People who are empaths feel the pain and joy of others without having the same experiences. They feel the energy, emotions, and vibes of other people and can internalize it, allowing them to “walk a mile in their shoes.”
Many see being empathic as a superpower they can be proud of, believing it to be a testament to their own emotional intelligence. But if you dig just beneath the surface, the way that many people become empaths is extremely problematic.
In a video uploaded by Helen Villiers, a psychotherapist, she explained that when she hears someone described as an “empath,” she immediately wonders, “Who made you responsible for the safety of the rest of the family. Who made you responsible for their emotional well-being?”
That question was just the tip of the iceberg. Villiers believes there are some serious negative implications for people who are labeled an “empath.”
Here are 3 sad reasons being an empath is not the superpower you think it is:
1. Empaths have to predict the behavior and emotions of others.
People who are empaths learned from an early age to recognize the signs and angst and anxiety in others and had to master managing those negative emotions with their own controlled behavior. Their lives were dictated and controlled by the whims of their families.
2. Empaths need to be hyper-aware and hyper-alert.
Because making other people comfortable was your job, you had to be very aware of the changes in everyone’s attitudes, breathing patterns, their body language, their tone of voice, and their actions. You had to be ready to spring into action at the first sign of emotional turmoil.
3. Empaths only feel safe when they are hypervigilant.
You were conditioned for as long as you can remember to believe that the only way to keep your space safe was for you to be solely responsible for the feelings of the people around you.
You took responsibility for any negative emotions they felt and thought that you had to be accountable for them. In order for you to be okay, everyone else had to first be okay.
Villiers is absolutely right about the negative implications of being an empath.
Her take is eye-opening, especially to people like me who everyone in my family considers to be an empath. I’ve worn that title like a badge of honor, equating it to an award for my ability to help people feel better.
In hindsight, the designation has been more of a burden than anything for my entire life.
I was 17 years old when my brother was murdered at my high school dance. My whole family was devastated emotionally, and though I was as well, I was charged with organizing and budgeting the funeral so my relatives could have adequate time to mourn.
I was told that I was more mature and able to manage my emotions better, so should naturally take the lead. The same thing happened when my father passed away and, most recently, when my niece passed suddenly.
Being considered an empath is no walk in the park. Everyone assumes you have all of the internal emotional support you could possibly need. They don’t check on you because they assume that you are always okay.
Expecting one person to do the emotional labor for everyone in their orbit is unfair and too big a burden for one to carry. Check on the so-called empaths in your life because you never know when they have given all that they have to others and need someone to fill their cup.
NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington who specializes in content self-love, interpersonal relationships, and lifestyle topics. She strives to deliver informative and entertaining news you can use to help navigate life.