Self-realization can change your life outlook.
Do you know who you are? I mean, like, REALLY know who you are? Why do you do the things you do? Say the things you say? Act the way you act? Feel the way you feel?
Empathy vs. Sympathy. Do you know the difference? Brené Brown put it best, and someone made a neat little video to go along with it from one of her TED talks:
I've always been a pretty sensitive person, and wondered why.
Why was it that I could often feel what others were feeling? If I walk in a room and someone is having a bad day, I can sense that immediately - and it starts to affect my emotions. It also worked Vice Versa - if someone was in an overly happy or excited mood, I would feed off of that emotion and be happy as well. I've always been an emotional sponge. Always able to see things from someone else's perspective. I'm never quick to judge, and in almost any situation - I consider other people's feelings before my own.
Maybe this is why I work so well in the mental health field, as an advocate - and as a support group facilitator. I've always been an excellent LISTENER - and for the most part, people enjoy talking to me...not tooting my own horn, just stating facts.
I've heard of an EMPATH personality type before, and started to do a little research. The more and more I was reading, the more I realized I was reading about what I have experienced my entire life. If I were to take a DNA test, it would be 100% EMPATH. Strange, right? I'll explain that in a second...
I'm not much of a reader, but I came across a book that was like reading an autobiography in many ways. The book is "The Empath's Survival Guide" by Judith Orloff.
In this book, there is a whole section with a checklist of things.
Much like a Buzzfeed quiz, or any other personality type quiz - they ask questions, and if they pertain to you and your life, you say "yes" - if not "no". Total up how many times you said "Yes" and see if that personality type is what fits you best. Here's the checklist and you can follow along at home. I'll tell you my score after:
Here's the Self-Assessment part of the book.
Have you ever been labeled overly sensitive, shy, or introverted?
Do you frequently get overwhelmed or anxious?
Do arguments and yelling make you ill?
Do you often feel like you don't fit in?
Do crowds drain you, and do you need alone time to revive yourself?
Do noise, odors, or nonstop talkers overwhelm you?
Do you have chemical sensitivities or a low tolerance for scratchy clothes?
Do you prefer taking your own car to places so you can leave early if you need?
Do you overeat to cope with stress?
Are you afraid of being suffocated by intimate relationships?
Do you startle easily?
Do you react strongly to caffeine or medications?
Do you have a low threshold for pain?
Do you tend to socially isolate?
Do you absorb other people's emotions, stress, or symptoms?
Are you overwhelmed by multitasking and do you prefer to do one thing at a time?
Do you replenish yourself in nature?
Do you need a long time to recuperate after being with difficult people or "energy vampires"?
Do you feel better in small towns or the country rather than the big city?
Do you prefer one-to-one interactions and small groups to large gatherings?
If you said Mostly yes to these, you are more than likely an empath - or at least have empath like qualities.
I had 16. Yes. SIXTEEN. Which means I am a full blown empath. Whoa!
For the longest time, I felt like I was just overly sensitive, and needed to get thicker skin and deal with it...and in a way, I do - but not in the way that you would think. I was perceiving my empath personality as a weakness. I would be around people who were angry or sad, and I would feel like I needed to take on their emotions - I felt like it was my responsibility to FIX people. If someone was sad, I became sad - and immediately had to find out why that person was sad, what caused it, and how to make them better. It was starting to become DRAINING on my own mental health.
Doing the research and digging into this book and what exactly is entailed with an empathic personality, has changed my perspective on life in a COLOSSAL fashion. Knowing that my personality type is a STRENGTH and not a weakness, has allowed me to use my empathic abilities so that they can also benefit ME, rather than everyone else.
It is not my responsibility to be sad for someone who is depressed. To be anxious with someone who is anxious. To grieve for someone else who is grieving. We are all responsible for our own emotions, and putting them on myself is something I am doing to MYSELF. I was doing it and not realizing it though, and began to blame the world around me for being the way it was...when the only thing I really need to do, is just center myself and see the emotions and feelings of others for what it is - OTHER PEOPLE'S FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS.
I'm also a people pleaser. I constantly struggle with what other people think of me, and if I know someone doesn't like me - it would eat at me until I found out why. I then made it my mission to win that person over. I also learned how to harness this through my empathy research.
My new little internal motto has become "that's sounds like a YOU problem, not a ME problem." It may sound harsh, but it's true. Now this doesn't mean that I don't want to listen to people's problems, in fact - as I mentioned earlier, I pride myself on being an EXCELLENT listener. It also doesn't mean that I don't CARE, because I do! I am a very caring person, but taking on the emotions of others is EXHAUSTING - and I'm only doing it to myself.
You can empathize with someone without taking on their emotions, you just have to have compassion.
If you read the above self-assessment, and feel like you could perhaps be a sensitive person or maybe you feel like you are a different personality type - do some research on yourself and your feelings. Taking with a therapist is another great way to dig into your own personality and find some self realization. If you feel like you might also be an empath - by all means, click the pic above and buy Dr. Orloff's book - or the audio book. Both are awesome!
I've often heard that a moment of true self realization can be the most freeing and liberating experience ever, and turns out that is very true. I honestly feel like I have a renewed outlook on life, and using the ammunition of knowledge about my own personality, I am able to use it for good and have a much better quality of life.
Do I still struggle from time to time? Of course. It's not all sunshine and rainbows, but I am hopeful that I have turned a corner in life, and it only took 37 years, a self help book, and a CRAP load of mental health research.
Do you know who you are? Who you REALLY are? I think once you do, after some soul searching and maybe even - gasp - reading - you will find that self realization can really change your outlook on life.
I wish you all a happy new year - thank you for reading.
Coming this January (next Monday) - my podcasts are BACK for #MENtalHealthMondays! I've got some pretty amazing guests on tap and we'll blaze into 2020 by keeping the MEN in MENtal Health.