Leanne Chapman Psychology

The wound is the place where the light enters you. - Rumi

What Are Your Gifts?

 

I recently read an article where a reader had commented that he was sick of people who categorise themselves as ’empaths’ and ‘introverts’ believing they were more special than ‘normal’ people.  He commented that everyone has the capacity for empathy and compassion, and that we make a choice whether or not to demonstrate care for others. He also stated that people who demonstrate empathy for others are just doing what humans are meant to do, therefore there is nothing special about it.

I agree that having high levels of empathy doesn’t make a person more valuable than anyone else, but I don’t agree that everyone can feel empathy, or that everyone is even meant to. Empathy, like all traits, operates on a continuum. At one extreme we have empaths – those who literally take on the feelings of others as though those feelings were their own. At the other extreme we have psychopaths, those who are oblivious to the feelings of others and their experience of a situation.

Psychopaths are not necessarily the serial killers, mass murderers and dictators we tend to think of when we hear this word. They can also be CEOs of major corporations, successful business people and yes, politicians. We need people at all different points along this spectrum in order for our society to operate successfully.

 

Less sensitive is a gift too

If we were all empathic, the world would not progress. We’d all be too worried about hurting someone’s feelings or feeling guilty about breaking rules. It’s often the person with little regard for the feelings of others that will create profound change.

Steve Jobs changed the world with his pioneering ideas. However he was also known for his bullying behaviour. He didn’t hesitate to fire someone if they weren’t on board with his ideas, he didn’t concern himself with what would happen if he couldn’t meet deadlines, and he didn’t work within existing limits and regulations.

He rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, taking huge risks that were considered inappropriate even within his own team, and managed to get himself fired from the company he co-founded. But in the midst of all this, his single-minded ambition changed millions of lives, revolutionising the fields of personal computers and digital music. That doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but it does highlight his ability to push the world forward where others might struggle due to the constraints of louder consciences.

caveman

 

In the caveman days, we needed people who could go out to hunt and fight, without being traumatised by their experiences. We also needed others who could intuitively sense danger, who could nurture and comfort others, and provide emotional support to those on the front line.  In modern society, it’s often the more sensitive among us who will highlight injustice, but put us on the frontline and we fall apart. It’s too painful to be present with so much suffering.  So it’s the less sensitive who will go out and fight injustice successfully.

 

Less sensitive doesn’t mean less caring.

There are many people who are caring and compassionate who are not empaths. They are the mid section of the continuum – they see suffering and they feel compassion and the need to change things, but they don’t take on the actual suffering as though it was happening to them. I remember a veterinarian telling me once that there are people who love animals, and there are people who love working with animals. As much as I would have loved a career working with animals, I would have been completely useless as a vet. I can imagine being constantly in tears or consumed with outrage, whereas he was able to work with animals in pain and distress effectively because although he cared very much, he didn’t take on the animal’s (or owner’s) distress as his own.

Being an empath or an introvert is not a trophy or a badge or honour. It does not make someone ‘special’.  These labels are simply ways to understand certain aspects of our personality and behaviour. They don’t define all of who we are, and it isn’t a competition. Being an introvert is not ‘better’ than being an extrovert or vice-versa. Introverts can exhibit extroverted tendencies in certain situations. Empaths may be sensitive but it doesn’t mean they can’t behave in self-serving or insensitive ways at times.

 

We all have different strengths

We all have things that come more naturally to us, that become our preferred way of processing information and interacting with others. Empaths and introverts are currently undergoing a resurgence in popularity because for years they were given a bad rap – it was not cool to be ‘quiet’ or ‘too sensitive’. There were a lot of judgments made about these behavioural characteristics and now the pendulum is swinging back in our favour, unfortunately it sometimes means judgments are thrown back in the other direction as well. Whereas extroverts were once seen as the ideal, they are now sometimes denigrated as introverts regain lost ground.

It’s true that a less empathic person will need to work harder on their relationships so they remember to consider other people’s points of view (some should probably avoid close relationships altogether!). But an empath will also need to work on not overreacting to things that have nothing to do with them. An extrovert might need to learn to make room for other people in their conversations, but an introvert also needs to learn to share their feelings rather than keeping them bottled up inside.

gift

In the end, it’s our differences that help us work effectively together for the sake of humanity. We each bring something unique and special to the table, and if we are able to embrace our strengths rather than feeling marginalised or shamed for them, we have a much better chance of finding our true calling.

This not only improves our quality of life and allows us to reach our full potential, but it means you’re more likely to bestow your unique gifts on the world before you leave it…whatever those may be.

 

You might also like:

Could You Be An Empath?

An Empath’s Survival Guide

How To Be An Introvert

 

 

 

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26 Comments

  1. Great post, I love that we all bring something unique to the table too, it’s the differences that make for a richer life experience.. I love that we all have strengths in different areas and that when we work together it’s these unique strengths and charateristics that really make a difference xx

  2. Yes, mistaking ‘difference’ to mean division instead of diversity takes us down an entirely different path. The days for competition and accepting one position or another seems to be losing ground to collaboration and heading into ‘creative conflict’ to see what new creations the different parts can bring forth.
    Lorraine recently posted…Good Time Turns Into Flash MobMy Profile

  3. Great article. I liked your insight and also your comments about how non empaths are also necessary for society to progress (eg. CEOs, Steve Jobs). It takes all kinds of personalities to make the world go round – and more interesting too.

  4. Leanne, you are so on point. Ying-yang, good-bad, light-dark ~ all have their opposites. Everything is designed in this way, to attract what it does not contain within itself. I love how you detail the in between. Those are the veterinarians, the hunters, the people that maintain the focal point, “for the good of mankind” as well as containing the loving heart. Now politicians, CEO’s the businessmen ~ NAILED IT again. LOL.

