Do you know what characteristics of an empath set them apart from other souls?
The trademark of an empath is that they pick up and absorb the emotions and energies of others around them. This high sensitivity makes them wonderfully intuitive, understanding, compassionate, and an all-around great friend to lean on.
However, being an emotional sponge comes at a cost. Empaths often feel overwhelmed, and at times risk being swamped by others’ energy.
Does this sound familiar? Do you suspect that you’re an empath? Perhaps you want to know more about what it means to be an empath and how to harness your gifts so you can lead an entirely authentic and empowered life.
To help you determine whether you are one, we’ll take a look at some of the characteristics of an empath that make them so unique. But first, you may be wondering, is it rare to be an empath?
Is it rare to be an empath?
Most empaths will tell you that they sometimes feel like they don’t fit in. They wonder how “normal” people can get along so easily amidst the chaos and confusion of our modern world. You might be wondering, too, “Am I the only one who feels this way?”
As yet, there is limited scientific research to determine precisely how rare empaths are.
What research can tell us so far is that high sensitivity affects 20 percent of the population. We know that empaths are often labeled “overly sensitive.” But what is unique about empaths is that they sense and absorb subtle energy into their bodies. And not all highly sensitive people do this. As such, it may be that empaths’ extreme sensitivity places them in a small subset of this 20 percent affected by high sensitivity.
Other research focuses on a particular form of empathic response called mirror-touch synaesthesia. People with mirror-touch synaesthesia feel tactile sensations on their own body when seeing another person being touched. The study suggests that this particular type of empath expression makes up about 1 to 2 percent of the population.
The good news is that, even if you are a rare breed, you are not alone. You are part of a community of light-workers growing in awareness about the particular challenges you’re up against as well as the essential gifts you bring to the world.
What are some of these characteristics that make empaths so unique? Here’s a list to check against your own experience. Mind you; not all empaths embody all of these qualities to the same degree. So take a look and see which ones resonate most with you.
17 Characteristics Of An Empath That Set Them Apart From Other Souls
#1 – You take on other people’s emotions as your own.
Deeply tuned into the feelings of people around you, you absorb and feel their emotions and energies–positive or negative–as if they were your own. You tend to take on others’ pain at your own expense and feel drained when you spend time with certain people. As a result, you can experience extreme mood fluctuations–ranging from anger and anxiety to peace and relaxation.
#2 – You’re highly intuitive.
You just know stuff without knowing how you know it. Information comes to you without using a logical or rational process. And, although it might pass unnoticed, your intuition plays a crucial role in your everyday life. It guides you in your decisions, large and small.
#3 – You’re a human lie detector.
Being highly intuitive, you also have a robust B.S. radar. You’re always taking in information from the environment — emotions, nuance, subtext, undercurrent, intentions, thoughts, and body language. Because you can read people without obvious clues, you can see beyond facades, understand motivations, and sense when something is off.
#4 – Crowded places overwhelm you.
This is one of the most common characteristics of an empath: crowded spaces can be too much for you to handle. Whether it’s loud concerts, chaotic shopping malls, or busy airports, you suffer sensory and emotional overload. You may even experience panic and nausea.
#5 – You need time alone.
Being a sponge for others’ emotions is draining. When exhausted and overstimulated, you resort to time alone. Solitude helps you decompress and release the feelings and other sensory input you’ve taken in from the world. If you’ve internalized others’ emotions to the degree that you can’t distinguish your feelings from theirs, quiet solo time is incredibly vital. It helps you re-establish your sense of self.
#6 – Nature and animals bring you solace.
You find solace and peace in nature, where you connect to the larger energetic forces of life. The physical beauty and harmony of nature soothe, heal, and ground you. Your relationship with nature may even have a spiritual quality, where you sense your connection with all living beings and your place in the greater order of the universe.
#7 – You struggle with a lack of belonging.
Did you grow up in a household or school environment where your sensitivity was not understood? Were you told you were too sensitive or too emotional? Even if the adults in your life were well-intentioned, they likely had no clue just how intense the world of emotion and sensation was to you. As a result, you may have grown up feeling invalidated for your experiences. You may have internalized a sense of shame, believing something was wrong with you and that you didn’t belong. Many empaths carry these feelings of self-doubt into their adulthood.
