Lola Pickett, Empath Coach
Do you feel like success and happiness are sometimes out of reach for you as an Empath?
If so, you’re not alone. Studies show that highly sensitive people and empaths are a group of people who are very likely to be dealing with anxiety, depression, and addictions; more so than the average person.
In fact, the Journal of Psychology published this study which found a strong link between social anxiety symptoms and reported levels of empathy. The intensity of social anxiety symptoms had a direct connection to the subjects’ level of empathy.
I believe that there’s a reason for this. But, rather than increased social anxiety causing increased empathy (as the study above implies); I believe that this relationship is reversed. From what I observe in my private practice and group programs, increased levels of empathy and nervous system sensitivity lead to increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and a variety of addictive behaviors, which then become a self-sustaining feedback loop.
In other words, being an empath often leads to physical, emotional, and mental distress, which are often relieved through numbing or compensation habits. So, even though this group of folks are among the kindest and most caring, they’re also often stressed, unhappy, and disempowered.
It’s understandable! When we’re flooded with these sensations 24/7, it’s no wonder that “happiness” and achieving some level of success can feel far away for empaths and HSPs! But, it doesn’t have to stay this way.
Here are seven simple steps you can take that’ll make it much easier to find happiness and feel successful; right here, right now.
1. Be curious instead of closed-off
Whether it’s thanks to self-protection, social anxiety, or media-induced fear, empaths will often avoid making eye contact or other forms of connection with people we don’t know. It doesn’t help that strangers are always coming up to us and offloading their troubles into our hearts… #amiright?
Plus, many of us are highly introverted and will only go into social situations with new people when we absolutely have to.
But, this can seriously inhibit our success of all kinds – especially in our profession. It’s vital to be comfortable getting OUT (or at least tolerating the discomfort of it). Plus, we could be closing ourselves off from a new best friend, a potential love interest, or other kindred folk who could add to our joy.
This is when curiosity becomes our ally.
When we get curious, we open up to new possibilities (buh-bye, control-freak!). And—according to Happiness guru, Martin Seligman—curiosity is a key ingredient that helps enhance life satisfaction. It also helps cure chronic loneliness afflicting around one in three Americans.
Why not challenge yourself to start a conversation with a stranger this week? Instead of waiting to get dumped on, what if YOU do the asking? What if you take the reins (without certainty of where it will go)? Who knows, you might find yourself getting braver and more confident about facing the world!
Some great ice-breaker questions (that aren’t mind-numbingly boring) include:
Being armed with questions ahead of time will help your nerves stay calm and your brain clear and open. These questions also serve as a great redirect if someone’s starting to dump on you—especially the first one.
2. Take responsibility for yourself (and yourself only)
Aside from young children, paid clients, and emergency situations, other people’s perspectives, thoughts, and feelings are none of our business. It’s not our job to make anyone feel better, except… ourselves! And the only people who can really do that is… US!
Anytime you notice yourself trying to lift up someone else—who is not also showing up to lift themselves along with you—ask yourself this one very simple question:
“What do I need right now?”
Turning our attention back onto ourselves is a radical pattern shift for most empaths and highly sensitive people. We’re used to tuning into (and attending to) everyone and everything BUT us.
But, if you get too wrapped up into a dynamic of emotional co-dependency, the person or people you’re “helping” actually learn to be helpless and rely on others to do their emotional labor for them. You’ll end up disempowering someone instead of empowering them… Yuck!
So, dare to be responsible for your experience and emotions and allow others the same opportunity. It will also free up an incredible amount of energy and time, with which you can CREATE instead of PROCESS.
3. Listen with just your ears
This one might feel counter-intuitive, but hear me out. As empaths and HSPs, we often listen to someone with our entire being… All of our spidey senses are turned on. So—whether we’re aware of it or not—we’re tracking their tone, their chemical makeup, their body language, their eye contact, their intention, their unconscious biases, their Soul and Spirit… We even read between the lines of what they are saying.
