Are you asking yourself the question ‘Am I an Empath’? In this article, you’ll discover the common signs and ways to embrace your trait.
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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
We all come to this term, “Empath,” at different points in our lives. If we’re lucky, we learn of this at an early age and we grow up understanding our sensitivity and developing the skills needed to live well.
But most of us do not hear the word “Empath,” until much later in life, and we struggle through our adolescence and even adulthood. We don’t fully understand what we’re feeling and we don’t know how to care for ourselves.
Maybe a friend recognizes these qualities in you, or maybe you find yourself up late one night Googling the “symptoms” out of desperation. And there is a “knowing” at the first mention of the word itself, and the more we read, the stronger that “knowing” becomes.
Am I An Empath? These Are The Common “Symptoms”
Do you wonder whether you actually are an empath? Below, I listed some common “symptoms”.
Accepting The Label
But we still find ourselves asking “Am I an Empath?” We read books and take quizzes. Why? Because we haven’t learned how to trust our intuition, and as humans, we struggle so dearly with labels.
I was several years into my sobriety before I was able to say “I am an addict” out loud. It wasn’t a secret by any means, but by adopting the label I felt like I was asking others to feel sorry for me.
I had heard firsthand so many inspiring stories of recovery. Beautiful people who had faced struggles far worse than I had endured, and I didn’t feel like I was “worthy” of putting myself in the same category with them. Consequently, I didn’t believe I had suffered enough.
And while being an addict and being an Empath are two starkly different things (although it’s not uncommon for an unpracticed Empath to struggle with addiction as a way to cope with the overwhelming feelings), I have wrestled with this label in very much the same way.
Intuitively, I have known that I am an Empath, but it wasn’t until very recently that I was able to outwardly identify as such. Also, I lacked the confidence and skill required to trust in myself.
How To Come To This Acceptance
How did I come to this acceptance? In slow, metered degrees. When I got sick in January I wasn’t sure what the rest of my life was going to look like, or how much longer I was going to have.
It’s so easy to find ourselves rooted in the false security of tomorrow, and while my illness is how I came to understand that we are not guaranteed anything, this is true for all of humanity. We Just. Never. Know.
When I surrendered to this, what I found in its wake was a dark, vast hole of unknown. Moreover, I accepted that I was not the center of the universe, and when I recognized how small I was in the grand scheme, I truly came into my power and, for the first time, felt my connection to it all.
How To Learn To Understand Your Empathic Trait
Being an Empath sounds more like a ‘what’ than a ‘who,’ but I’m not sure this is true. When we take another’s energy, another’s emotions into our bodies, they very much become a part of who we are, even after we learn how to differentiate between the two.
Being able to identify the source does not prevent us from feeling, and we still need to learn how to process and release this energy. Being aware and taking care of ourselves becomes essential to leading healthy, happy lives, and is very much a part of who we are.
So how do we come to understand ourselves? And to care for ourselves? The tools are the same. It is through understanding ourselves that we learn what we need, and that is going to look a bit different for all of us.
I cannot tell you exactly what your path will look like, but I can share with you my journey, and assure you that you will know your path when you find it.
#1 The Art of Meditation
This was the first time I ever really felt connected to my highest, truest self, and to something greater than me, and it happened simultaneously, though not instantly. I had to get down underneath all the noise in my head, and that took practice and time.
A suggestion – thinking about not thinking will only make the process harder. I know – I tried it. Thoughts are human and as unstoppable as our breath, but it is possible to learn to detach from them – to witness them as they come and go. There is even insight to be found in doing so, and the practice will help you get there.
#2 Be Mindful of What You Eat
Digestive issues are often a good indicator of stuck energy, and Empaths are prone to them. For instance, Chinese medicine believes that when we eat we are not just taking in the food – we take in air, energy, emotions – and our bodies need to be equipped to process all of this.
Therefore, try to eliminate preservatives and additives, be mindful of where your food comes from (and what it may be carrying with it) and listen to your body – they are telling us all the time what they need.
#3 Make a “Joy List.”
Write down a list of activities that feed your soul. For instance, it could be reading, painting, taking a bath. And then take it a step further. Schedule time (yes – really schedule it) as often as you can and dedicate it to doing something from your list. Daily is wonderful! However, make it manageable.
