I turn 48 today. In honor of this special occasion, I am sharing 8 life lessons I believe I was meant to learn in this lifetime. As a sensitive empath who has struggled with codependency, my lessons may not be entirely universal. Yet, I suspect there is a thread of truth running through all 8 that will resonate with everyone. I hope that if you have struggled with any of these hard truths, this information will help you feel less alone.
If you prefer video for a more informal convo, watch me be awkward here 😉
1. You Are Lovable AF – For No Reason
This one is simple. We are all worthy of great love and support. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, I hope you can recognize that all babies come into this world with pure potential and should be nurtured and loved for their mere existence.
That goes for you too. You are love and you deserve love. Not for what you do or how you look, but for the simple fact that you are here. None of us are here by accident. Living from a place of love is really all that is asked of us. So, please give yourself and others a break. [BTW – I need this reminder far more than I’d like to admit. That’s why it is #1]
2. Choose Yourself, Save Yourself
There is an amazing Buzzfeed video where Billy Porter shares his 7 Rules to Live By. His #1 rule is “Choose yourself. Save yourself. Bet on yourself.” [Video link: https://m.facebook.com/watch/?v=384995615587088&_rdr]
I LOVE the sassy way he says it. It has become a mantra for me. I talked about this concept more in-depth in Lessons in Love at 44. It is a truth that all empaths, codependents, and givers must be reminded of constantly. We are so strongly wired to give or serve that we tend to push our energy and love outwardly. If we don’t make a very deliberate, conscious effort to love ourselves first, and attend to our own needs, we end up depleted. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Everything is ENERGY
The core essence of everything is energy. PERIOD. It is a law of physics that can assist us in navigating every aspect of life – health, relationships, love, creativity, joy, abundance, spiritual evolution. Every little thing comes down to the alignment of energies. It is that simple and that complicated.
This explains why negative people (such as narcissists) are attracted to positive people (empaths, or others who focus on being kind). In some ways, it is literally just a matter of magnetic force. When you understand this basic concept it actually takes away a lot of blame and shame around interpersonal dynamics. Givers attract takers. Lovers attract fighters. It is not that positive individuals are weak and making terrible choices in their life and work. Sometimes it is just the power of energy doing its thing.
Learning to harness and balance energies is where the magic is. It is the basis of so many other laws like The Law of Attraction and Karma. For many years, I got these laws wrong, thinking I just needed to give more in order to succeed. This meant I was draining my energy, the very source of my well-being.
Once you accept that energy is the only currency that truly matters, life gets a lot easier, because your desire to conserve and protect your personal energy becomes greater. This is an essential lesson for empaths, lightworkers, or any other individuals who are especially sensitive to energy. Many of us live with chronic fatigue or other illnesses that are directly related to not recognizing how powerful and important energy and energy healing are to our well-being.
4. Trust Your Intuition
Based on the concept of energy exchange we just covered, we all have a built-in guidance system that tells us when the energy of a person or situation feels “off”. This is our intuition. It is absolutely crucial that we listen to and honor the energetic hits that come through this innate detection system. It is always trying to protect us.
Too often, when we perceive someone’s energy as being negative or even scary, we dismiss that information thinking we are just being prejudiced, judgie, or unkind. We tell ourselves we are exaggerating or that we are being “too sensitive,” when really we are totally accurate about the situation. I talked about trusting your intuition A LOT in Online Dating for Sensitive Women, because I found it to be a crucial tool for navigating the games and dishonesty that are rampant in the dating world.
I am not an expert on how intuition works. And, I suspect it can vary person-to-person. But, for me, I get “gut instincts”. I quite literally feel as if I was punched in the stomach, or I’ll get a hollow empty sensation (like when you experience a big drop on a roller coaster). This part of my core, in terms of our chakras (the body’s energy system) is the solar plexus, or what is called the “center of power or will.” Many empaths or others who are sensitive to energy will receive their intuition through this powerful energetic center. However, if you are a very intellectual person, you might perceive it only in your mind. If you are a heart-centered person, you may feel it in your chest.
