Having too Much Empathy is Ruining Your Productivity and Success
You care too much, here’s why it’s a bad thing, and how you can better manage your empathy.
Despite the title, I wholeheartedly believe that the world is deprived of empathy. And, as a species, we need to cultivate more of it in everyone in order to have a kinder world for the future generations we’ll leave behind. However, the individuals who already have it, and are highly-sensitive people who identify as “empaths”, may be feeling too much of it to their own detriment. This article is for them — us.
How many times have you envisioned yourself too much in another person’s shoes, asking how this person might judge you from their point of view? How many times have you stopped yourself from putting yourself out there, because you cared way too much about your work and the opinions others might have on you, or on it. You are too presumptuous of others — you think that they might not approve of it, or just mock you, or even send you hate.
Now, this might not be the case for most people who might have a lot of empathy. You could be able to use this ability for your own success and well-being. And it’s really useful indeed to be able to tap into the perspectives of others and how they might feel, and this wonderful trait helps us live in a more compassionate world. But at the same time, it can lead to burnout and getting taken advantage of if we’re not careful, and if we don’t manage it properly.
If you have a high propensity for being empathic, or you can’t control how or when you use it, you are likely an “empath.” I think there are two types of empaths: a naturally-born one and one made as the result of trauma, as I explain in-depth here.
If there are people like psychopaths who were born without an ability for empathy, then it’s highly likely that there people out there who are born with an over-capacity for it. But for most of us, we developed empathic skills because we were raised in a shaky environment where we weren’t allowed to be fully ourselves or else we’d be negatively affected in some way. We developed this skill as a defense mechanism that enabled us to carefully navigate the emotions of the adult’s around us so we wouldn’t trigger them.
We also had to think a lot about how we came across in these situations. We were always in a state of over-analysis for the ways our caregivers reacted, even if to the outside world it could be seemingly random and have nothing to do with us, but we always took it personally because we were young and only wanted their approval.
We all know by now that overthinking gets in our own way.
“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” — Coco Channel
When we overthink, our brains have a negativity bias that only tends to focus on how things might not work instead of seeing all the ways it could. Overempathizing is the same way. We tend to focus on how our actions could negatively impact us or someone, instead of putting more weight on all the positive ways we could affect people.
And when we think of our negative impact on others, it’s not even something as bad as giving hate to someone online, but the way we overthink about it, you’d think we were committing a crime!
Another down side of being too empathic is that we want to be all things for everyone.
This is one of the reasons why most of us who grew up with trauma have a hard time finding clarity with our paths: we grew up enmeshed and co-dependent with the people around us, so it becomes near impossible to develop an identity outside of our caregivers when we grow older — especially if we’ve been around them our whole lives. If you still struggle with this, I’d suggest to learn how to detach from the expectations of others, and start seeking your own approval; or do your best to distance yourself from the people you’ve been enmeshed with so you can explore your own identity more.
So, you developed this capacity to be able to deeply understand others due to the circumstances of how you were raised. But just as we learned how to be empaths, we can also unlearn it.
It can be hard to stop using a defense mechanism that’s so deeply ingrained in us, since we’ve used it all our young lives to keep us safe. But it’s highly likely that if you’re an adult reading this, then you don’t need it anymore. However, it can take a lot of professional help, effort, and daily practice to undo the conditioning we’ve grown up with.
What’s helped greatly for me is to affirm to myself that I’m safe now. You no longer need to keep on being hyper-vigilant and overthinking about everything if it really is getting in the way of you living the life you know you’re meant to live.
Another thing that’s helped is finding out that there are different types of empathy, and that you can — and should! — employ each one for different scenarios. Reserve cognitive empathy for professional settings; emotional empathy for your friends and family and other loved ones; and compassionate empathy for the people in the world you want to help(if you work in a healthcare field, for example).
Emotional empathy should only be reserved for really important events in life when you really want the other person to know that they’re not alone in how they feel. Using this type of empathy everyday can become exhausting and should be avoided — it’s not productive and can even be destructive when used against you by a narcissist.
To conclude, learn to curb your empathy and overthinking. Reserve real empathy for the people who care deeply about you in the same capacity, and have only cognitive empathy for the rest of the world so that you remain smart enough to know how it works, but not emotionally affected by it so as to debilitate you from reaching your goals and putting yourself out there. If you’re not hurting anyone, there really is no reason to sweat it.
Time to enjoy life and go out there and just do you!
Hi, I’m Amelia! I’m a highly sensitive person, sharing my insights on healing from narcissistic abuse, having better relationships, and developing sustainable productivity. Subscribe on youtube for more: https://youtube.com/@ameliafall