I care way too much about other people.
And not a normal person amount, either. Like, when a friend of yours gets dumped, you probably do something normal to grieve the end of her relationship, like offer your condolences and a hug or two. When my roommate and her boyfriend broke up in college, I literally cried with her. No exaggeration. I cried. As if I were the one who got dumped.
That's because I am an extremely empathetic person.
My mood depends entirely on the mood of those around me. If everyone around me is comfortable and happy, I am also comfortable and happy. But if they aren't -- if I sense the tiniest shift in energy -- I feel whatever emotions they're feeling, too. I want everyone to be OK all the time, and if they're not, I suffer.
To the outside world, I probably seem like a great person. There's nothing inherently bad about caring way too much about other people. In fact, that seems like something that would be inherently good ... right?
Well, inside my head, I am SO EXHAUSTED ALL THE TIME. Being an empathetic person means taking on the emotions of other people even if you don't want to, and even if what's bothering them has nothing to do with you. In other words, it actually really sucks.
1. I try my hardest not to hurt people, but even if I do by accident, I feel guilty.
When you're super empathetic like me, you don't want to bear the burden of hurting other people. You know you will feel their pain way too much, so you try as hard as you can to not inflict pain on anyone.
But life happens, and you hurt people without meaning to. And when this occurs, you feel SO GUILTY. You absorb the pain of the person you hurt, which just manifests into endless self-loathing. You spiral, you blame yourself and you think you're a terrible, horrible person.
What's worse is that you have to spend forever rationalizing to yourself that it wasn't your fault, and even then you still can't get over it fully.
2. I feel like it's my responsibility to make everyone in the room feel comfortable, and it's exhausting.
As an empathetic person, I can't help but feed off of the energy of people around me. So if I'm hanging out with a group of people and I sense that someone feels awkward or uncomfortable, I will do my best to make that person feel better. I just have to. I can't not.
But it's exhausting. There's nothing worse than trying to pry open someone who is stubborn in his or her awkwardness, or trying to make small talk with someone who is just incredibly incapable of doing so. Most of the time, I'm surprisingly successful with getting people to open up, mainly because I can sense when I'm failing (since, again, I can read energy), at which point I stop.
But other times, when my empathy really gets the best of me, I REFUSE TO STOP TRYING EVEN WHEN I SENSE THAT I'M FAILING.
Awkward people, you make my life so goddamn difficult.
3. I will let myself get hurt if it means that I will prevent someone else from getting hurt.
I often do this thing where I suppress my wants and needs so other people can get theirs. It's really bad. Sometimes I forget that I even have wants and needs because I'm so busy catering to someone else's.
For example, if a friend who's visiting me in New York City wants to get dinner but has to catch a train home at Penn Station a few hours later, I will pick a restaurant near Penn Station for us to meet for dinner. Now, Penn Station is rather far from my apartment, but when I'm picking a restaurant, I won't even consider that -- I'll just pick a place that's convenient for my friend and super inconvenient for me.
Why can't I pick a place that's in between us, you ask? Good question. I don't know.
I'm getting way better at things like this, but it's still a recurring problem.
4. Emotional movies and stories can affect me for a long time.
In sixth grade, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry was the first book to make me cry. That was the first time I realized that writing can move me so deeply and for so long.
When I'm moved by piece of writing, that feeling doesn't go away for a long time. I have a folder on my browser where I've bookmarked every essay on the Internet that has profoundly affected me. However, despite the fact that I save these essays, I feel like that folder is the nuclear launch code of my life. I fear opening it and actually re-reading anything because I don't want to be a slave to my emotions again.
There are also some movies I can't watch again because of how they've made me cry. "Click" is a big example -- that sh*t was NOT a comedy.
5. I'm way too overly conscientious of the most basic things.
I'm constantly trying to make things easier for people around me.
If I'm grocery shopping, I'll preemptively squish myself and my cart as far to the side as possible if I'm going down an aisle. Or if I'm on the subway, I will preemptively not sit down to make room for a pregnant person or for someone who might be bigger than me, even if those people aren't even on the subway yet. Or if I'm sitting at my desk at work, which is a long table with a bunch of my co-workers, I will make sure to only take up a small amount of space so I don't kick someone or brush up against someone's arms accidentally.
WILL I EVER STOP CARING SO MUCH? Probably not. But I'd rather be this way than be a sociopath.