    We are in trying times, people need to pay more attention to detail, or not. ha!
    Thank you!

    • I love the way you explain it Dawn – I agree we need to embrace the dark and the light to be fully effective and present. Politicians maybe only look at the dark though lol

  5. So true! Everyone is unique and special. I don’t think people “label” themselves to be above someone or to feel more important, I think that it’s because they want to be understood and accepted as they are. So when you are telling someone “what you are” you are also protecting yourself from “mistreatment”. When I say I’m introvert, I let others know how to deal with me so it’s more pleasurable for both of us.
    Alenka recently posted…{Cup of Coffee} My Money MagicMy Profile

    • Alenka, yes I agree, labels are for increasing understanding but are sometimes misused. It would be good if we could all walk around with a banner telling others who we are and what we need lol

  6. Refreshing to see both sides… and how true we all have different strengths and different levels of empathy…. it is in the relationship whether that be intimate, personal, business or community… that our value lies.
    fabulous post loved it Cheers Di xx

  7. Wonderful wonderful. If we were all empaths, I think the world would implode! I am one, and so are my two children. My husband is the opposite! He drives us bonkers at times with his ‘insensitivity’, but he has other strengths. So important in a family. (Thank you so much for reminding me of this Leanne xx
    Krishna_Everson (@KrishnaEverson) recently posted…How Planning Your Website Can Get You Your Hearts DesireMy Profile

  8. So grateful for this. I don’t label myself; others label me more than enough! And for those loving folks who are labeling themselves I offer a prayer that they don’t box themselves into what those labels might mean.

    Know your gifts, and give them, however is right for you!

    I know I am doing so, even though there are many moments when I quake in fear of how my gifts — even *if* my gifts — will be useful or well received.

    In appreciation and love,
    Sue
    Sue Kearney (@MagnoliasWest) recently posted…Learning to see, hear and allow the blessingsMy Profile

    • Yes Sue, other people get quite good at labelling us, we hardly need to label ourselves as well! We all have our gifts but sometimes we’re put in situations where they’re not so appreciated.

  9. I think we’re like the pieces that make up a big jigsaw puzzle. If we were all the same, there would be no point. We are all able to learn from each other as we all bring different attributes to the table. Great post 🙂
    Tash Majenta recently posted…First Day Back To School And Its BedlamMy Profile

  10. This post really gets to the heart of matters like this. The current issues with Introversion and Extroversion and empathy are similar to the issues of the past such as feminism. It is so easy to swing too far in your attempt to right the wrongs of the past. But while Introverts and empaths are much more important to society than generations gave them credit for, it’s like you say, they are no better than others, just different. Great Post
    Sophie recently posted…Why the Women of Game of Thrones can be Role ModelsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Sophie, yes it is a bit like feminism in that sometimes we go too far the other way before we strike a happy balance. Good point also about giving credit to all types, even though one is not ‘better’ than the other sometimes one type is treated as though they have more value.

  11. So refreshing to read one of these ‘comparison’ posts without one side getting a bashing.. i am beginning to tune out of any post with the title ‘introvert’ these days as they seem to lean heavily on extrovert bashing.. which seems quite extrovert in itself 🙂 I even find the terms so misleading also as i feel I’m an introverd extrovert or an extroverted introvert. I can do both.. I am both . I have characteristics of these labels, though I agree with Anne above.. do we even need them.. why the need to define ourselves with such limiting terms.. don’t most of us own qualities in both at different times and with different people or am I the weird one here? 😉

    Even empaths are on a sliding scale.. as you’ve pointed out.. I’m told by intuitives, readers, energy healers etc. that I’m an Empath.. only recently am I delving into reading about it.. and I feel.. yes sometimes i feel acute pain of others, sometimes I don’t.. I feel empathy on a sliding scale.. so I’m reluctant to label myself as this.. but like you Leanne, I love animals but feel I couldn’t be a vet as I’d hate to have to hurt them to heal them .. for sure 🙂

    Thanks for highlighting we’re all as valuable as each other.. and it takes all sorts to make the world go round 🙂
    Caroline recently posted…Space: The Final Frontier by Shan WattsMy Profile

    • Thanks Caroline, yes I’ve seen lots of extrovert bashing lately too. We are all definitely more than our labels and can behave in very different ways to our ‘normal’ range of behaviours depending on the situations we’re put in. I agree it’s a sliding scale for all these elements of human experience.

  12. Very interesting article Leanne. I personally dislike labels of any kind but it’s kind of hard to describe yourself and your work without them sometimes 🙂 I’ve been coming across all sorts of info on empaths lately and I’m looking forward to exploring your other articles on this.

  13. I completely agree with you that we all bring our own gifts to the table, regardless of the labels that we use to describe ourselves and others (or that others use to describe us). No label is “better” than another and I’m so happy to see introverts stepping into their own and not feeling that they have to act in a way that’s uncomfortable for them in order to be accepted (i.e. extroversion). Acceptance and appreciation of people as individuals are the key issues here. Loved this post, Leanne. Thank you xx
    Shan recently posted…Creating a Life You Love – One Small Step at a TimeMy Profile

  14. I have noticed a lot of “introvert pride” going on, and I think it’s great! But it’s important for people with all types of personalities to feel good about themselves and realize that they’re needed. I do find that introverts, empaths, and sensitive people have a harder time feeling good and needed though. Extroverts tend to be less prone to worrying about fitting in and what others think.
    Great post!
    McKella Sawyer recently posted…The Struggle that Freed MeMy Profile

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