I came across a Facebook post that contained a link to a study that was done in 2011 that links social anxiety to empathetic individuals.
And because I am always intrigued with articles that try to explain my unique character, I read on:
“Being an Empath means you literally feel what other people are experiencing emotionally. You can feel it in your body, your mood, sensations and in your thoughts. You can also feel it consciously and on a subtle level without realizing it.”
I know this for a fact I can literally feel the tension and negative vibes when I talk to people who are upset or excited or anxious, even on the phone, and I can’t wait to get away from them. I want to stay and listen, and if they need me to listen or talk, I will, for a while anyway. But the entire time, I am looking for an out, trying to wrap things up, or ask them to call me later when they calm down. (I leave out that part so I don’t offend them.)
Which brings up the whole co-dependent thing. Consciously I know I am not responsible for people’s feelings, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings if I can help it. Sometimes I can’t and I just have to accept it. But I know I am more considerate than many, and I take that into consideration. (It’s exhausting just listening to myself as I write this.)
It’s not just people; social activities, even the ones I want to be at, or so draining I have to leave after a short amount of time. I can tolerate social gatherings, but I’m not comfortable. I would much rather be home, in my room, on my computer. I’m a journalist, and kind of expected to experience the world I am writing about.
It was easier when I was drinking because a few drinks would take the edge off and I could relax. But since I quit almost 11 years ago, I don’t have that “crutch,” and it’s difficult to relax at social gatherings, even with my own family.
Most people understand, but some are offended when I leave a party early. It’s just to hard for some people to understand.
Imagine a wild deer in a locked pen. It realizes it’s trapped and frantically looks for a way out. It paces back and forth until finally the gate opens and the deer bolts out. That’s kind of how I feel in many social situations. A little extreme, I know, but I have learned to manage it. I no longer run for the nearest exit. I edge my way towards it …
I have always been extremely sensitive and because I care so much about what other people think, I viewed my sensitivity as a curse. It wasn’t that long ago that I heard, “Don’t let people walk all over you,” “You need a thicker skin,” or “Get a backbone.”
I thought there was something really wrong with me. When I was angry, I’d cry, because I was more hurt than angry. I couldn’t understand how people could be so hurtful and hateful. I became confused about love, because how could people say they love you, and then hurt you?
But once I understood how my sensitivity is a gift, not a curse, I accepted it, and now I’m glad I’m ultra-sensitive.
I feel things deeply and I connect with others on a new level, which is important to me. I actually look for that connection, that common bond, which helps me relate to that person on a deeper level. By empathizing with them, they will know they are not alone with whatever they are dealing with.
Some people say, “You’re too sensitive,” like it’s a bad thing. But maybe the people who see it as a bad thing are actually jealous because they don’t have the same ability.
And for the record; being sensitive is not the same as being emotional. According to psychologist, Nancy Schreinre, “being sensitive implies empathy towards others outside of yourself. Being emotional doesn’t necessarily imply empathy and is more about the person being emotional than about the person needing empathy.”
Crying at sappy movies is one thing, but I cry at the horrible things going on throughout the entire world. I cry because I feel bad that others don’t have a place to live, or not enough to eat, or are abused, neglected, or bullied.
I cry for all human kind. That’s who I am. And though I am learning to stand up for myself and getting good at creating boundaries, I will always feel empathy, and I will always be socially anxious.
Psychologist, Nathaniel Branden said, “The first step in changing anything is being aware it needs changing.”
I agree with the statement, but there are some things you can’t change no matter how hard you try. Besides, in this case, would I even want to? I would much rather be sensitive and have to manage the anxiety that comes along with it, than be inconsiderate and uncaring toward others.