Today’s guest post comes from Michelle Cornish, co-author of Freeing the Butterfly: Transform Your Life Through Simple Exercises, Meditations, and Affirmations, where she shares more tips for getting to know yourself and feeling happier in your own skin. Michelle is an intuitive feeler and an empath as well. I love this article because it shares such great tips for navigating the often confusing waters of overwhelming emotion that empaths can experience.
I remember feeling many overwhelming feelings when I was a kid. What struck me the most was that I often felt sad when I thought I should be happy and vice versa. My feelings made little sense to me. I thought I was weird and just wanted to be like everyone else, so I became really good at reading a room. I was a chameleon.
When I tried to be myself, people told me I was too sensitive or I wouldn’t understand. But I understood. Adult problems were very real to me. Sometimes they consumed me, especially when I was a teenager. I was constantly asking myself what I would do with my life and how I would make a living.
What Is the Empath’s Curse?
Being an empath is a fantastic gift but if you don’t know what you’re dealing with, it can feel like a curse. It’s hard to know what you feel because you’re feeling things other people are feeling too, not just your own emotions. Which feelings belong to you and which belong to someone else?
Before I started exploring my passions and what I wanted in life, I felt like I was living someone else’s life. What I didn’t realize was that I was living someone else’s life! Because I couldn’t sort out my own feelings, I started living the life I thought was expected of me. I was living my life based on earning approval from others: my family, my friends, my coworkers.
I desperately wanted to fit in, and so I started acting how I saw other people acting. A few years ago, I realized this wasn’t working for me. I had a great job, a loving husband and a wonderful family, but I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t even articulate what made me happy. Every time I thought about it, I came up blank.
How could I not know such a simple thing as what made me happy? That should be an easy question, right?
So, how do you go from being this person who feels what everyone else feels to deciphering your own feelings and learning what it is that you want?
Start by learning about yourself so you can recognize when you’re taking on other people’s emotions and when they are your own. Here are a few ways you can do that.
Don’t Should on Yourself
I first heard the expression “don’t should on yourself” when I was working with a counselor. It’s the pressure we put on ourselves when we think a certain behavior is expected of us. If you hear yourself saying you should do X, Y, Z, then there’s a good chance that’s not something that will bring you happiness.
Of course, there are some shoulds that may be necessary. “I should get some groceries, or I will starve.” But there are other shoulds that you can cut out of your life. “I should go visit grumpy old Trish.” Really? Is that something that will bring you joy or are you doing it out of obligation?
Spend Lots of Time Alone
When people asked me what I did for fun, I often responded with “hang out with my friends,” but when I thought about it, that wasn’t always fun. I have a lot of fun hanging out with myself, but who wants to hear that?
When you’re an empath, you need to spend time alone and that’s okay. It’s one of the best ways to recharge your batteries and it’s an opportunity to reflect on your feelings without other energies interfering.
Note What You’re Feeling
Be honest with yourself. If you don’t enjoy something, that’s fine. Stop doing it. The times when you feel truly happy, remember them. Record what you were doing. This will help you figure out what your go-to happy activities are. When someone asks you what you enjoy, you’ll have no problem answering.
Lose Track of Time
The times when I’m the happiest are the times when I completely lose track of time. I have to make sure I don’t start those activities near school pickup time otherwise I’ll forget to go get the kids! When you lose yourself in moments like that, you know it’s something that makes you happy.
Even though you’ve lost track of time, you feel rejuvenated. You can’t stop smiling and you might even hum or sing.
It’s difficult for some people to understand the quirkiness of an empath. It’s okay, we’re all different. If you understand yourself, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. When you know yourself, you gain a special confidence that’s freeing.
It may take some time to get there, and that’s okay. Be gentle with yourself. Some things come to us little by little. If you’ve spent your whole life living by what’s expected you, it will take time to get to know yourself. The important thing is that you explore that. Being an empath doesn’t have to be a curse. The more you learn about it, the more you can embrace its gift.
Michelle Cornish is co-author of Freeing the Butterfly: Transform Your Life Through Simple Exercises, Meditations, and Affirmations where she shares more tips for getting to know yourself and feeling happier in your own skin.