I Have a Lot of Empathy

What is empathy and how do I know if I have it? Is it really something I can “have?”

According to Psychology Today, empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Empathy is not to be confused with sympathy. Sympathy is the feeling of concern for another person or a desire for the other person to be happier. When a person exhibits empathy, they are feeling the grief or sadness or angst of another person. When a person is sympathetic, they are recognizing the feelings the other person is having and are wishing that person well. You can by both sympathetic and empathetic at the same time, but they are not interchangeable.

Yes, empathy is something that every person can have. Empathy is something that is generally developed as children. There are some people who do not know how to be empathetic and then there are the empaths who are so empathetic that they sometimes aren’t able to distinguish an empathetic feeling from a personal feeling. People can have a lot of empathy and still may not be true empaths.

Those of us who are empaths struggle with the feelings of others’ situations taking over our life. We may end up with anxiety or depression. For example, I am an empath who has to cautiously determine what shows or movies I watch because I take on the stress or pain of the characters. I really enjoyed watching Sons of Anarchy years ago, but my empathetic response left me feeling extremely stressed the rest of my day. I had to stop watching the show. This was the first true example of recognizing what was happening to me that I could identify as a trigger. Even still today, I started watching Outlander and had to pause and maybe even stop because of the reaction I was having to the show.

Shows are just one example. When my friend lost her father recently, I took on the pain and feelings and emotions of losing a wonderful father. It was as though I personally lost a father. Maybe it didn’t help that my dad had just overdosed and proved how far gone he is. Either way, I had a rough few days around my friend’s father’s passing.

When my friend’s are going through hell, I am right there in hell with them. When family is struggling, I am struggling too. I absorb the feelings of what other’s around me are experiencing and experience it with them. This is not something intentional that I do. In fact, I don’t know how to minimize it or even prevent it. I have not learned of any method of potential control over my empathetic response.

So, how do you tell the difference between having a lot of empathy and being an empath? It may be simple, it may not. I truly believe there are different levels of empathy and different levels of being an empath. If you are at all concerned that your level of empathy for others is causing issues in your life, I recommend speaking with a professional. As for me, right now I can generally identify when it is happening and I can work with it.

Empathy is important in our lives and in our society. I wish more people were just a bit more empathetic towards others. We might see more people caring for other’s and helping each other more.

Thoughts About Family

I’ve seen so many quotes that say things like “family is everything” or “blood is thicker than water.” These are all over social media and people use them in everyday conversation. The underlying theme is that, no matter what, family sticks together.

I wish life was as simple as that. For some families, it is. For mine, it is not. If I were to stick with my family no matter what, I would not be where I am today. I would be living a much different life supporting people who only take from others or supporting everything the drug addicts do. If family was the only thing that mattered in life, my life would be miserable and depressing.

The thing about family is you can’t choose who your blood family is, but you can choose who you consider family. Blood may literally be thicker than water, but familial blood does not have to rule your life. Your life is yours to live.

I choose to associate and keep close quite a bit of my family. I used to force relationships with more of my family but got tired of being the only one who put effort into those relationships. Keeping family close means different things for all of them. It depends on the relationship. It depends on their efforts as well as mine. Relationships are a two-way street.

I have family I would give a chance to have a relationship once they turn 18 and can make decisions for themselves. I have family that will never have a chance to come back into my life. That sounds harsh, but it is my reality. I choose not to support those who keep taking more and more from me or those who abuse drugs and emotionally abuse those who take care of him.