The intent here is to give yourself time to feel joy, not to add stress by trying to squeeze this time in. You can always choose to schedule more time later. And add to the list! Spending time being joyful often leads to more joy.
#4 Trust Your Intuition
I say ‘trust’ and not ‘listen to’ because I believe as Empaths most of us already hear it, sense it, but we’re either not confident enough or not skilled enough yet to trust what we’re hearing.
Next time you get a “feeling,’ lean into it. We’re doing all this work on the inside, so let go of any fear that someone else will know what you’re doing, that you’ll be judged. Therefore, just lean in a little and see what happens.
It’s OK to ask yourself questions, and it’s OK if you hear an answer. This doesn’t make you crazy. When we really tune into our thoughts we find that we’re already doing this every day, subconsciously.
Take control of what questions you’re asking yourself. You have the power to connect to your intuition, and in doing so, to change the story you’ve been telling yourself all along.
#5 Journaling Is A Conversation With Your Soul
This one was tricky for me. I have collected dozens of journals, most of them with only a few pages filled. Also, I always started the practice with gusto but quickly abandoned it.
I told myself the ‘energy wasn’t right,’ or ‘it was the wrong journal, but the truth is I approached it like an assignment and always felt like I failed. My handwriting was off. I misspelled a word. It wasn’t poetic enough.
This last time I made a commitment to myself. Come typos or bad grammar, I would write every day for one month. I chose not to go back and read anything for fear of judging myself.
As a result, I ordered the plainest notebook I could find and laughed when it arrived. It was unlined! I was sure the universe was mocking me, but I went with it. And under the precept of prose, I found me.
If you are looking for a great journal to get started with your journaling practice, here are a few great options for empaths:
#6 Deepen Your Connection With Spirituality
I’m not telling you to find God (I’m not, NOT telling you to find God, either), but as Empaths, we are sensitive to energy. Consequently, I have found that in order to work with my energy I had to find my connection to its source.
When I was in rehab I asked my facilitator if I could skip the NA meetings. Moreover, I told her that I had gotten myself into this mess and I was not going to “surrender myself” to anything, that I did not believe in “God” in the way that they intended.
She told me that she didn’t care if I found God in a light bulb and ordered me to attend more meetings. Therefore, I went, but this didn’t make sense to me until many years later. Spiritual practice is as broad as its definition and as individual as the person.
Be cautious of Pinterest boards that tell you what it’s supposed to look like. Connection is a feeling and there is more than one way to get there.
#7 Learn to Identify Your Boundaries
I’m wary of anyone who tells me where to set my boundaries. When we learn to set boundaries, what we’re really learning is how to ask ourselves “am I OK with this?” I know for myself, this answer can shift with the person, the place, or even my hormones.
Through meditation, journaling, and learning to trust my intuition, I have discovered how to discern what the answer feels like in my body. I think it’s been trying to tell me all along, I just didn’t understand the question and therefore didn’t recognize the answer. It warrants repeating. Trust your body – it’s talking to you.
#8 Find Your Release
As humans, we all have to learn how to process our emotions, whether we recognize their relation to energy or not.
As Empaths, we become starkly aware of their energetic nature and what that energy feels like in our bodies. But we can only carry so much, and ‘overloaded’ is a sensation we become quite familiar with, even if we can’t name it at the time. It shows up as exhaustion, depression, anxiety. Sometimes it even presents as addiction.
So we have to learn first how to name it, then how to locate it, and finally how to let that energy go. Meditation, learning how to talk to and listen to my body and spirit, and finding my joy have all assisted me in learning how to do so.
Sometimes The End Is The Beginning
I didn’t find all the answers to this awakening. However, what I found were more questions.
What does this mean for me? Where do I go from here? If I am not the center of it all, then what is my purpose? But at the root of this was “Who am I?” Because without this knowledge, I’m not sure the answers to the other questions would be possible.
The most important gift we can give ourselves is to start asking these questions. As soon as we ask –
“What do I need?”
“How am I feeling?”
“Is this mine?”
We have already begun to put it out there. To set the intention. We are telling the universe, and even more importantly, ourselves, that we matter.
Valuable Resources For Empaths:
I’ve included below some of the resources that I have found helpful along my path. I hope that some of them may be of service to you, too.