Being a highly sensitive empath means you receive more information than most people. You’re attuned to the emotions of other people and you’re super sensitive to what’s going on around you in your environment. It can feel difficult to stay positive and optimistic when you feel like other people around you are trying to bring you down. Although being a highly sensitive empath is a superpower, it also comes with challenges.
The Challenges Of Being a Highly Sensitive Empath:
- Attract “Soul Sucker” People
- Give Till It Hurts
- Take Responsibility for Other People’s Happiness
- Discomfort with Making People Uncomfortable
- Prioritize Other People’s Opinions
- Lose Connection With Yourself
- Attract Narcissists and Other Pathological People
- Impacts Your Self-Esteem
- Loss Of Intimacy
- Lose Track of Your Own Happiness
- Overwhelm Others With Your Emotions
- Constantly Feeling Like “Too Much”
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The Superpower of Being A Highly Sensitive Empath
Being a highly sensitive empath (HSE) is a true superpower. It gives you extra information that most people don’t have access to. Like when you know exactly what people need whether in your work life or at home with your kids.
You’ve probably always been amazing at helping other people. You’re able to connect to other people on a really deep level. Perhaps they tell you their secrets because “there’s something about you I can trust”. This degree of empathy is so rare in our society that those of us who are deeply gifted with this superpower are sought out as sources of safety in a chaotic world.
In the book, The Highly Sensitive Empath: How To Survive in a World that Overwhelms you, Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. talks about how highly sensitive people notice much more than the average person (check it out on Amazon here). Their senses are supercharged. So they often get overwhelmed by things that most other people overlook.
This combination of true empathy and feeling overwhelmed by all of the data you’re taking in is what leads to a whole slew of challenges.
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The Challenges Of Being A Highly Sensitive Empath
You Attract “Soul Sucker” People
These are people who sense your giving nurturing energy and will come and take, take, take from you.
Because you’re such a loving person by nature you have a tendency to keep giving. You may have never learned to set boundaries with others. You’re probably not very comfortable saying “no”. Instead, you end up giving and giving because you like to see other people happy.
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You Give Till It Hurts
One of the challenges of being a highly sensitive empath is that you keep giving and giving to others without realizing that you’re sapping your own supply of nurturance.
You need to nurture yourself as much as you do others. When you don’t, you end up feeling exhausted, resentful, and wanting to shut out the world a lot.
This is because you haven’t learned how to say “no” to others and limit how much you’re willing to give. You haven’t learned how to turn all that loving goodness toward yourself and say “now it’s my time”.
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Take Responsibility for Other People’s Happiness
You end up taking it on your shoulders to make sure that everyone around you is “okay” and “happy”. Even to the detriment of yourself.
You end up putting other people’s happiness before your own because it pains you to feel other people unhappy. You may also have trauma in your background which has caused you to feel that other people’s happiness is your responsibility.
It’s ultimately not your responsibility to make other people happy. You can’t really make other people happy anyway.
No matter how much you give to others they will always require more unless they learn to give to themselves. It’s like the old saying that “you give a man a fish and he eats for a day. You teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime”.
When you’re constantly taking responsibility for other people’s happiness you end up teaching them to rely on you. You’re creating a codependent relationship where the other person becomes dependent upon you for their happiness. When you do this you take it on your shoulders to keep refilling their happiness cup. You may do this out of love, but it ends up damaging others because they never learn how to refill their own cup.
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Discomfort with Making People Uncomfortable
Because you can pick up so readily on how other people feel you end up taking it on your shoulders when you say “no” and it makes other people uncomfortable or unhappy.
You may spend a considerable amount of time trying to avoid making other people uncomfortable. So you end up saying “yes” to a lot of things you’d rather say “no” to, because you hate making other people uncomfortable.
You ultimately end up prioritizing everyone else’s comfort over your own. Never getting to choose what you really want because inevitably it will make someone else uncomfortable when you decide for yourself what you want and go for it.
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Prioritize Other People’s Opinions
One of the challenges of being a highly sensitive empath is that you feel more sensitive to other people’s opinions. You end up making other people’s opinions more important than your own.
Maybe you’ve made other people’s opinions more important because of your desire to keep other people happy. Or possibly you’ve done so to avoid making other people uncomfortable (or cause them any pain).
You also probably seek out the opinions of others because you’ve gotten so used to looking outside of yourself for whether you’re doing a “good job” of making other people happy.
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Lose Connection With Yourself
When you’re a highly sensitive empath, you may become so focused on other people and how they feel you stop connecting with what you feel.
When you don’t know how you feel you don’t know what you really desire, what you really enjoy, when things aren’t a good fit, or when you have unresolved hurt.
You end up saying “I don’t even know what I like anymore” or “I don’t know how I feel” because you’ve gotten so used to making sure everyone else is okay. You’ve become so focused on making other people happy, prioritizing their opinions, and making sure no one else is uncomfortable that you’ve sacrificed yourself in the process.
There’s no ROOM for you left when you’re taking all of your energy and pointing it outward at other people’s lives all the time.
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Attract Narcissists and Other Pathological People
One of the most unfortunate challenges of being a highly sensitive empath is that you often attract people who feed on your empathy and compassion.
