You may have heard the phrase, “I’m an empath,” once or twice in the metaphysical community, but what does it actually mean to be an empath? The term “empath” is derived from the word “empathy.” Identifying the difference between sympathy and empathy is a good place to start when determining what it means to be an empath.
In simple terms, sympathy is the recognition of the emotional plights of others, while empathy is the understanding of the emotions of others. The primary difference between sympathy and empathy comes down to perspective. Sympathy is recognizing the emotional plights of others from your own point of view. Empathy, on the other hand, is understanding the emotions of others from their point of view, often by placing yourself in their shoes.
When someone is sympathetic, they may feel sorrow, concern, pity, or care for another person’s experience, even if they cannot relate to what the person is feeling. When someone is empathetic, they are able to emotionally relate to what the other person is feeling, even if they have not undergone the same experience. And whereas sympathy is largely evoked by difficulty, empathy is a feeling that extends to positive emotions as well. Empathy is very powerful because it can create connection, provide support, and allow someone to feel deeply understood.
An empath is someone with an exceptional empathic capability that makes them highly sensitive to the emotions and energy of others. Empaths do not only understand the emotions of others, but often feel those emotions themselves. Essentially, empaths are emotional sponges soaking up the energy they are around.
So, now that you know a little more about what it means to be an empath, how do you know if you are one? Take our quiz to see how you relate to some of the common experiences many empaths share.
For each question, keep track of how many times you answer A, B, or C.
1. Empaths tend to naturally take other people’s perspective into consideration. Is it easy for you to imagine the perspectives, motivations, and intentions of others?
a. Yes, I often do this instinctually.
b. I try to. Sometimes it requires a conscious effort.
c. No, it requires conscious effort or has to be brought to my attention.
2. Frequently, and often unintentionally, experiencing the emotions of others can make it difficult for empaths to identify which emotions are their own and which are emotions they have “picked up” from those around them. Do you often experience sudden emotions that you can’t attribute to your own experiences?
a. Yes, quite often when I am around other people.
b. Sometimes, but only if others are feeling very strong emotions.
c. No, not really. I can usually identify why my emotions change.
3. Empaths are often intuitively able to tell how someone is feeling. Are you able to determine what someone is feeling before they tell you?
a. Yes, even with strangers I pick up a “vibe.”
b. Sometimes, though mostly with people I am close to.
c. Not unless they do/say something unusual.
4. When there are many people with heightened emotions, positive or negative, this can be an emotionally overwhelming experience for empaths. Think parties, funerals, debates, concerts, etc. Do large gatherings of people heavily influence how you feel?
a. Yes, my emotions are easily swayed by the energy expressed at the gathering.
b. Sometimes. It depends on if the experience is generally positive or negative.
c. No. Even if I feel anxious, it is not tied to others’ emotions.
5. Empaths can seem very approachable, even for those whom they do not have a close relationship with. Do strangers often seek you out for support or share personal stories with you?
a. YES. Oh, the stories I’ve heard in the grocery store…
b. Not strangers, but people I know always come to me for support.
c. No? That sounds like a very strange scenario.
6. It can be difficult for empaths to regulate their emotions when around others who are feeling something strongly. Do you find yourself mirroring or being influenced by other people’s emotions?
a. Yes, the emotions of those nearby often dictate how I feel.
b. Only if their emotions are being expressed or directed at me.
c. No, I can usually separate how I am feeling from how someone else is feeling.
7. Because empaths feel others’ emotions, peoples’ experiences tend to leave a significant impact on empaths. Do you find yourself coming back to the emotional experiences of others even after a situation has passed?
a. Yes, I feel those emotions even after a situation has passed, and even if I am not close to the person.
b. Sometimes, but only if it was a very significant experience for someone I am close to.
c. Not really. I care, but I don’t dwell on those emotions after the situation has passed.
8. For empaths, feeling the emotions of others is often unintentional, and sometimes even unwanted. How easy is it for you to empathize with people you dislike or those who have hurt you?
a. I find it pretty easy to empathize with them, even if I am still upset.
b. I can usually empathize with them, but only after some time has passed.
c. I find it fairly difficult to empathize with people I’ve had bad experiences with.
9. Growing up, did you notice that you understood other people’s emotions, but your own emotions were misunderstood?
a. Yes, I recognized a difference between how I emotionally understood others vs how they understood me.
b. Sometimes I noticed a difference, but not enough to make me confused or frustrated.
c. No, the way I emotionally understood people felt similar to how others understood me.
10. Empaths tend to understand people on an emotional level very easily. This understanding can create a sense of closeness. Do you develop a feeling of emotional closeness or emotional investment quickly in new relationships?
a. Yes, even if the other person does not feel the same way.
b. Only if the feeling of closeness or emotional investment seems mutual.
c. No, it takes time for me to feel emotionally invested in another person.
11. Bonus Question: Do you want to learn more about living as an empath and find other empaths to connect to?
a. Yes! Sign up for Downtown Tarot Company’s class Empath: Living Your Best Life as an Empath, on Sunday, January 15, from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm.
b. Nah, I’m good… That’s okay! Thanks for stopping by!
Add up how many times you answered A, B, or C to the above questions.
Mostly A – It is very likely that you are an empath. You can easily understand how others are feeling and your day-to-day experiences tend to be influenced by the emotional energy of those around you. Being an empath comes with an amazing ability to connect with others, but it also makes you susceptible to feeling emotionally drained or overwhelmed. It is very important for empaths to set healthy emotional boundaries with people, as well as to prioritize a lifestyle that allows for sufficient emotional recharge.
Mostly B, followed by A – You may be an empath, though situations may determine how intensely you feel the emotions of others. With mostly B’s your empathic abilities are likely heightened when you are around people you care for. Your capacity for empathy can help you understand emotionally charged situations, though you may benefit from energetic grounding techniques to navigate these situations without feeling overwhelmed.
Mostly B, followed by C – Even if you do not consider yourself an empath, you display empathic qualities, especially with those you are close to. You likely walk a healthy line between empathy and being overly emotionally invested, which can make you a good support system for your loved ones. Pay attention to when empathy comes easily, and when it feels more difficult. This can help determine what scenarios could benefit from practicing more empathy, and which could benefit from more emotional separation.
Mostly C – You are likely not an empath, but instead a more emotionally grounded individual. This can be very beneficial when confronted by people who seek to guilt-trip or emotionally manipulate others. You are likely good at understanding your own emotions as distinct from the emotions of a group. While some situations may challenge you to consciously be more empathic, you can also set a good example for those who need stronger emotional boundaries.
Crystal Fact of the Week
There are lots of crystals that can strengthen empathy, as well as crystals to help keep negative emotional energy from impacting you. For empathic crystals, try prehnite, rose quartz, emerald, or jade. For emotionally protective and balancing stones, try hematite, ibis jasper, bumblebee jasper, or amazonite.