Empathy, the cousin of sympathy, is not so much being able to relate to what someone is feeling as it is actually feeling it as well – and most of the time, we’re completely unaware that it’s happening. We adopt the thoughts and emotions of those around us all the time (i.e. the collective consciousness) but some people just have a stronger response to it than others. Here are a few ways to know you’re more empathetic than you realize, so you can stop driving yourself crazy trying to solve problems that aren’t yours.
1. You deeply care about what other people think, yet at the same time, are very confident. If you’ve been struggling to reconcile the two, consider that it’s not insecurity as much as it is wanting and needing other people to think and feel positively so you don’t pick up on it yourself.
2. You’re the “counselor” of your friends. You always feel responsible for solving other people’s problems, and almost can’t bear to be in the company of someone who seems upset or struggling with at least trying to talk through things or offer them help.
3. You’re often tired for no reason, or at least require a lot of alone time to think through things, process and relax.
4. You overthink as a means of working through emotions that aren’t inherently yours. You find yourself constantly having to put in tons of mental energy to try to get to the root of a problem, often going through it again and again but to no avail, simply not realizing that it was never yours to dissect or heal in the first place.
5. You get upset “for no reason.” You’ll be just going through your day as usual when all of a sudden, a random, strange emotion will come over you and you’ll feel all but paralyzed by it.
6. You’re actually pretty emotionally distant on the surface – and are highly selective of who you give your time and energy to. Though you’re sensitive – and possibly even outgoing! – you are very cautious as to who you spend time with, and who you willingly give your attention to.
7. You respond strongly to your environment. You can almost “chamelionize” to whatever is going on around you – mimicking other people’s idiosyncrasies, or adopting the behaviors and attitudes of whomever you spend a lot of time with.
8. You’re interested in psychology, philosophy or anything else that explains how we behave and why. You realize that the way you think and feel is what creates and constitutes a “good life,” and so any way you can learn do either of those better seems like a noble pursuit.
9. You overthink social interactions more than anything else. The only problems you’ve ever really had in your life have been social or inter-personal. If not that, then your anxiety is always rooted in something to do with your relationship to other people, even if only your perception of it.
10. You’re also very intuitive, simply because you can pick up on people’s micro-expressions. Naturally being aware of body language and small mannerisms gives you tons of insight into how they really think and feel, and sometimes, when we’re geared to pick up on these things, we inadvertently start adopting the feeling that comes with them.