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Empathy

5 things I wish people knew about me as a highly sensitive empath & introvert10 min read

Being highly sensitive means being misunderstood quite a lot.

Having a particularly sensitive nervous system means that you process everything – and I mean everything: thoughts, feelings, temperature, sensations, smells – more deeply.

Your experience of the world is different and your sensitivity can feel like an annoyance or burden to other people.

I know that my sensitivity has created many misunderstandings, especially with family members who insist that my sensitivity is just “all in my head”. 

While not everyone who’s sensitive is the same, we do share many experiences – and it can be very stressful when the people we care about don’t “get” us.

This one is for you curling up on the couch with the cat and a book on a Saturday night.

For you pep-talking yourself in the supermarket car park to just go in and get it over with already.

For when you’re wondering why you’re the “only one” who wants to stay home this (and every other) weekend.

If you’re struggling to be like everybody else – I know exactly what you’re talking about because I did that too!

Here’s what I wish other people knew about me as an empath, introvert and highly sensitive person.

Like almost every introvert and empath, I’ve spent years (decades even!) feeling out of place.

It wasn’t until I hit my 30s that I found out that you can have sensory processing sensitivity, or that “empath” doesn’t just mean an emo teenager with mind-bending powers in an action movie.

I was familiar with introversion and definitely belonged to the group who watched movies in blanket caves for fun and stayed home every Saturday night with a bowl of popcorn for company.

But prevailing attitudes had me believing that unless I learned to like going out on the town with 50 of my closest friends on a regular basis, I was never going to amount to a real person or be successful in life.

I diligently got together with my friends, throughout my late teens and all through my 20s – and though it was fun most of the time it consistently left me exhausted to the bone.

A huge weight lifted off me once I found out that there wasn’t anything wrong with me

That there were others out there who felt exactly as I did and that I most certainly wasn’t depressed or weird simply because I liked being alone.

Not only am I an introverted empath, but I’m also a highly sensitive person. I was raised on a tirade of “you can’t go through life being so sensitive” and “I’m so glad you finally came out of your shell!”.

I was accused of being co-dependent, I was asked if I was on drugs, I was told I was too quiet.

I constantly beat myself up for being too sensitive and too affected by other people’s moods. I became convinced that I was destined to be a failure in life.

Learning about myself set me free

For years I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere and fell for anything that felt even vaguely comforting. That’s how I started using food as a coping mechanism and ended up in bad friendships.

I dreamt about going to a boarding school, retreating to a monastery and habitually travelling to remote places. I thought that the best I could ever hope for was to live out my life on the fringes of society, where no one would give me a second glance and just leave me the f*ck alone.

I accepted that I was going to live a life without friends because all my friendships fizzled out eventually and started doing things alone instead.

Years of self-searching didn’t go to waste though, and I worked towards a self-acceptance that I didn’t truly feel until closer to my mid-30s.

As more and more empaths and introverts started coming out of the woodworks, I started to feel a glorious freedom in being the person I was meant to be and live my life as I damn well saw fit. Damn the critics.

I’ve stopped trying to justify my way of being and living. Stopped apologising for not wanting to go out every weekend. Life is so much easier when you embrace your temperament wholeheartedly – whether it’s high or low energy or something in between.

Travelling a long road filled with questions, doubt, pain, loneliness and sitting with some damned uncomfortable emotions has given me the resilience and wisdom to show others, who are still living every day in doubt and disbelief, that they do fit in and that they can find inner peace and happiness.

1. Empathy is my superpower

I want you to know that I feel you and I see you. I feel your genuine and honest emotions and even when you feel caught up in an emotional storm I may be able to help you make sense of your true feelings.

As a highly intuitive and highly sensitive empath, I can sense your mood and explore your emotions from a mile away. I can suss out what’s going on emotionally by your words, actions and behaviour.

I often even guess what’s going on with you even when I’ve never met you, but someone you know talks to me about you.

There’s no use in trying to hide it; we all live life with our hearts on our sleeves, it’s just a question of some people paying more attention to how you’re really feeling.

2. I wish you only well and hope that you can heal your wounds

Even when someone comes to me bitching and complaining about you, I always try to stay out of judgement because I have an idea of what feelings you’re experiencing to take the actions that have brought this other person to me for advice. I think everyone deserves a fair chance to be heard.

I have a high tolerance for emotional turmoil and I can deal even with strong, scary emotions.

I love talking about how you feel and helping you figure out what’s really going on with you emotionally.

I want you to thrive, I want you to understand yourself better and I wish you nothing but godspeed in your life.

It makes me excited when I can help you find those things that make your heart soar and that guide you back towards a path filled with joy and wholehearted living.

3. I might be the most emotional person you’ve ever met

I can sometimes make you feel uncomfortable with how honest I am. I can sometimes catch you off-guard. Or I might burst into tears at the smallest trigger.

I feel very deeply and a beautiful piece of music can send me down a deep ocean of feeling. The right kind of sunlight filtering through the trees can have me just basking in the glory of the universe.

Often, I will make deep connections between seemingly unrelated things. I’ll sound like I’m not making any sense to a person who doesn’t have the time or the inclination to sit down and hear me out.

And that’s okay.

I get it that this way of deeply feeling or deep reflection isn’t for everyone. It just suits me and I don’t apologise for liking it or doing it (anymore).

4. I’m interpreting our conversation before it’s even over

I’m going to hit replay and explore every aspect of our conversation and our time together.

I’ll be thinking about the rhythm, awkward silences, what words were used, what energy was projected, what kind of body language was there, what types of interactions I witnessed.

I’m not obsessing, I’m just exploring every aspect of you that I can because I want to be able to communicate with you better.

Learning everything I can about you: how you think, how you feel, how you express yourself, what’s important to you, how engaged you are in our interaction and how interested you are in building a relationship with me are all things that I care about.

Sometimes I’ll get stuck in my head, thinking that I could have said something better or communicated something more clearly. That I could have shown you more consideration, that I could have presented myself better.

In-person I do a lot of thinking, and it’s really in written form that I truly shine because it gives me time to weigh my words and articulate clearly what I really mean.

In conversation I can sometimes feel rushed and blurt out the wrong thing. Understand, that this is just my ineptitude at small talk.

I tend to go for the jugular and want to talk about the big feelings – what you love, what makes you excited, what you’re passionate about – rather than just chat about the weather.

5. Even though I’m an introvert, I can be the life of the party

To me, here’s nothing better than making a genuine emotional connection with you.

Let’s not forget: I’m trained in the performing arts and my major was dance. I love being on stage, telling a story and having all eyes on me.

But I don’t do it out of a sense of needing to have all that attention, I just love telling a good story. An engaging story that has you at the edge of your seat and standing in rave applause at the end of it.

I have an acute sense of the theatrical, and as we get to know each other better, you’ll probably start to see more of it as I get more comfortable being quirky around you.

6. I like spending a lot of time alone

Being centre-stage takes a lot of energy though, and I need a long time to wind down and recharge for an encore.

I love socialising but I’m not very good at doing it every single day. It’s just too exhausting being around a lot of people and constantly reading their emotions and I can only put my best foot forward when I’m not feeling overwhelmed.

The bigger the event, the longer it takes me to recover. And I love doing “alone” things. I can sit and work alone for a week and be totally engaged with my own thoughts.

I can spend hours reading, drawing and just pottering around by myself and be perfectly content. I love going out riding, spending time around the soft energy of animals and nature. Having tea on the porch with chickens scratching in the yard is my idea of a perfect morning.

But I always resurface from my seclusion and excitedly look forward to spending time with you again.

And I’ll keep coming back because even in my absence, I often think about you.

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