It’s funny how small actions or simple statements provoke such long-winded thoughts. Or maybe it’s just me. I truly believe in the existence of empaths, although some skeptical folk will scoff at the idea. I feel deeply. I am very sensitive to people, situations and when something feels off I can usually instantly come to the conclusion why, even if on the surface there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer. It’s borderline psychic sometimes and that in itself can be unsettling.
I recently trudged through US Pre-clearance (a wonderful affair where you clear immigration before entering the US!) in Dublin airport and one of the standard questions I was asked had me thinking for a large portion of my 9 hour flight.
“Ma’am did you carry your own bag today?”
I did carry my bag, of course. I didn’t need to be reminded of the huge bulky monstrosity I had just lugged through check in. In the past five years I’ve carried my fair share of heavy bags and I’m now aware that I have carried them mentally too which led me to think about how much weight on my shoulders could I drop off and not worry about?
Being empathetic involves a lot of worry and 80% of it never seems to be my own. I carry burdens for people who don’t seem to care about what they probably should care about. I carry burdens for friends and family suffering. I carry burdens for strangers I see on the news in sad or dangerous situations. So how do I prioritize my own?
As someone extremely perceptive and introverted, I dislike nothing more than to be labelled ‘too sensitive’. Sensitivity is not a dirty concept. Sensitivity creates connection and intimacy. Sensitivity allows for compassion and understanding. Sensitivity is a wide open channel for love. It doesn’t mean thin skin. It means deep strength but somewhere along the line we were all told it’s a pathetic sign of weakness. What I consider weak are those who run from problems. Those who abandon instead of stand up and care for someone. Those who allow a loved one to carry their problems while they shamelessly continue on their carefree path. Weak are those who laugh in the face of sensitivity and take advantage of it.
I’ve been through enough to want to give up a thousand times. Some days, I still want to but my empathy for others won’t allow it. I guess empathy is stubborn’s ‘over sensitive’ sister.
When something comes natural to you, it’s hard to deliberately stop doing it. For me, it is natural to worry for others and stress over things that are not mine to be concerned with. But who will worry for me? Shouldn’t I give myself the same courtesy I give to others and look out for myself? Everyone desires to be supported. There’s great confidence in being enveloped by unconditional support but it’s not always an option. Sometimes you have to be enough by yourself.
I implore those of you out there sinking under the weight of others’ baggage to shed that load and prioritize yourself. Especially if what you are carrying goes entirely unrecognized. For your health and your happiness, lay down the baggage and carry yourself.