Reading what it’s like to be an empath can lead us to believe that being an empath is all about feeling drained, being constantly triggered and living according to the emotional whims of others.
While a lot of this can be true, there is also a flip side to being an empath that should be discussed just as much – how to thrive. Being an empath can either be extremely draining or extremely uplifting, it depends on how we manage and develop our sensitivity.
At a basic level sensitivity is not a bad thing, it means we are open to the great pleasures of life: love, friendships, and helping others. It also means we are open to the dark side of life: the pain, the deep lows, the emotional wounds of others.
By bringing consciousness to our sensitivity we can be open to both the light and dark without losing ourselves. We can tune into our own emotional needs and better meet them. We can avoid allowing our empathy to lead us into manipulation and abuse. This is what thriving as an empath looks like.
Empaths In Childhood
So what makes being an empath or highly sensitive person so difficult in the first place? If there are two sides to being an empath, why is it that the negatives are more widely discussed?
Empathic ability is often activated during childhood, when our empathic sense come online to protect us from danger. A lot of us were raised in environments where our parental figures were not equipped to deal with such emotional intelligence.
Instead of embracing our sensitivity we learn to see it as a weakness, something that makes us ‘soft’, and most importantly something we must keep hidden. This can lead us to becoming cold and shutting down our empathic senses all together.
This means that a lot of us are in flight or fight mode for most of our childhood. The pain and abuse we may experience is intensified. The loneliness is even more intense because we have the added struggle of not connecting with others who do not share our same level of empathy.
Although it is our parents’ job to keep us safe and help us explore our strengths as children – this often isn’t the case. As an adult it takes unlearning the patters and habits that no longer serve us in relation to our heightened empathy.
So, to thrive as an empath we have to start to see our sensitivity as a great strength, even when it hasn’t felt like it.
Addressing The Shadow
I have already talked about the ‘dark side‘ of being an empath in a previous post, but it is such an important aspect of growing as an empath that I feel the need to go over it again here. The dark side of empaths is about all the self sabotaging habits and patterns we pick up as we navigate our empathy.
This includes behaviors such as people pleasing, becoming cold, becoming emotionally manipulative or becoming prey to manipulators, unhealthy coping mechanisms and an overall lack of self care.
The shadow side isn’t necessarily bad or something to be ashamed of, it’s simply the part of ourselves that we continuously fail to address. Bringing awareness to this aspect allows us to bring our empathy to the forefront in a balanced and conscious manner.
As empaths we pick up on the emotions of others to the point where we begin to embody these emotions ourselves, losing a stable sense of self. It becomes important to learn how to ground, clear and protect our energy.
I suggest picking at least one technique you can get comfortable with for grounding, clearing and protecting your energy. Incorporate these techniques into your daily life and you’ll find you get overwhelmed less and have more energy available.
When we first learn that we are empaths it makes sense to want to shield ourselves. I’ve talked about using a protective bubble in order to do this before. However over time you focus less on protecting your energy and more on creating a strong center so that you no longer need those protective walls up.
Once we know how to take care of our own energy we can start to tap into our empathic abilities and open ourselves back up in the places where we may have become closed.
Tapping Into Your Empath Abilities
Tapping into your empathic abilities requires that you are ready to open your heart back up. Over time we close our heart off in order to protect ourselves, however while this protects us from a lot of pain it also closes us off from a lot of joy.
An unaware empath may put others first and neglect themselves, whereas a conscious empath can help others while maintaining distance when needed. An unaware empath will become misled by their empathy, while a conscious empath will rely on their highly tuned discernment.
The difference between an unaware empath and a conscious one is the ability to set and maintain strong boundaries. We do this by starting small: saying no to things that go against our values, distancing ourselves from those who intentionally misunderstand us, noticing the ways we self sabotage in relationships and so on.
You tap into your natural empath abilities by cultivating a strong sense of self through all of the ways described above. From a place where you can reach out to others while being aware of your own needs, you can further develop your unique skill set.
Moving Beyond The ‘Empath’ Label
One of the last stages of being an empath is moving beyond the concept of an empath! Eventually the label empath no longer fits, or at least the way you apply it to yourself will shift dramatically.
I still call myself an empath to this day because it is an accurate way to describe how I navigate and interact with the world, and yet I know it is only a label. The vibrant nature of our experiences cannot be condensed into one word.
A lot of what we associate with being an empath are the self sabotaging patterns, the emotional upheavals, and the tendency to give away our power.
Although being an empath also includes the strength and stability that can come with harnessing your sensitivity, it’s understandable that some will want distance from these associations.
It’s common for empaths to branch out into a specific skill set which their empathic sense lends well to such as healing, psychology, physical health, intuitive reading, shamanism, or energy work more broadly.
Thriving as an empath also includes learning how to make money while following your heart. Learning how to lean into sensitivity while also being assertive, keeping our integrity, and following our dreams in business/work. The challenge of navigating this is all part of our path.
As I always say empaths are here to thrive. Our sensitivity can be a great gift when harnessed in the right way. We are being called to find balance and strengthen our empathic skills, blossoming into highly intuitive beings.
There is just so much to say about thriving as an empath, I couldn’t possibly cover it all in one post. If you are interested in learning more about working with your sensitivity, and developing your empathic abilities then check out my FREE empath guidebook.