Empaths are generally nice and compassionate people overall, but there are quite a few myths about empaths out there surrounding their empathic skills.
Empathy is a superpower but an empathic individual is extraordinarily human. Empathic people occasionally experience intense anger. Empathy is empowering and encouraging, but sympathy may tempt a person to be enabling.
Empathy may be a “superpower,” but empaths are not superhuman. In fact, “humanness” may be the origin of an empath’s power. In touch with their own emotions, empaths readily access the feeling state they recognize in another to gain true understanding.
Despite the momentary discomfort, empathic individuals “go there,” resonate, and attempt to honor the person’s emotion. This prevents the person from feeling completely alone in his or her plight. The act is often selfless, healing, and transformative for both parties.
Yet three misconceptions may convince empathic people they are not worthy. Illuminating these myths may help people embrace the gift and share it with others without hesitation.
Related: 27 Traits Of An Empath
3 False Myths About Empaths
Myth #1: Empaths Do Not Get Angry.
First, the notion that empaths do not get angry is questionable. Empaths are connected to deep and intense emotions, both positive and negative. Although many empaths are typically good-natured and, thus, uncomfortable with their anger, it is an important emotion.
In some situations, the heightened anger experienced by an empathic individual is data that something unfair is occurring in a relationship. The intensity and duration of angry feelings may indicate the degree of mistreatment the person is enduring.
Recognizing, identifying, and honoring anger allows an empathic person the opportunity to process the emotion, understand it, and act on it constructively. For example, a person may need to instill a boundary or set a limit. Anger can also be defensive in nature and elucidate insecurity that needs attention.
Myth #2: Empathic Individuals Are Always Empathic.
Second, the idea that empathic individuals are always empathic may require further investigation. In many situations, a person’s empathy turns off after a friend or loved one displays a consistent and extreme lack of empathy for her or him.
For example, say that Seth and Tyler are dating. During their first year, Seth breaks his ankle in two places. Tyler is constantly annoyed when Seth occasionally asks for help. During a snowstorm, Tyler refuses to pick Seth up from the train station because he is gaming.
Seth hobbles, slipping and sliding on crutches, to the nearest taxi stand, hurt and angry. On the evening of their two-year anniversary, Tyler stubs his toe walking to the restaurant. Seth helps Tyler regain his balance but is ashamed that he doesn’t feel much empathy for Tyler. He fears he is a bad person. In this scenario, Seth’s empathy for Tyler is impacted by Tyler’s pervasive lack of empathy for Seth.
Related: Top 10 Things That Weaken An Empath
Myth #3: Empathic People Cannot Lead.
Third, a myth exists that an empathic person is “soft” and cannot compete or lead. This may be an incorrect assumption. Research indicates emotionally intelligent people may be the strongest leaders. Curiously, empathy is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence.
A person who seeks to understand does not necessarily surrender or lower expectations. On the contrary, emotionally intelligent individuals usually empower, encourage, and sustain trust with others. It is sympathy or feeling sorry for someone that typically leads to enabling. People who lack empathy tend to sympathize because it does not tax their sense of self.
Pity distances two people from one another and places the pitied in a devalued position in the relationship. The individual in the position of power may then be tempted to save and rescue. Being the hero and saving the day is self-serving because it fuels the ego. Moreover, saving, favoring, or enabling may actually disempower a person and strip him or her of self-efficacy. It may be more effective and selfless to provide empathy.