To that end, I want to clarify something I previously said in 40 Tips for 40 Years – Tip #16 “Trust yourself always. There is no better compass than your own heart.” Our hearts really are fantastic tools for living a loving, compassionate life. But, they aren’t always the best source for clear guidance. I have disregarded my gut and head far too many times because my heart was imploring me to “just be kind.” I do believe that a heart-centered path is generally the best way forward. However, if you are being abused or manipulated by someone, your trusting, loving heart will keep you stuck in their toxic energy.
Always check in with your heart, but don’t override the intuition you are feeling throughout the rest of your body. If someone or something feels off to you in even the slightest way, protect yourself! Put up your boundaries and plan a speedy exit so that you can assess the situation from a clearer perspective. Once you are consumed by someone’s toxic energy, it is often much harder to see clearly.
5. Life Is Not Fair
Around ten years ago, I participated in a lecture with a renowned healing expert who asked the group if we thought life was fair. I really struggled with that question, but ultimately came to agree with his assertion that since everyone experiences highs and lows in life, life is in fact fair. He further explained that how we perceive the world has a dramatic impact on how we actually experience the world. So seeing life as fair gives us a more hopeful, positive outlook.
While I absolutely agree that mindset is incredibly important, I no longer see the value in believing life is fair. It is actually funny that I am saying this, because I clung to the belief of fairness for the first four decades of my life. I remember some of my earliest arguments with my mom consisted of me complaining about things not going the way I thought they should and her exclaiming – “Michelle, life isn’t fair!”
I now accept that, as is true for many things, Mom was right. Life is not fair. It can’t be when so many people are choosing to lie, cheat, and manipulate others. The Golden Rule that I have chosen to live by is not actually honored by a good portion of the population. This became crystal clear to me during the early stages of the pandemic when people were openly claiming that they would not wear a mask or curb their socializing in order to protect the elderly or those who were immunocompromised. Their battle cry was, “Not my problem! Don’t tell me what to do!” Is it fair to put others lives at risk in the name of your own personal freedom? I don’t believe so. And, I feel that accepting the true nature of some people is crucial for anyone who clings to the hope of fairness. If we don’t, we put ourselves at risk of being harmed, used, abused, or manipulated by those who are not concerned with fairness one bit.
6. Question EVERYTHING!
That renowned healer I just mentioned who proclaimed that life was fair, turned out to be a shocking hypocrite. The year following that lecture in which I sat clinging to his every word, I encountered him in an entirely different capacity. He was speaking at an event I was partially responsible for organizing. I say “partially” because I had no control over the actual venue, and this person knew that. Still, this “guru,” whose entire platform was built on the healing power of love and kindness, arrived late to the talk, and then proceeded to very publicly and very cruelly berate me for the way the room had been set up.
Given that he was late, I begged him to work with what we had until I could reset up all the necessary equipment (something I didn’t actually know how to do.) I then jumped through hoops to insure his needs were met, working through my lunch in a state of panic. He never thanked me for my efforts or apologized for being late and brash. Not exactly what I would classify as “fair” treatment.
“Do as I say, not as I do,” does not work for me. And, I suggest that you question it too by not taking advice from anyone who doesn’t prove to be worthy of that honor (that certainly includes me if you don’t agree with what I have to say.)
Another way to approach this life lesson is to ask, “Who benefits from this belief?” If someone is teaching you that you must always be of service, and then is taking advantage of your kindness, that is straight out of the covert narcissist playbook. It is the undercurrent of a lot of dangerous religious and political teachings that only serve to keep people submissive. Much of what we are told as hard truths – you must always give more than you receive; you shouldn’t question authority; you must listen to your elders; you should turn the other cheek – don’t serve our higher good and are only meant to manipulate us and keep us from discovering our true power and freedom.
7. You Can and Must Leave!
You are allowed as many do-overs as you need. We are all here to grow and evolve and that can not be achieved by remaining static or trapped in negative environments that ultimately harm us. Every day is an opportunity for a new start.
