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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

We are entering an age in which we are embracing aspects of ourselves that may set us apart from the usual crowd of people that we interact with. The topic around highly sensitive people and being an empath has been buried under either a heap of shame, misunderstanding or a need to change ourselves to be “more confident” or “tougher.”


The word sensitive is often used colloquially to describe people with a “short fuse” or those who “cry easily.” Essentially, it is used to define people who are not able to regulate their feelings or who react spontaneously to situations according to another person’s perspective. As we can see, this description is diminishing and limited in how it describes sensitive people who experience feelings or thoughts the way that they do.

‘Sensitives’ are people who are finely attuned at detecting, reading, and processing the energy around them. The term “energy” may be likened to how we use the word “vibe.” The vibrations that we pick up from the emotional cues, body language of others, unsaid words, or hidden agendas. These vibrations reverberate into our neurological system which detects this and translates it into a seemingly understandable way to either interpret or describe what is being detected.

debunking the myths

  • Many empaths share that they have had these traits since childhood, often being labelled as “sensitive children” or even “cry babies.” These are derogatory terms or descriptions that stem from a lack of understanding of how empaths, especially as children, perceive their environment.
  • Contrary to popular belief about empaths, they have greater emotional control because their energy systems are so fine tuned.
  • Much of the shame and disempowerment that empaths feel is a result of being misunderstood or shamed by those closest to them – either parents, siblings, or teachers.
  • Empaths are not, AND I REPEAT, are not emotional sponges. They are able to choose what types of energy to absorb and transmute if the energy is negative, and this is done by first detecting what type of energy is being picked up.
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empathy and empaths

Empathy is the ability to feel and understand another’s emotions. This is an ability that anyone can have or practice. Empathy is one of the major abilities that empaths have. However, not everyone is an empath which makes a person neither superior nor inferior.

Thus, empathy is a trait or ability that anyone can have and being an empath is part of you who you are.

sensitive signs

  1. Being attuned to the emotions, feelings, and thoughts from people around you – you may be able to replicate the feelings that people share with you or exhibit when they are around you.
  2. Having physical sensitivities – due to the fine detection systems that empaths have they may be able to physically experience physical symptoms from those who are ill or in pain.
  3. More prone to experiencing anxiety and stress – stress and anxiety are highly charged states that are easily detected by empaths and often feel overwhelming.
  4. People are drawn to you – people may be drawn to the porous nature of the empaths energy system that is often healing or welcoming. You may find that people often ask you for advice or simply enjoy being in your presence.
  5. Extreme sensitivity to suffering – the suffering of living beings may cause a deep level of pain both emotionally and physically when either witnessing or hearing about the suffering of others.
  6. Valuing and desiring deep conversation and connection – due to the depth and ease in which energies are felt, empaths may be drawn to carrying conversations and establishing trustful connections that explore greater depths of truths, intrigue, and insight.
  7. Fearing intimate relationships – ironically, empaths may temporarily feel overwhelmed by close relationships because the closer one gets to them the more potent the energies are felt within their system. This is initially jarring because empaths may fear losing themselves in the extremes of these emotions and sensations of emotional closeness and intimacy.
  8. You need and enjoy spending time alone – constantly detecting and deciding whether to transmute the energies around you can get overwhelming therefore spending time alone can be a crucial period of recharging for empaths. This time can be spent in introspection, journaling, meditation or taking up a creative activity that does not require constant detection and exchanges of energy.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and represents a fraction of what encompasses the traits of an empath. You may or may not resonate with these traits, but you could even find that you are resonating with a lot of traits that a majority of empaths experience. 

If you find that you resonate with potentially being an empath, don’t hesitate to dive into understanding and appreciating your sensitivity so that it may empower you to accept the gifts and freedom of being an empath (i.e., knowing who you are and accepting this part of yourself with unconditional love!).

“One of the most beautiful but challenging traits of an empath is their honesty and willingness to understand their surroundings as much as possible.”


The Spirit Nomad

"But worry not. She will find happiness in the end."