That brings me to my father. I don’t even like calling him that. It feels dirty. It feels wrong. I could use sperm donor, I think that is from a movie, but I can’t think which one. But I’ll call him dumbass because that is what he is. Dumbass has been a drug addict most of my life. It has escalated year after year. More and more drugs. From meth to opioids, he is or has been on all of them. Well, dumbass broke his ankle, got home from the hospital and then overdosed on what he had in stock. If my grandmother had not called my sister worried because he wouldn’t answer the phone, he would have been there on his own and may have possibly died. How do I feel about that? He died to me many years ago. There is no feeling left there except for disgust and annoyance. Today I am more frustrated that he keeps manipulating my grandmother to pay for things that allow him to be home and continue using drugs. Dumbass text me two days late for my birthday and included the typical poor me message. First, he got my phone number from my grandmother’s phone without my permission and has sent harassing messages a few times since. Second, this is the first birthday in over 10 years that he even bothered to try to get a hold of me. Selfish. He is extremely selfish.

Recently, one of my friend’s lost her dad due to health complications. I was more devastated about his death that I would have been for dumbass’. Her dad was a good dad. He was loving and funny and a guy I enjoyed being around. I can’t imagine not hearing his jokes and voice ever again. He was more to me than I ever thought. It sucks that death brought those feelings. I already miss him and it’s been years since I saw him.

Family is not just comprised of those who you share blood with. Family doesn’t have to be people you see or talk to frequently. In my opinion, family is a connection that can’t be explained. My family is comprised of more than just my blood relatives and I will do anything for that family.

They Aren’t In My Life For A Reason

I have many people who I do not allow in my life for various reasons. I have some people that I’ve allowed back into my life, but I’m struggling giving them full access again. There are some people I have on a line of whether or not I continue to associate with them.

Many people see me as a bitch for being this controlled about my life. I’ve had family members threaten to not attend big life events because I refused to allow my father to even attend. I get told that ‘they are your family, it doesn’t matter’ when talking to some people, even when they have cut off contact to some family members. Hmm, that doesn’t make sense.

People who are not me feel that they get to judge and comment on my decision. However, I disagree. This is one thing that I have done amazingly well at, regardless of what other people say. I have protected my peace from people who I cannot have in my life for whatever reason. I have protected my emotional and mental health because of it.

I know that I am where I am today because I cut ties with certain people. I’m frequently told I will regret it when they are gone. No, no I will not. I cannot control other people’s actions, but I can control mine. By controlling my actions, I am able to live a healthier life.

For example, I cut my mother out of my life as soon as I did not need her for FAFSA forms. I didn’t talk to her at all and I didn’t see her even in passing. The first day that I went to see her in the nursing home when my uncle placed her there, was the first time I had seen her in eight or nine years. She didn’t know who I was. She thought I was her mom or her sister. She had hit a point with her early onset Alzheimer’s that she was in her final years.

I wasn’t there for her in the times she needed support. I wasn’t there to make healthy decisions for her. I wasn’t there to be the one to take care of her until medical staffing was necessary. I wasn’t there to make sure that my older sister took care of her properly, even though she didn’t. I didn’t step in to take legal custody of her, my uncle did.

I do not regret it. I do feel bad that I wasn’t there. I do feel bad that I hadn’t known that she was diagnosed and that she needed care. But I don’t regret it.

Avoiding the family members that I do isn’t about me being better than them. It’s about me protecting my emotional and mental health. It is about protecting myself so I can live a healthy, fulfilled life.

If I didn’t cut ties with these family members, I wouldn’t be the me that I am today. I wouldn’t be the strong person who is continuously working on herself. I would be living a path being held back by intense stress and shame. I would be financially supporting addicts who only blame others for their situations.

No, I’m not a bitch. No, you don’t get to judge me. No, you don’t get to hold me to a different standard when you’ve cut ties with family members too.

No, I do not regret cutting these ties. My health is more important.

Give Your Trust Away

I’ve heard this from a couple of the mentors that I follow. Gary Vee and Trent Shelton say this over and over again. I have been doing this for most of my life without any though. It was only in the past couple of years that I started to pull back on giving my trust away. I was tired of giving it away and getting rolled over. But there is a balance that can be had. A balance that I’m learning.

You see, when you give your trust away, you are open to wherever the relationship may go. When you give your trust away, you aren’t putting arbitrary limits on relationships. When you give your trust away, you aren’t bringing baggage to a relationship from a different relationship. You are starting fresh.