#8 – You have a big heart.
No matter how intense and overwhelming the world gets, you continue to open your big heart to help others. This characteristic of an empath — being of service — gives you a sense of purpose. You instinctively know that we are all connected and that when you can lift someone else, you are helping to heal the collective. Having a big heart also means that you’re compassionate, you forgive easily, and you readily give others the benefit of the doubt.
#9 – You feel responsible for the feelings of people close to you.
You may have been raised by parents who were themselves emotionally wounded. As a young child, you may have learned to take care of your parents’ difficult emotions for them so that they didn’t have to feel their own pain. Now, in your adult intimate relationships, you may carry this pattern and take on managing your partner’s emotional life. You might even attract partners looking for a caretaker — someone to soothe them and solve their problems.
#10 – You struggle to set healthy boundaries.
Given that you are naturally in tune with others’ feelings, desires, and wants, differentiating what belongs to you from what belongs to others is challenging. You may have never been taught that boundaries are your birthright, much less how to set them. You have people-pleasing tendencies, and will avoid conflict even if it means overriding your own preferences and needs.
#11 – People confide in you.
You’re not just a good listener. You’re a deep listener. You listen for nuance, consider the complexity of human nature, and feel in your body how the other is feeling. People feel genuinely “gotten” when you listen to them, so they’ll pour their heart out to you and feel greatly relieved and supported. They trust you and keep coming back for more.
#12 – You put others’ needs before your own.
Because you are so tuned into others’ emotions and energy, you often know even before they do what they want and need. And, because you can feel these needs so viscerally in your own body, you may be compelled to address those needs, even without them asking you to. In some ways, tending to others’ needs before your own is a coping strategy that helps you manage your environment and create safety for yourself.
#13 – You’re drawn to spirituality and metaphysics.
Because you know that there is much more going on in life than meets the naked eye, you’re curious about the nature of spirit, and you’re inspired to ponder the big questions of life. You experience a deep passion for the richness of life through the study of spirituality and metaphysics. In your quest for higher truth, you may seek to align your life with your spiritual nature and live in harmony with a higher purpose. Among the characteristics of an empath, this one is probably the most uplifting.
#14 – You suffer from intimacy overload in your romantic relationships.
Intimacy overload is a common trigger for empaths. It means that, although you delight in the depth and closeness of your relationship, too much togetherness overwhelms you. You begin to get lost in your partner’s thoughts, preferences, emotions, and needs. You might respond by avoiding intimacy altogether, or you might escape from time to time to regain your own inner connection.
#15 – You have extra keen senses.
You have heightened reactions to external sensory stimuli, including noise, sound, light, odors, or other environmental changes. For example, you have an acute sense of smell and are annoyed by heavy perfumes and other scents. Rough and synthetic clothing textures bother you — you prefer soft fabrics made of natural fiber. Spicy foods and stimulants like caffeine and sugar can cause you to feel anxious and irritable.
#16 – You can’t bear violence of any kind.
Whether in real life or depicted on screen, violence and emotional abuse can cause you to feel anxious, even physically ill. It baffles you how others can watch violent movies or reports of tragic events on the news and then simply carry on with their day without much impact on their inner world. Most empaths tend to avoid mass media so they won’t expose themselves to witnessing brutality and cruelty in any form.
#17 – You embody compassion and altruism.
Because you have powerful insight into people’s inner experiences, you’re able to appreciate their challenges, pain, hopes, and desires. This understanding helps you to tap into a deep well of compassion, humility, and grace. You can be generous with your time and attention in the service of others’ well-being. As a big-hearted giver, you may feel drawn to work in the helping and healing professions like counseling, philanthropy, and social justice.
When you understand the characteristics of an empath that sets them apart from other souls, you’re able to embrace your true nature. As you do, you’ll learn to manage your sensitivities, hone your superpowers like intuition and compassion, and live your most authentic and empowered life.
If you’re an empath wanting to learn how to manage your sensitivity, reading about it may not be enough to create the shifts you want in your life. Consider booking a healing session with me. I can help you build energetic balance and stability, no matter how intense the world around you becomes. Book your session today!