But, there are two issues with this pattern. First, it’s a way of being hypervigilant. When our senses are in a prolonged state of alertness, our bodies get flooded with stress hormones like Cortisol, and our muscles become tense and tight – ready to flee or fight. If this is a chronic approach to life, hypervigilance can spiral into pain, diseases, fatigue, and other health problems.
Secondly, this can become a potential trap. We learn to essentially ignore what someone’s saying and doing and trust instead that their potential is the actual truth. Unfortunately, this has led many an empath into abusive or neglectful relationships, because harmful words or actions are ignored in favor of what we can see of the person’s inner goodness, their heart and soul.
So, consider tuning into what someone actually says in the present moment! You can practice closing down your other senses by narrowing your focus onto JUST the sounds coming into your ears. This will not only help you conserve energy and create healthier conditions inside your body, but will also help you see red flags more quickly, saving you from heartache or worse down the road.
4. Embrace your dark side
Ironically, one of the keys to feeling happy is to let ourselves fully feel the opposite emotions: our anger, sadness, grief, frustration, and disappointment. The more we allow ourselves to express these feelings and allow them to move through us—as uncomfortable or painful as it can be sometimes, the more room we create for joy, ecstasy, comfort, and peace.
Embracing our whole selves is what then allows us to show up in service, on purpose, and make a true difference in other people’s lives.
This is because it’s not what you say that’s the most healing aspect of your presence… It’s who you are. The more comfy you are in your skin, the more you can be at peace with your imperfections and dark moments, the more amplified your impact can become.
Exercise is one of my fastest ways to crack me open and keep malaise at bay.
5. Love yourself deeply
Love is a verb, and I believe it thrives when focused on small everyday actions (like the thoughts we choose to tell ourselves), rather than grand gestures (like a spa day).
My favorite ways to love myself include (in no particular order):
Anytime you decide to step into your worth as a human being, advocate for yourself, take care of yourself, nourish yourself, or be kind to yourself, you are practicing self love.
For empaths and HSPs, prioritizing self-caring is the only way you’ll be resourced enough inside yourself to radiate love without getting exhausted, overwhelmed, or depleted.
6. Redefine success
If we’re always striving for some external milestone or status, then we’ll never truly “achieve” success. Success isn’t just about our bank account balance, our job title, or some external measure; it’s about how our lives feel to us; and how sovereign & empowered we feel IN our lives.
This can be particularly challenging to Empaths, who might have a hard time differentiating between someone else’s agenda for us and our own plans and needs. It can be a powerful exercise to create a personal definition of what it means to you to be successful. To help guide you, consider journaling on these questions:
7. Dare to rest
How often do you take a break from doing things? Sometimes, when we take breaks, we feel bad for doing it. As if we are checking out, when often, it’s actually checking in. I truly believe that one of the healthiest and most productive things we can “do” is to STOP doing and spend intentional time simply being with ourselves.
A 20-minute catnap can do wonders to recharge your nervous system. Even 5 minutes of focused, quiet breathing can be quite restorative. Rest doesn’t have to be hours long or complicated!
Consider setting a timer on your phone to take a 10-minute breather a couple of times each day—and stick to it! When that alarm goes off, set down whatever you’re working on, walk away from your task, step outside (if possible), and get some fresh air.
Wish that it weren’t true that “the only way to succeed is through ‘hard’ work”? Well, the only way to make that true for YOU is to take breaks, clear your mind, re-center on your heart, and rest.
And that’s exactly the point!
You truly can feel joy and ease right now. Money—one of the key things we believe will make us happier and feel more successful—is only an amplifier. It won’t ever give you something that you aren’t already giving to yourself.
So, which of these steps are you going to try today? I’d love to hear about it! Join my free Facebook community and connect with me and hundreds of other like-hearted empaths and HSPs who totally “get” what it’s like to be a highly sensitive human.
Try these seven habits of happy and successful empaths and let me know how they help you!
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