The Everyday Struggles of an Empath

Anonymous - Have strong beliefs about empathy and compassion become problematic or something? Especially as a woman, it seems like anytime that I speak up about something, someone is always telling me to - “give it a rest” or “stay in my lane.” It seems like being passionate or emotional makes people uncomfortable. Like - if I don’t laugh at a joke that I see as insensitive or uncompassionate, people are always like - “take a joke, lighten up.” Why? 

In a 2014 study within the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it’s stated that those who are morally conscious struggle with social situations while those who place less emphasis on morality have an easier time. So basically, people who use their morals to construct their self-image are sometimes alienated from social groups or even disliked. 

Within social situations, I don’t mean to come off as disagreeable, but sometimes I do, and I’ve had to learn to have tough skin. I’ve always wondered why my strong beliefs almost make people criticize me as “too much.” I’ve been made to feel like a bad person just for disagreeing. Paul Bloom, a psychology professor at Yale, says, “We’re all sensitive to social hierarchies and to a desire for approval and esteem. So, we often fold to the social pressures of our environment.” 

However, does it upset others when some people don’t fold? Sometimes when I speak up about something, or I disagree, I’ve literally had people go for the jugular and try to attack my character. I do have flaws. Everyone does, but why should people go on the attack just because someone is being honest or has strong feelings? Everyone should be able to speak up about what matters to them and to have the option of not laughing at a joke if they don’t think it’s funny.

It’s true that "right and wrong" is sometimes subjective. However, there are basic things like empathy and compassion that have proven themselves to be good, focal points for our actions, words, jokes, and conversations. And if someone is motivated to speak up because of empathy and compassion, how is that “holier than thou?” 

Being morally superior isn’t mindful, and it doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Being compassionate and empathetic requires thought, and it requires us to think about what we say before it comes out of our mouths. On the other hand, some people describe sensitivity as emotionally impulsive, but acting and speaking with empathy and compassion is probably one of the most cerebral things that a person can do. Empathy and sensitivity are actually intelligent and strong traits because they require you to step outside of yourself and your worries for social acceptance. Having sensitivity to things other than yourself allows you to wonder what you truly believe in. 

So, if speaking on compassion and empathy makes someone around you feel awkward or uncomfortable, you’re not being overdramatic. Just take their pushback with a grain of salt and keep being you.