Being an Empathetic Person

When asked to describe myself, the first thing that comes to mind is empathetic. Empathy is described as the act of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another (kudos to Webster’s). I know this is not English class so I will spare you all the lecture, but it’s important to differentiate between sympathy and empathy here. Personally, I am not a sympathetic person; I don’t feel bad about whatever matter my heart is taking as it’s own, I feel how the person is feeling. Really hard to explain. I have a feeling some people will feel like this blog is describing them while others cannot relate in the slightest. I believe empathy to be something that some are born with, some may learn, and others may not really experience. My dear friend Jill once wrote a personal essay piece about the idea of feeling too much and I could not relate more. I feel and feel and feel and feel. I feel for everyone: strangers, friends, family, teachers, peers. I never understood how some people could walk right past homeless people without even flinching or feeling sad. Whenever I am in the hospital, I get so upset and feel weak (although a lot of great things happen there, too). If I pass a bad car accident while driving, I think about the tragedy for all the miles ahead of me. People around me don’t always understand that if something may be wrong with one of my friends or family, I will most likely also feel that. I once invited someone to come to my house to hang out and we ended up having a heart-to-heart. They told me all about their struggles with mental illness, specifically depression, and I just remember feeling so empty. I literally felt how she was feeling only I was not the one that was diagnosed with depression and I didn’t live it every day. I don’t necessarily know all of the psychology behind this inherent need to take everyone’s problems on myself, but I know that it can be really overwhelming when you feel like the weight of the world lies on your chest while most have no idea what that must feel like. But the way I look at it, and the way my friend Jill so beautifully put it (and I cannot remember the exact wording), I would rather feel everything than nothing at all. I have a purpose on this earth; and even if I own others’ problems, feelings, experiences, at least I care.

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