Maybe you already know that you’re a highly sensitive person. Now you find yourself wondering if that means that you’re an empath, or are you just a highly sensitive person?
There’s so much information available about being an empath and being a highly sensitive person and a lot of times it seems that these two terms are used interchangeably.
To complicate matters even more, highly sensitive people and empaths seem to be painted with this brush of suffering. It seems we are doomed to suffer at the hands of an insensitive world!
In this post, I take my personal experience, match that up with the information that’s out there and explain to you why highly sensitive people and empaths are not the same, and what the differences are. You will learn how to tell whether you’re an empath and then finally I’ll share with you some of the key lessons that every empath needs to know.
Differences between an Empath and HSP
There seems to be this assumption that highly sensitive people are automatically empaths because of their emotional reactivity, and that empaths are automatically highly sensitive people because they’re sensitive.
You can be a highly sensitive person without being an empath. You can be an empath without being a highly sensitive person, and then you can be someone who has high levels of empathy without being either an empath or a highly sensitive person!
The best way that I can explain the difference between being an empath or being highly sensitive is in the way that we experience things.
Highly sensitive people respond very strongly to stimulus. Our brains have a volume button that amplifies all external stimuli. The way that our brains have been put together also causes us to overthink and deeply process all the information that we received.
Now empaths on the other hand respond more strongly to energy.
They really absorb the energy from people around them and also from the environment. Empaths are also more likely to have spiritual experiences, which is what I call an intuitive empath.
Similarities between an Empath and HSP
The similarity between being an empath and a highly sensitive person – and maybe this is where a lot of the confusion comes in – is that both the empath and the highly sensitive person can be negatively affected by their experiences.
Therefore, it is important for both these types to learn how to manage their traits so that they don’t end up suffering in an insensitive world.
Signs of an Empath
How can you tell if you’re an empath?
People turn to you for advice
One of the first signs is that people tend to turn to you for advice and counseling. You might find that people share their life story or deep secrets with you, without you even inviting them to do that.
The first time I remember this happening to me was when I was at a school camp. I was 11 years old at the time.
One of the girls, who I wasn’t really friends with, and I stayed up late one evening and started chatting. She began telling me about all of these things that had happened to her, and when we finished talking, she left.
She seemed fine, but what she told me really disturbed me and it stayed with me for a very long time. What made it worse for me to actually deal with all of this information that she gave to me was that the next day, she wanted nothing to do with me. She completely avoided me.
You might also notice that people dump their stories on you, which makes them feel better. Then they avoid you.
This can be quite hard to understand. Why would someone speak to you and share stories with you and then not want to have anything to do with you anymore?
Intuitive sense about others
Empaths also read people very well. It is like we have the built-in BS meters that tell you when people are being untruthful when they’re hiding something or when they are not coming clean about something.
A lot of times it might just be a feeling that you have that something is off. You can’t say exactly what it is. You can’t put your finger on it, but you just know that something doesn’t feel right.
Again, this can be confusing if you get these mixed signals from people where they say one thing but you are feeling something else from them and you can start to question yourself.
The third sign that I want to share with you is that we take on the energy of others. We take on that energy and we absorb it. We feel it like it’s our own and we can also sense the energy in places.
A few years ago, I walked into a person’s bedroom. This person was very sad and unhappy for a while.
As soon as I walked into the bedroom it felt like I was walking through syrup. It was this incredibly heavy dense energy. I almost couldn’t breathe, my throat constricted and I wanted to cry. It felt like everything was quite dark and black around me.
That is what it can feel like when you walk into an energy field that’s been left behind by someone. Remember we are all energetic beings.
You might experience the same thing when you walk into a room and you feel that the vibe is off, or when you come across a person you can feel something is off with them.
You might feel their sadness, their anger and sometimes you might even feel the physical pain that they experience.
The Empowered Empath
Now I want to share with you three key things that I believe all empaths can use to empower themselves.
The idea of us being subjected to the energy that hits us from all sides, like energy from other people and energy from our environments, and that we have to suffer through that it’s a very limiting idea to have.
Heal core wounds
There are ways in which we can empower ourselves and the first way is to heal our core wounds.
Our subconscious minds have so many beliefs and these beliefs can attract negative experiences, negative feelings and negative energy more strongly into our lives.
We can benefit from releasing guilt and shame. Fully accepting who we are and doing the work to clear out everything that’s holding you back from fully stepping into your power. Be kind to yourself, and have compassion for yourself.
Through healing these core words we strengthen with our energy fields. We stop our energy from leaking out and we stop absorbing energy without thought.
Understand the nature of energy
The second thing that we can do is to understand the nature of energy.
Energy is alive and we can perceive it with our senses.
Try this out for yourself:
Briskly rub your hands together for a few seconds. Now, hold your palms a few inches from each other, facing each other. Gently move them towards and away from each other in small movements. You should start to feel some resistance between your palms. This is what energy feels like!
We can feel energy, energy as a real thing and if you can understand the nature of energy and you can begin to understand how that energy affects you, you can start to manage the effect that it has on you.
Learn to tell what belongs to you and what doesn’t
A big challenge that empaths, who are also self-aware, have is that whenever we feel negative or heavy energy we assume that that is ours.
Because we are self-aware and responsible for our lives we then think that it’s something that we need to fix because it’s ours!
So, we often burden ourselves with feelings and emotions and sensations that don’t really belong to us so that’s why it’s so important to be able to distinguish between what belongs to you and what belongs to someone else.
There are different practices that you can do to start learning to distinguish. Begin by developing awareness through journaling or meditation or spending more time in nature.
Move into conscious creation
It doesn’t matter if you’re an empath or whether you’re highly sensitive, by healing and growth you can move into a conscious and abundant life and the way that you click out of autopilot mode is by starting to heal these core wounds.