Empathy is incredibly important in this cruel world of ours. However, too much of a good thing is bad for you.
There are many signs that your kindness hurts you without even realizing it. To find out if you have too much empathy and it’s taking a toll on you, keep reading the article before it’s too late.
1) You often put others’ needs before your own
One of the clearest signs you’re too kind and empathetic is that you’re putting everyone else before you, even if it means sacrificing your own well-being.
Parents do this regularly. They put their kids on a pedestal and cater to all their needs.
Partners in a one-sided romantic relationship are also “guilty” of this.
If you frequently sacrifice your own well-being, such as skipping meals, neglecting personal hobbies, or ignoring your own emotional needs, it means your kindness is, unfortunately, hurting you.
2) You find yourself constantly apologizing, even when you haven’t done anything wrong
Constantly apologizing, even when you haven’t done anything wrong, can be another sign that your kindness and empathy are hurting you.
This rots your self-esteem and makes you feel as though you’re always wrong. This leads to a diminished sense of self-worth and a belief that your needs and opinions are less important than others’.
There’s really no need to apologize excessively to someone. Building self-awareness can allow you to address any unhealthy patterns and develop strategies to assert yourself.
3) You have a hard time saying “no” to others
Another thing that has more to do with assertiveness than with kindness is saying “no” to others and setting boundaries.
For a long time, I, too had this issue. I wanted to please everyone and struggled to stand up for myself.
I won’t say I was a doormat, but there were certainly times I felt like one.
It all comes down to setting healthy borders, doesn’t it? When everyone has clear expectations, there’s almost no need to say “no.” They will know what you will and won’t do.
It also doesn’t mean you don’t care or won’t help them. Because, of course, you will!
Ultimately, building self-confidence takes time and effort, but it’ll provide a solid foundation for asserting yourself.
Start by using “I” statements to express how a situation affects you personally, and avoid blaming or attacking others.
Also, take deep breaths and consciously manage your emotions. Responding out of anger or frustration can escalate the situation and undermine your message.
4) You’re absorbing others’ negativity
Our minds are like sponges sometimes. If you find yourself absorbing other people’s negativity and internalizing their negative emotions, it’s a sign your kindness and empathy are hurting you.
Absorbing negativity is a heavy emotional burden to carry around. It can contribute to feelings of sadness and helplessness, and even lead to symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Once again, the answer is clear. You need to set boundaries and prioritize self-care.
5) You feel guilty when you prioritize your own needs over others
If you feel guilty or selfish when prioritizing your own needs and well-being, it reveals your empathy is causing you to neglect yourself consistently.
I currently have this issue as I’m neglecting almost all my individual hobbies and interests in favor of spending time with my three-year-old son. It already started taking a toll on my health as I was neglecting exercising, not to mention other things.
I’m slowly starting to find time for myself, without neglecting my family’s needs. It typically means waking up earlier or going to bed later and generally working less.
6) You feel drained and exhausted after spending time with certain people
Do you ever feel emotionally drained after spending time with a friend or a family member? Even worse, it might be a co-worker with whom you spend 40+ hours weekly.
Excessive empathy does that to you. It can make you more susceptible to absorbing the emotions of others, especially if you’re highly sensitive.
Spending time with people going through challenging or consistently negative situations can overwhelm anyone, let alone someone highly compassionate.
7) You feel responsible for other people’s emotions and well-being
I already touched on this in the first sign, where we said that putting others’ needs before yours is bad for you.
However, even if you aren’t doing that, you still might feel responsible for other people’s emotions and well-being.
Constantly feeling responsible for others significantly strains your mental and emotional health, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion.
I recommend encouraging them to take responsibility for their own emotions, health, and welfare.
Support them in developing their own coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills, allowing them to grow and become more self-reliant.
8) You often feel taken advantage of by others
Feeling taken advantage of by others is a common experience when your kindness and empathy aren’t balanced with healthy boundaries.
Others come to expect or rely on your willingness to help or give. This leads to them taking advantage of your generosity.
If you constantly give, give, give, and you aren’t receiving a similar level of care, attention, or appreciation in return, it leads to feelings of being used or undervalued.
This can breed resentment and frustration over time, leading to relationship strains.
9) You have a hard time accepting compliments or praise
Introverts typically have a hard time accepting compliments or praise. They don’t like to be the center of attention. But some people who have too much empathy are also like that.
If that’s you, the next time someone compliments you, simply express gratitude instead of dismissing or downplaying it.
Recognize that the compliment reflects their positive perception of you or your actions.
Allow yourself to take in the positive feedback and consider it an affirmation of your strengths or achievements.
10) You have a hard time asking for help
Although you’re so selfless that it might be hurting you, you still have a hard time asking for help.
I get it. I’m the same. I want to do everything by myself and without anyone’s help. One of the reasons is that I’m too controlling, and the other is that I’m a proponent of the saying, “If you want to do it good, do it yourself.”
I realize now that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Quite the opposite. It’s a sign of strength and self-awareness.
It takes courage to admit you can’t do everything on your own and that asking for assistance is a valuable resource.
In fact, many people do certain things better than me. Asking them for help results in BETTER outcomes, doesn’t it?
11) You feel like you have to be the one to fix other people’s problems
Another sign that your kindness and empathy are hurting you is that you feel like you have to be the one to fix other people’s problems.
This can lead to stress, exhaustion, feelings of overwhelm, and emotional draining.
You’re also making people overreliant on your help and not develop the necessary skills or resilience to address their own challenges. This creates an unhealthy dynamic and hinders their personal growth.
What to do
I already hinted at what you should do if you’re getting overwhelmed by taking care of others and catering to their needs instead of yours.
Nevertheless, here are my recommendations:
Establish emotional boundaries to prevent empathy burnout. Learn to say “no” when someone asks for help, limiting your time engaging with emotionally draining people or situations. Or simply don’t take on others’ emotional burdens as your own.
Develop a healthy identity outside of helping others
Develop interests, hobbies, and relationships not centered around helping or empathizing with others. This will provide you with a necessary counterbalance to your empathy.
Take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health. Exercise, eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and relax.
This will reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Make sure you take time to do things you enjoy and that recharge you.
Talk about your feelings with trusted friends or family. Consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor, especially one trained in empathy management or compassion fatigue.