When I started to hold back on giving my trust away, I was bringing hurt and baggage from previous relationships to a new one without ever giving the new one a shot. I started resurrecting walls for people I didn’t even know. I started holding more things in again. I stopped sharing as much. I withheld trust, I withheld information, I withheld love, I withheld opportunities because of the baggage I was bringing.

Each time you withhold trust from a new relationship, you are dumping your baggage into that relationship. You are making it messy before there is ever the possibility of an amazing connection.

I keep referring to relationships in this conversation about trust, because we trust is about you and someone else. It could be about a situation, but most situations involve people. Most trust baggage involves people. People create situations. People are who we either trust or don’t.

I met some of my closest friends about five years ago. I didn’t freely give my trust away. I have been guarded. It has taken me five years to start releasing baggage from other relationships and start leaning into trust with these friends. It has only been in the past few months that I’ve even shared this website or my desire to become a life coach with them. I didn’t trust them.

You know why? Because I brought baggage from other relationships into these relationships. I was afraid of what they would say, I was afraid they wouldn’t want to be my friend, I was afraid they would think I was stupid, all because of situations with other people I gave my trust away to. I gave them pieces of trust through the years, more and more each year, when I wish I had given them all of my trust in the beginning.

Withholding trust doesn’t just affect personal relationships, it affects career relationships too. It can hold you back in your career because you are withholding trust from previous situations. Your previous boss was a dick? Yeah, not going to be fully open with the new boss until I feel him/her out. Bad move. Your previous coworkers kept you at an arm’s length? Not going to get too close to any coworkers at the new place. Bad move, that wasn’t about you, it was about them. The culture at your last job was tumultuous, at best. Not going to lean into the new culture until you can feel it out. Bad move. Jump in and be yourself.

The more we hold back our trust, the more we hold back who we are, the more we limit ourselves. Stop holding back, stop guarding your trust. It’s easy to take your trust back once it has been broken. It’s not easy to remove the baggage of not trusting.

Give your trust away and you will be amazed and the relationships you can and will form. Personally and professionally.

Judging Myself

All of my life I have wanted to be taken seriously. I stopped playing with toys quickly. I didn’t want to wear anything that resembled cartoon characters I liked. I stopped watching animated movies. I wanted to be mature and smart. But I never judged anybody who wore character clothing or watched animated movies. I just judged myself. After all, we are our own worst critic.

I was envious of people who wore character clothing with pride. I was envious of people who enjoyed animated movies. I was envious of people who proudly talked about, shared, or whatever their favorite characters or theme parks. I didn’t know why they could be so cool to be taken seriously and still love animated characters. I mean, I’ve always loved Mickey Mouse (yes, Mickey, not Minnie), but I kept that buried.

This past year I decided to take my envy and become the person I watched. I am a mature grown-ass woman who loves Mickey Mouse. I proudly went to Disney World with Eddie for a vacation and we don’t have kids!! I bought Minnie ears and proudly wore them each day we were there. I bought a sweater with the theme park name, a new Mickey ornament, and an apron with Mickey Mouse all over it.

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I don’t know where the hell I got it in my head that I couldn’t be mature and taken seriously if I proudly wore anything of an animated or movie character. What I do know is that it was probably because I tried to set myself apart from other children so I could be the smart kid. I can be smart and love and wear Mickey Mouse.

What do you refrain from doing or wearing because you are afraid of judgment? Is anybody actually judging you or are you judging yourself?

I was judging myself. I have judged myself for most of my life. It is a weird feeling of relief when I realized I was the only one who had a problem with my love of Mickey. I was the one who was holding myself back. I now proudly wear my Mickey Mouse whenever I cook something that might ruin my clothes. My Christmas tree is a mix of blue, silver, Swarovski, and Mickey. My Disney World sweater is warm as fuck and I wear it when I want, where I want.

You do you girl. Keep being imperfect my warriors!!