If you've always been someone who can easily tune into others, someone who is emotional, or someone who feels overwhelmed by the "vibe" of your surroundings, then you may be
wondering if you're an empath, or someone who is highly tuned into the emotions of others.
These are feelings we all possess, to one degree or another. But for empaths, their ability to tune into others can be on a whole 'nother level. "Some people may be extremely sensitive and are capable of
putting themselves in the shoes of another person or walking in those shoes with them," Davida Rappaport, a psychic and spiritual counselor, tells Bustle. "Others may not be as sensitive; they may pick up thoughts and feelings of people they are close to from time to time."
If you've always
felt highly sensitive in this way, discovering that you're an empath may explain a lot. "While being empathic may be considered a gift, it can often be a bit of a curse due to the fact that you may not necessarily know that the thoughts you are thinking or what you are feeling belongs to you," Rappaport says. You might become easily overwhelmed, or take on too much when comforting others — among other things.
For that reason, "it is important for an empath to
have healthy boundaries," Rappaport says. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure out if you're an empath, as well as ways to practice self care so you can remain balanced.
"Do I Feel Drained After Hanging Out With Others?"
Because empaths are constantly soaking up their surroundings, you might notice that you feel drained whenever you're around others for too long. "Empaths are like sponges who absorb the thoughts, feelings and sensations around them,"
licensed psychotherapist Lisa Hutchison, LMHC, tells Bustle. "If you are talking to someone [who is] depressed then you may notice you feel down afterwards." If you're speaking with someone who's highly anxious, you may start to feel that way, too. And so on.
This is why many
empaths are naturally introverted. You likely enjoy your own company, and spending quiet evenings in, rather than going out and socializing.
"Do I Often Correctly Guess What Others Are Thinking?"
If you often correctly
guess what someone's thinking, well before they say it out loud, take note. "You may find that you're in sync with some people from time to time," Rappaport says. "If both of you keep saying things like, 'We are on the same page,' 'I was thinking (or feeling) the same thing,' or 'You took the words right out of my mouth,' you are definitely connected to the other person."
While this happens to everyone on occasion, empaths may notice a pattern — which is why it's important to tread lightly. "Be mindful of when this occurs and take it in stride," Rappaport says. "If it happens more frequently, you might want to learn how to sort things out to make sure it does not run your life." Empaths absorb other people's emotions, so it'll be important to
practice self-care — so you don't get burnt out.
"Do I Find Public Places Overwhelming?"
Ask yourself how you feel after being in a loud place, such as a party, a crowded subway platform, or a busy networking event. As Hutchison says, "Empaths are easily over-stimulated by noise because their focus is often outward rather than inward." So if this has always been a problem for you, it may be another clue that you're empathic.
"Have I Always Been Highly Emotional?"
There are many reasons you might be highly emotional or easily upset. Anxiety and depression can make you
feel super sensitive, as can a lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, and so on. But if you've always been someone who cries at the drop of a hat, take note.
"If you are highly sensitive and cry easily, especially when someone hurts your feelings, you are definitely an emotional person. But you may also be an empath," Rappaport says. "You may not experience someone else’s emotions in exactly the same way, but you may discover that you are feeling them strongly and may be walking next to them on their journey."
And that can leave your emotions running on high, making you more prone to teariness. "Empaths have a big heart and can find themselves crying easily when seeing abuse, injustice or natural disasters either on TV, movies or hearing about another's experience," Hutchison says. "While others would feel upset, empaths feel others' emotional pain literally. This can leave them feeling angry or sad."
Just make sure it doesn't get the best of you. "If you are doing this, take the time you need to detach from the feelings and thoughts so you are
not taking on someone else’s 'stuff," Rappaport says.
"Have I Always Wanted to Help Others?"
Since empaths can be all about helping others, take it as a sign if you've been altruistic all your life. As Hutchison says, empaths have a desire to help world causes and to assist people. If this is you, it may explain why you've always been
big into volunteering, why you enjoy listening to friends talk about their problems, or why you're always there when a neighbor needs a helping hand.
"Why Am I Not Interested In Corporate Jobs?"
There are so many people who
don't enjoy desk jobs or the corporate culture, simply because they don't find it interesting. But empaths tend to avoid these types of careers for entirely different reasons, namely the noisy, and sometimes manipulative, cut-throat nature of this type of work.
"This isn't to say they can't do these types of jobs but it [might] cause them to feel unhappy to be something they are not," Hutchison says. "Empaths do better with jobs in which they have the freedom to help others and express their creativity. It is important to have quiet times in order to decompress. This is more supportive of their intuitive nature."
More to that point, empathic people tend to go into artist fields, or partake in the beauty of nature in their spare time. "Often empaths are very creative and artistic," Hutchison says. "Your sensitivity is a strength when you learn boundaries, how to assert yourself, and ways to protect your energy."
This means creating space for your thoughts and creativity, and not letting the problems of others get you down, to the point where you stop enjoying life or pursuing your passions.
"Can I Handle Being Around Toxic People?"
While many people are able to deal with unhealthy relationships to a degree — whether they have a toxic friend, coworker, family member, etc. — empaths tend to avoid these folks like the plague, because they simply
can't put up with them.
If you're an empath, and you end up hanging around a toxic person for too long, you might even notice that they start to impact your wellbeing.
"You may become ill and the only way [you] can get well is to leave,
find another job, terminate a friendship, or end a relationship," Rappaport says. "If you find that this is happening to you, you may be an empath and you need to stay away from people and places that have energy that is unhealthy for you."
"Am I Feeling My Own Emotions, Or Everyone Else's?"
If you often feel sad for no reason, or overjoyed for no reason, tune in and ask yourself why that might be. "Take a moment to determine if your thoughts and feelings are your own," Rappaport says. "If you are close to your friends and are able to sense how they are feeling — whether they are happy, sad, confused, etc. — you may be
experiencing moments of empathy."
You can also ask yourself a question like, "Did this emotion come out of the blue?" If so, Rappaport says it may be that you're picking up on how someone else is feeling. In these moments, it'll be important to
slow down and focus on yourself for a while, so you can regain clarity.
"Do I Often Feel Scattered Or Unclear?"
pick up on other people's feelings to an intense degree, you may find yourself struggling with a constant sense of overwhelm — as well as scattered thinking. As Hutchison says, "Empaths are compassionate givers who often get engulfed by others emotions and problems to the point they disconnect from their own thoughts and feelings."
You might even get to the point where you tune out, which isn't good. "The most important thing about being empathic is realizing that you have to
have good boundaries or you will constantly pick up other people’s thoughts and feelings," Rappaport says. "You may discover that you are unable to think clearly if you have a lot of thoughts and feelings swirling around you." Which is, again, where self care and things like meditation can come in handy.
"Am I Able To Read The 'Mood' Of The Room?"
Are you able to correctly "read" a room? Are you constantly picking up on the vibes of others? Do you have a knack for sensing the overall energy of your surroundings? If so, you might be an empath.
To further test yourself, "the next time you approach someone, a group of people, etc. take a moment to be aware of your instinctual response to the energy that bounces off of them," Rappaport. If you get
an overwhelming sense of what they're feeling, and it turns out to be correct, that's a sign.
Try to pick up on whether they
give off a negative feeling or a positive one. "Be present and aware of how you adjust to the energy," she says. "You may want to make your interaction short, sweet, and to the point, or you may want to linger," depending on how they make you feel.
If you think you're an empath, it'll be important to pay attention to these moods and protect yourself from
negative energy and negative people. Since you're an emotional sponge, try to surround yourself with positive people and experiences — and always practice self-care the moment you begin to feel out of sorts.