with the risks described above, and chances are it will lead to extremely challenging moments for you, but the rewards are worth it. The most important thing is to choose your relationships carefully: look for emotionally stable partners/friends, those who have the maturity to understand your gift and work with you to help you deal with the inevitable emotional impact.
5. To See Light Or Dark In Others
You know what people are really thinking, right? You can tell when their words don’t match their thoughts. So you watch them with a suspicious eye, never fully trusting what they say or do.
This is a choice – your choice – to see the dark in other people because they don’t always reveal everything about themselves. The problem is that most people hold stuff back; they are willing to tell a little white lie now and again to conceal their true feelings. Does this make them bad people? Hardly. It is perfectly natural to keep some of what is in your head hidden from the rest of the world. Can you imagine if we didn’t do this?!
At the opposite end of the spectrum, some empaths wish to see the light and goodness in everyone they meet. Sure, they observe flaws, but they try to look past them to what’s underneath. These types of empath are the healers and the helpers from point two, and this is a choice they have made. Yet this choice also comes with its downsides: mostly notably your vulnerability to manipulation and exploitation.
People treat you like a doormat, thrusting their troubles onto you and expecting you to sort them out. You are targeted by those suffering from dark triad personality types, putting you at risk of becoming a victim of some really nasty treatment. You drain your own energy reserves by allowing others to take it from you. You suffer because you seek to prevent the suffering of others.
The choice doesn’t sound like a great one either way, does it? On the one hand, you can go about life believing the worst in people, treating them with suspicion, and keeping them at a distance. On the other, you can try to see the good in people, consider the positives of any situation, and risk being taken advantage of.
A middle ground of healthy skepticism and a caring attitude is attainable, but only if you make a conscious effort to stop and think before a snap judgement is able to form in your mind. After all, everyone has a good side and a bad side in them; good and bad traits, good and bad habits. If you look for perfection, you’ll never find it and if you look for flaws, you’ll always find them.
6. To Be Grateful For Your Gift Or Resent Them
Finally, we come to the last major choice empaths face in their lives: to embrace their gift and be grateful for all that it brings, or to resent it and wish it away for good.
There’s no denying that empaths face some unique struggles that others are unable to relate to, but they also get to experience the world in the most visceral way possible. How you weigh the good versus the bad will determine whether or not you are glad to be an empath.
Be under no illusion: the way you view your gift is as much a choice as any of the others listed here. At the end of the day, your outlook – positive or negative – is something you have power over.
Are you an empath? Which options did you choose? Why? Leave a comment below with your thoughts and experiences.