How to be an Empath: Step 1
I once heard someone describe being an empath as being born without skin - no outer layer of protection to block that which bombards us in the external world. And while that may sound like an exaggeration, anyone learning how to be an empath understands the metaphor. It feels as though you have nothing to shield you, while others chuckle and say your skin is "too thin."
In reality, you are not "too" anything. You have a high level of sensitivity to energy, and perhaps a more attuned nervous system. That's all. Anyone who tells you otherwise simply doesn't understand the intense value of empathy. Empathy will help you navigate relationships with much more depth and clarity - but in a culture that shies away from personal connection and emotion, it is assumed that empaths are weak. Not because they are, but because they don't have the OPTION to ignore negativity. Witnessing the suffering of those around you (or even the suffering of the world at large) is exhausting. It can take a serious toll on your health if you do not engage in self care. On a day-to-day basis, empaths face the same fundamental challenge that never seems to get easier: "How do I maintain my own positive energy in the midst of other people's ups and downs?" Or simply put, "How do I NOT feel everything all the time?" Good question. When learning how to be an empath, there is one hard and fast rule to live by: Don't let others reach up and pull you down. Instead, reach down and pull them up. And if you can't pull them up, do nothing. In other words, always be an uplifter, but never a commiserator. Now, I can already hear a chorus of empathic people around the world saying, "YEA, BUT....!" It may be the hardest lesson you ever learn to let people sit with their own suffering - but it's the most valuable thing you'll ever learn as an empath. It is literally step one on the path to taking care of yourself. If you refuse to master this, you'll be wading through the swamps of other people's problems for eternity - often with no pay back. Now if someone you know needs cheering up, by all means, go do what you are good at and help them. This is your superpower as an empath: You can assist with the healing of others. However, if someone consistently operates from a place of negativity and does not respond to your healing efforts, you MUST let it go. Remember: If you can't reach down and pull someone up, don't extend your hand at all. You cannot lower your energy to be with them. This is one of the most common mistakes empaths make because it SEEMS heartless to do nothing. It seems like you are helping when you commiserate or keep enabling them, right? Unfortunately, you are not helping anyone when you let them drag you into their dense energy. More importantly, you are not honoring yourself when you do this - you are draining yourself. If you struggle with guilt when you hold your ground, remember this: The most transformative gift you can give someone is an example. If you hold your ground and refuse to engage in judgement, pity, gossip, etc. - you are showing them how to climb out of their hole. You are basically throwing a rope down and saying, "Look! This way!" When you let yourself be pulled down, you are essentially teaching them, "You're right! Everything is terrible. Keep doing what you're doing!"
Harness Your Power It is an empath's superpower to feel and sense what others are going through emotionally. But if you have no training on how to use your power, things go awry. (Think of the scene in Harry Potter when the students are learning to cast spells - All kinds of weird, unintended things happen because they haven't yet mastered their wands.) The same goes for learning how to be an empath. You are not actually serving others or yourself until you learn to harness your empathic power.