How many times have you done something because someone else wanted you to? Or maybe you felt like they wanted you to and that was enough to change your course. I often fall into the second category because I am such an empath. I’ve got this gift of being able to feel what people want and to feel how they feel. For much of my life I was unclear how to turn that into an asset instead of viewing it as a problem.
When you’re an empath you are super sensitive to the energy of others and can deeply perceive and understand what they are feeling. In case you’re wondering if this is you or not, it is. We’re all empathic to a degree and we can become more so my recognizing it as a valuable skill and cultivating it further.
As a younger person I was very ungrounded. Because I am so sensitive and had no boundaries, it was really easy to get all caught up (read: enmeshed) in the energy and feelings of others. I took on the pain and suffering of many people around me and that left me totally drained. It also made it very difficult to make decisions for myself. Living without boundaries often left me in this messy web of energy that didn’t belong to me. I let that energy guide many of my choices and after abandoning myself one too many times, I recognized it was time to change.
Learning how to ground myself and create boundaries has been years in the making. It is a process and the more consistent I am, the quicker I change. Grounding myself in practices like meditation, yoga, and gratitude make it easier for me to not take on the energy of others keep very clear boundaries. When I am grounded in who I am, I am present with the truth that I can only life my life. When I am grounded, it rarely occurs to me to make decisions that don’t have my best interest at heart.
In my late 20’s I was at a crossroads. I had been out of graduate school for years and was teaching and working as an artist. I wasn’t 100 percent happy with my life and I started listening to what the people around me wanted. Some people close to me were pushing hard for me to fully embrace being an art teacher and make that my career. I started the process of researching PhD programs, got applications, and emailed professors. Every time I sat down to write my essay about why I wanted a PhD in art nothing came out. I literally could not even write one sentence.
One rainy Portland afternoon I sat across from my therapist and she asked me point blank: do you want to be an art teacher? At first it was hard to give her a straight answer. I hemmed and hawed about wanting to have a stable job and how some of these European schools seemed pretty cool. She knew I was full of shit and kindly asked me again, do you want to be an art teacher? In that moment I was ready to let go of what other people wanted for me and said out loud what I wanted: No. I don’t want to be an art teacher.
Phew. Sigh. Relief.
Here’s the deal: we can only live our life. I’ll write it again because if you’re anything like me it’s worth repeating: we can only life our life.
We all have a calling. For some of us it is a distinct feeling in our gut, for others it’s a vision, and for a few of us it’s a sound. However we access our calling, it is our job to live it out.
Today I use my skills and as an empath to connect with clients and students in amazing ways. I know what they are feeling often before they can put words to it. I have a way of seeing the big picture of their lives with a incredible amount of clarity. These are skills that I have always carried with me, but it took some practice to learn how to use them properly.
When I tune into what I am called to do and set aside what I think other people want me to do, the world opens up. Putting attention on my calling helps manifest and shape it into a life beyond my imagination. Being willing to ground in and connect my feet to the earth gives be the strength to observe the energy of others without needing to take it on myself. This has been one of the most life changing practices of my recent years. Instead of being a sponge and absorbing everything around me, I can take a more balanced approach to energy and have learned to stay close to my heart no matter what other people are pushing for.
Photo: Marielle Chua