Narcissists and pathological people are a more malicious version of the “soul sucker” people described above.
The narcissist knows that you’re a giver, so they purposefully take advantage of your good nature.
Being susceptible to narcissists can often happen due to adverse childhood experiences. Perhaps you were born into a family where you had to walk on eggshells or else you’d get yelled at. Maybe you felt like it wasn’t safe to express yourself.
When you’re constantly focused on making other people happy and making sure they’re not uncomfortable you will end up attracting those who will manipulate this part of you.
Without knowing how to set firm boundaries and deeply connect with who you are and what you desire you’ll end up chasing around after what they want and how they feel. When they realize that they can manipulate you with a frown, a tear, or a raised voice – they will.
This is why so many empaths end up in relationships with narcissists, sociopaths, and abusive people. They think they can fix them and heal them. It comes from a good place, but it ultimately ends up leading the empath to feel like they’ve completely lost control over their life.
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Impacts Your Self-Esteem
When you keep putting other people’s opinions first, seeking validation, keeping their happiness forefront in your life you end up losing your self-worth.
You start to feel fear of “what could happen” if you don’t focus on others instead of a true sense of happiness.
When you feel uncomfortable the pain and discomfort of other people’s unhappiness you begin to seek approval externally for being “good enough” instead of knowing it and living it from the inside.
Your self-worth and self-esteem become connected to whether other people are happy. And you only feel “good enough” when other people approve of you.
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Loss Of Intimacy
This is a seriously messed up way to be in relationships. When you’re constantly seeking validation from the other person it makes true intimacy impossible. You never feel free to nurture your own needs, you never feel as though you can nurture yourself, and instead, you focus on other people’s happiness instead. Then, when other people aren’t happy your self-esteem goes down, you feel worthless, and the other person is left feeling guilty or ashamed of themselves for not feeling happy. It makes it so that you’re putting pressure on others to be happy in order to please you.
Feeling Like You Need To Fix Their Sadness
Often, empaths ask things like “what’s wrong?” continually to a boyfriend or someone they care about. This is because the empath has become so used to tending to other people’s emotions that they feel bad if the other’s aren’t happy. This puts a lot of pressure on others to “fake happiness” in order to keep the empath satisfied.
This pattern stops relationships from being deep and meaningful because people will always feel as though the highly sensitive empath will try to fix them if they share that they’re not feeling happy or “up” at the moment.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad. Emotions are just information. Because you’ve spent so much time focused on managing other’s emotions and keeping them happy you may feel that you’ve “failed” if the other person isn’t happy.
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Lose Track of Your Own Happiness
When a person is legitimately happy they impact the lives around them without trying. Other people are lifted up by just their presence.
We’ve all been around someone like that before. Someone who makes you feel loved and good in their presence. You don’t feel good because they always put you and your needs first, but just in virtue of them being who they are.
When you put your own happiness first and foremost this is what happens. The positive effects on other people is amplified and expands.
You’re not abandoning people. You’re becoming a model for how life can work when you are in charge of your own happiness and satisfaction.
Not everyone will like it though, let’s be real. Some people will want you to continue to carry the burden of their happiness. But do you really want to live your whole life for others instead of impacting others with your presence and your true joy anchored in the truth of who you really are?
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Overwhelm Others With Your Emotions
This often happens because you don’t know how to manage your emotions or have completely shut down your emotional landscape. One of the challenges of being a highly sensitive empath is that you’re probably very emotional. You feel things stronger than other people do.
This is part of your superpower. It’s like in the recent Superman movie when other people from Krypton came to earth and were totally overwhelmed by their senses. People from Krypton (like superman) had super-hearing, super-sight, x-ray vision. This becomes a detriment when you don’t know how to manage it.
You’re like this. Your emotions are a superpower. But when you haven’t learned to manage them they can be overwhelming and paralyzing. So when you try to let other people in on your emotional world it can be “overwhelming” and “too much” to people who aren’t HSE’s.
Yet, when a highly sensitive empath’s emotions are invalidated or told they’re “too much” it actually shuts them down. This is what happens in toxic childhood situations. Their emotions are shut down and numbed because they’ve been told that their feelings overwhelm other people. And they’ve never been taught how to cope with their emotions on their own.
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Constantly Feeling Like “Too Much”
Have you been told you’re “too much”?
One of the challenges of being a highly sensitive empath is you may have heard this throughout your life.
Maybe you’ve been told you:
- Feel too much.
- You’re “too deep”.
- You’re “too serious”.
- You care too much.
- You’re too loud (or too quiet).
Highly sensitive empaths are consistently told that they’re too much from a young age. And much of this centers around the emotional experience of the HSE. When they feel that they can’t share their emotional world with others they shut it down and keep it a secret. They swing from isolating themselves from the world to being totally focused on managing other people’s emotions instead.
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As you can see, there are a lot of challenges of being a highly sensitive empath.
However, I want to assure you that it’s one of the most powerfully positive gifts you can have. It just takes time and skill to know how to navigate this ability.
I myself am a highly sensitive empath and have been dealing with these issues throughout my life and I’ve helped hundreds of people do the same.
Please read on to discover how to deal with being a highly sensitive empath.
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