Hands On Careers For Sensitive People - Being An Empath In The Working World
By: Sarah Fader
Updated February 04, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
What is an Empath?
You have probably heard the term "empathy." When you are empathetic, you deeply care about other people's feelings. A person who has high levels of empathy is called an "empath." Empaths are individuals who are highly aware of the emotions of the people around them at all times. An empath doesn't just perceive emotions within themselves; they're like an emotional sponge. Empaths absorb the emotions of those around them and take on those feelings, which are sometimes quite intense. Sometimes, it can get to be too much, and an empath may experience symptoms of depression and anxiety because they are so affected by the people around them. Empathy is something that most people have naturally, although there are some instances where empathy doesn't come naturally.
For example, an individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) may struggle to express and understand empathy. Though it can be learned, some people get better about expressing empathy other time. That said, some people, like empaths, have a stronger sense of empathy than others. While this is not a bad thing, if empaths don't take care of themselves by making time to relax and escape from taking on the weight of other people's feelings, they can become overloaded and it can affect them negatively.
Empathy is a Blessing and a Curse
Having a high level of empathy is both wonderful and extremely challenging. It's difficult for empaths because they can't just "turn off" or lessen their empathy. They can learn to draw boundaries, but they can't just "stop feeling" because that's not possible. Being self-aware as an empath is extremely important. If you feel that you need to take time for yourself, it's extremely crucial to do that because you need to reset and refresh your ability to interact with others. It's something to keep in mind if you're an empath and you're deciding what kind of career path you'd like to take. You are a sensitive person who cares deeply about other people. It's also important to note that empaths need time to process their feelings, whether it's work-related or in their personal lives. Being an empath isn't easy, but there are careers that suit people with high levels of empathy.
Careers for Empaths
A psychologist is a person who can diagnose and treat mental health issues and mental illnesses. They can also identify and work with behavioral issues. Mental illness is an extremely real phenomenon where people are coping with symptoms that they didn't ask for, but that can significantly impact or impair their lives. Individuals living with mental illness deserve to be treated, cared for, and understood. If an empath decides to be a psychologist, it's ideal because they care deeply about human beings, have an easier time putting themselves in the shoes of others, and can understand people to a degree that others can't always fathom. Empaths want to help people by nature. They understand that emotions are challenging and don't want to see people suffer. A psychologist can work in a hospital setting, a community health center, in schools, in research settings, in rehabilitation centers, or in a private practice.
Empathy is a crucial part of the role of a social worker. If you're a social worker, it's important that you understand and care about how people are affected by a variety of situations. You have to see outside of yourself to be a social worker, and that's a skill that empaths hold naturally. While your talents will be of great use in this career, it's imperative that you take time to distance yourself from your work and use self-care if you do choose to pursue this path.
People who are empaths can be excellent teachers because they understand the emotions of the children, adolescents, or adults that they're working with. They want to see their students succeed both academically and emotionally, and they're able to understand if there are emotional or behavioral challenges in the classroom. They'll be sensitive to these issues because they have high levels of empathy. If you're working with young children as a teacher, you'll likely have studied childhood development and psychology. If you're a professor, it's likely that you've studied abnormal psychology or human behavior. It's important to understand that teachers make a massive impact on people's lives. Most people have at least one teacher from their past that they'll remember forever, and when you're teaching a class, your students are retaining the way that you treat them as well as the things that you say.
Nonprofit organizations are places that are passionate about a specific cause, whether that's mental health, animal rights, education, environmental rights, or a variety of other humanitarian issues. These are places where you'll often find people with high levels of empathy. Empaths are people that gravitate towards situations, companies, and organizations where they can help other people. So, whether you work for a nonprofit that's helping senior citizens, animals, or people with disabilities, you'll be making an important impact on the lives of others. Caring is something that empaths can use to their advantage in the workplace, and working for or starting your own nonprofit organization is an excellent example of how that can play out.
Empaths often gravitate towards the arts because expressing yourself through the arts, whether that's as a dancer, fine artist, musician, actor, and so on, isn't just about the art; it's about the emotion behind the piece. It's about creating something that expresses the way that you feel, the way that you see the world, or about helping people by giving them something to relate to or even to smile about. Creative people often have high levels of empathy, and it can help them in their career because they're driven to impact people and the world around them through their craft. Their strong emotions help them to make vibrant, unique art that others are drawn to. It's highly likely that you'll see a multitude of empaths in any creative field that you enter. If you are an artist and you do care about others, you can also donate your time by using your skills in a school setting or helping people that need it.
Guidance or Career Counselor
If you don't want to be a teacher but enjoy working in an educational setting, being a guidance counselor or a career counselor might be the perfect fit for you. You'll still get to work with people, but most of the time, you'll be dealing with less "intense" issues than a regular therapist would be. Your compassion can help you guide people in the right direction, and it'll give you the patience to really hear and understand what people are telling you. Students can be very anxious about their current academics as well as their future careers, and as a guidance counselor or career counselor, you'll be able to offer them with the understanding and support that they need.
Nurse or Doctor
The medical field is a place where you can really use your empathy for good. Patients have a need to be understood and heard. Regardless of what population you work with as a doctor or nurse, your tendency towards nurturing other people will benefit you and the people that you work with. As an empath, you'll be able to provide the compassionate care that everyone wants from their nurse or doctor.
As an empath, you may find that you have the drive to start your own business or organization. Perhaps, it'll be a nonprofit like we talked about above, or maybe it'll be a company. For example, empaths may find success in starting their own business as a life coach. Being your own boss can be a great thing if you're an empath because you get to make your own rules, set your own boundaries, and run your business or organization in a way that you feel is ethical.
Empaths Can Work Anywhere
If you're an empath, you don't have to limit yourself to the set of professions that we described above. You can work anywhere that you feel passionate and comfortable with the work that you're doing. It's a matter of understanding your strengths and your limitations, just like anyone else. It's important to know that you have the right to set boundaries in the workplace and that it's extremely vital to have a work-life balance. This is true for everyone, but it's especially true for empaths. Remember that you have the right to take care of yourself, and you need to do that because empaths can often be self-sacrificing, both in their personal lives and the work area. It's vital that you work in an environment where you feel comfortable and respected as an empath.
Online Counseling Can Help Empaths
Online counseling is an excellent place to express your feelings about anything that you want to talk about. If you are an empath, you might experience difficulty in setting boundaries with others because of your drive to help them, and that's something that you can talk about in counseling. You may also find that you give a lot of your emotional space to others and that you don't take enough time to focus on your own needs. The counselors here at BetterHelp are passionate about helping people and supporting you through difficult times. Being an empath is an incredible, special thing, but it can also be draining, and that's why talking about empathy and balance with an online counselor can help. Search the network of experienced mental health professionals here at BetterHelp. Read up on what empathy is, and if you are an empath, use those skills to help others and remember to take care of yourself.