I have actually struggled with this tremendously. I was told when I was younger that being a “quitter” is unacceptable because it is a sign of weakness, and lacks integrity and grit. That belief kept me trapped in abusive relationships and toxic work situations for far too long. It also led to debilitating amounts of shame and guilt when I finally was brave enough to leave, even when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the situation was draining me mentally and physically.
I think this challenge comes up for a large number of empathetic people. We never want to hurt or disappoint others. We live with the hope that if we just try harder things will improve and we won’t have to make the hard decision to go. We must remember not everyone has a heart or positive intentions like ours.
Every adult is responsible and accountable for the way they treat others. No one gets a free pass. We can not change anyone but ourselves. At times, leaving or cutting toxic connections is the only way to save yourself. Furthermore, sometimes being left is the lesson that a toxic individual or system needs for growth. And, sometimes, the discomfort of leaving is what we need to embrace our own courage and confidence.
8. Healing and Growth Are Not Linear
In my last post, Reflections On Being Better, I likened healing and growth to dancing the Cha-Cha, “Two steps forward, two steps back, never actually getting anywhere.” I find this to be a frustrating truth around how life evolves. For most of us, life is not a straight, easy path, but rather a curvy, winding trek up a very steep mountain.
The most helpful visual of this, in my opinion, is a 3-dimensional spiral. We move around the spiral, and while it seems as though we are encountering and relearning the same lessons over and over, in reality, the spiral is moving upward. Every time we revisit a lesson, we have potentially grown a bit, so we are now experiencing it from a higher, more knowledgeable perspective. However, these higher lessons often get harder and more painful if we have not embraced their truths and healed our inner wounds fully.
This concept was discussed many times during my master’s degree in Integrative Healing. It is widely accepted that our greatest emotional and spiritual challenges are often the drivers for any physical health challenges we experience. Any dis-ease we experience in our body is part of a physical manifestation of what we are meant to learn and heal. If we aren’t able to fully embrace our life lessons, they will keep showing up with ever-increasing intensity, oftentimes leading to poor health.
My greatest struggle in life as an empath has been in attracting narcissistic, energy vampires. I have had a parade of these types who have emotionally abused me, causing me to doubt my self-worth and lose the in-born knowledge that I was lovable. This pattern drained my energy so badly that I was in a nearly constant state of fatigue.
It took writing, Online Dating for Sensitive Women, and a whole lot of introspection over the past several years, to FINALLY see that I was attracting the endless loop of negative people and situations who were taking from me and putting me down, because I needed to heal a core wound that said I was not lovable (lesson #1 above!) I had to finally accept that I was born worthy of love and I have never lost that sacred birthday gift!
My Dad’s marching song when he was in the Army was “Onward Ever, Backward Never!” It is a really great depiction of how to approach this final life lesson. I hope you continue to spiral upwardly, acknowledging and embracing the life lessons that were meant for you.
What do you think are your personal life lessons? Please share in the comments section below.
If you are hungry for even more, check out my former birthday musings:
Michelle Gibeault Traub is a health writer, compassionate coach, and the author of Online Dating for Sensitive Women. Her mission is to help women be their best in body, mind & spirit.
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4 thoughts on “8 Life Lessons for Empaths & Everyone Else”
Such a wonderful article. It was very helpful and insightful.
Thank you Tracy! I appreciate your support.
Hi Michelle. Thanks for your insight! I am an INFJ and an empath. I’m in a situation where I’m relearning #2 and doing what Billy Porter said “say what you mean and mean what you say” not only for myself but for other people too. Boundaries. I give A LOT of energy to people and now have to pull back to heal. People may not like it but it is necessary. I also liked what you said about leaving the people, places, and things that drain us. I’m learning how to do that more especially when I feel the drain. Thanks again for sharing your life lessons and wisdom.
Thank you Donnamarie! I’m so excited for you!!! When we reclaim our energy and power we are a true force! We don’t have to be drained by others.