The Fine Line for an Empath: Taking a Torch to Guilt and Saying Yes to Yourself

Guilt as a word feels heavy to me, even as I say it out loud. It’s dense, chunky and nebulous, like you cannot get your hands around it or find a way to cut it loose. Now imagine if that guilt was not because of your own choices or challenges, but because you feel torn between choosing to support others OR being mindful of your own needs.


That’s how it feels to be an empath — caught between feeling others emotions and deciding how to support them while still honoring yourself.


Taking on the responsibility of making life right for everyone else first is actually very common if you are an empath, like me. And the guilt over putting yourself first can be a hard thing to shake until you realize there is absolutely no way forward unless you do just that.


For those who aren’t sure what an empath is exactly, it’s someone who is very energetically sensitive and often experiences the emotions and struggles of others as if they were their own. It took me years to understand this is the truth of my personal experience; that I was having a clear, physical experience of another’s emotional state. Now that I understand my gift, and can listen and feel with a neutral, open heart, it still doesn’t change the fact I can often feel guilty not doing everything I can to help others learn and grow past their blocks and fears. Especially when I can actually FEEL their struggle.


This skill is great for working with clients where there is a clear boundary between personal and professional, where I’m able to use my empathy as a tool in my intuitive work and help point out clear areas of growth. It’s quite a bit more challenging in personal relationships, during non-office hours, when my level of personal responsibility can be blurred because of my genuine caring for someone else.

Breaking the Mental Bind of Guilt


During the last few years, I’ve been getting this same message slapped into my face, over and over, with different situations and people showing me the same thing, my guilt over making everything right and OK for others helps no one, least of all myself. It’s not my personal responsibility to help others grow. It is my calling to assist others who are willing and open and receive the help I have to offer. It’s as simple as that. How I choose to help is up to me to decide.


As an empath, you often feel it’s our duty to do these things selflessly. And even though we have heard a million times, put yourself first, non-empaths may not understand why it’s hard to do. Thinking of our own best interests first completely goes against the grain of our inner nature, and we often end up feeling guilty as a result. And that is a huge block to expanding our own light and capabilities.


Selfless acts are admirable because they renew our faith in humanity, reminding you there is good in the world – and you can experience it first hand. However, empaths cannot create that balance for others. True balance and connection as a collective world is when each person is willing to stand up and take responsibility for their own actions and move forward in the face of fear. The more you keep yourself suspended in the feeling of guilt or responsibility of having to help everyone, you are blocking your own personal growth and the growth of others around you who have their own path to lead.


So as an empath, how can you how do manage this  delicate balance and put yourself first and still feel like you are helping others in a way that feels good?


Start by asking  yourself why you are helping others in the first place, and if it’s for the best. If you can stay clear and on task with your own goals and dreams, without feeling depleted and obligated by everyone else, then you have a good foundation. But the truth is that it will always take a bit of extra mindfulness. 


When your joy comes from helping others, it’s got to be a conscious effort that is different with each person and situation. So for empaths, more than anyone else, it’s critical to eat good, healthy foods, exercise, get enough rest, spend time outdoors and draw a clear line with others emotionally. And most importantly, spend time alone. It’s not being rude or selfish, it’s critical to your own personal health and well-being.


What are some ways you draw the line to create personal space and boundaries? Or do you struggle to create them at all?


Photo credit: Photo by quantumlars