“I think you cried every day until you were, like, thirteen,” my mom said to me the other day.
It was Mother’s Day and we were sitting by the ocean together. I thought about this as I looked out at the waves. I didn’t remember crying every day, but I also wasn’t surprised by it. I’ve always been a deep-feeling person who’s moved easily by emotions. For the longest time, I thought this was to my detriment. As a 28-year-old, I now have the language to describe myself as a highly sensitive empath. I also have the understanding that being this way is special and when I hone my sensitivity and empathy for other beings, it becomes my superpower.
My passion now is to empower other highly sensitive empaths to appreciate their sensitive nature and use it for the greater good. Because I believe more than ever that the world needs empathetic leaders. Here are four ways empaths can create positive change in the world just by leaning into their natural traits.
1) Inspire others with your perspective of the world
Empaths are often deeply moved by small moments that others may overlook or deem insignificant. We can be moved to tears by a conversation with an elderly neighbor or burst with joy over the random kindness of a stranger. We feel deeply. We love deeply. We care deeply. And because empaths are so naturally inner-connected with other beings, we can offer a unique perspective of the world. We have the ability to experience and notice the richness in all aspects of life. We see connections, reasoning, and depth in otherwise mundane situations.
Our perspective is a superpower. We can inspire others with our natural ability to see beauty and magic all around us in the world. We can encourage others to start looking at their own lives through a more empathetic lens. Maybe we can’t change the whole world. But, maybe we can help people be more accepting of those with different beliefs. Maybe we can inspire others to view the world with more love and compassion.
2) Make others feel important, seen, and heard
I personally love talking to other empaths because I know when I share with them, they’ll actually take the time to really listen and provide a thoughtful response. It makes me feel cared for and loved. I want to be around people who make me feel that way. Who doesn’t want to feel important? Being able to make others feel important is a superpower because human beings crave to feel seen and understood. In fact, it’s one of our basic human needs. If you’re the type of person who makes other people feel seen, you’re naturally going to be a person others respect and want to listen to.
In the famous book, How To Win Friends And Influence People, one of, author, Dale Carnegie’s principles to being an influential person is to make people feel important.
“The life of many a person could probably be changed if only someone would make him feel important.” – Dale Carnegie
3) Nurture and support others
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Fred Rogers
I’ve repeated that quote from Mr. Rogers time and time again throughout the global pandemic. When I’d see shocking death tolls, rising unemployment numbers, and all of these highly anticipated events canceled; I’d absorb the information and then shift my focus. I tried to focus on the stories of the helpers. I cried as I watched a video of doctors praying and singing in Barcelona. I smiled as I saw photos of teachers visiting their students at home to brighten their day. I laughed as I watched the creative dance videos people made while being cooped up at home.
Now we’re experiencing a new kind of pain and growth as a society as we navigate a much needed civil rights movement. I remind myself of what Mr. Rogers said and, once again, I notice the helpers and the caretakers. As an empath, this feels like my role in a movement for change. I may not be the loudest person on the frontlines, but I will be supporting, nurturing, and caring for others. I will be leading with love.
4) Show the world a new way to lead
Historically, we often picture leaders as being aggressive, bold, and charismatic. We often think of them as people who are always speaking loudly; never second-guessing themselves or showing weakness. While we need those types of leaders, I also believe there’s something special about quiet confidence; empathetic leadership; leading gently. I love the idea of leadership defined by more listening, observance, and compassion before taking action. We need the yin to the yang, right?
Rosa Parks is a perfect example of gentle leadership and quiet confidence. The book, Quiet, by Susan Cain, outlines why Rosa Parks was so powerful.
“But because of her nature, Parks was the perfect plaintiff. Not only because she was a devout Christian, not only because she was an upstanding citizen, but also because she was gentle. ‘They’ve messed with the wrong one now!’ the boycotters would declare as they traipsed miles to work and school. The phrase became a rallying cry. Its power lay in how paradoxical it was. Usually, such a phrase implies that you’ve messed with a local heavy, with some bullying giant. But it was Parks’s quiet strength that made her unassailable.” – Susan Cain
If you identify as an empath, what I really want to highlight in all of this is that you have an important and valuable role in creating a better world for generations to come.
For highly sensitive, empathetic people, sometimes the world can feel too overwhelming, loud, and intense. I think sometimes people use that as an excuse to stay home, stay silent, and not get involved. I think sometimes it’s easier to just say that “it’s too much to handle”, step back, and let someone else take charge. But, when empaths don’t step up and embrace their role, the world misses out on the important and special gifts you’re here to share. In a world that’s often aggressive, fast-paced, and heavily data-driven; we desperately need more gentle, compassionate humans to step up and have a voice.