Honest communication of your true feelings and needs is challenging for many empaths. Particularly those empaths who have a history of responding with what is expected or what will allow them to fit in.
How we show up for the people in our lives is part of how we gain self-esteem. Sometimes, we want to go along with what is expected of us because we love our people and this is a way to show them. Sometimes we do it because we want to avoid a conflict.
And sometimes we do it because it is just what we do…our standard protocol in conversation is to read what it is our partner/parent/friend/boss wants from us and then we respond accordingly.
Our answer is a knee-jerk response. We don’t even give it enough thought to know how we feel when we reply, we just say what our people expect or want us to do.
What if we took a moment to tune in and check how we really feel about how we are being asked to show up? What if we could respond authentically and honor our own needs before anyone else’s needs or desires crossed our minds?
When I was a younger woman, I had no concept of what I am describing above. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I knew I didn’t feel like I fit into the world and that I really, really wanted to belong.
I was sure my real responses to things being asked of me were wrong or inappropriate and I never wanted to bring too much attention to myself. I became really good at reading people and their expectations of me or desires of me and I would to the best of my ability do what they wanted me to do.
And it is probably not surprising to you that this was a really bad way to live. First and foremost, much of the time I was finding myself in situations I didn’t want to be in. I was betraying myself over and over in exchange for love and acceptance.
For me and I believe most people, this is not a sustainable practice. Eventually we break this pattern, painfully and with much turmoil. Here are the lessons I learned when I broke this pattern for good.
- Going along with what other people want me to do hurts me. Every time I go along with other people’s wishes, I am betraying myself. I am reinforcing that I am not worth my own trust.
- It isn’t fair to your partner or friends. You are keeping your true self from showing up completely in your relationships. They will feel betrayed or blind-sided when the truth comes out.
- The very foundation of the relationship is a house of cards. It can’t have real intimacy and there is no real trust.
- Trust from your people and trust in yourself, comes when your behavior and your words are in alignment with your needs, wants, and feelings.
Unraveling this pattern took time, patience, and practice on my part. I learned to do this at a very young age and I was not consciously aware that I was doing it. It was just how I interacted with people.
Becoming aware that I was doing it took time and effort. To break the pattern, I had to really get to know myself to understand why I began using this pattern.
For me and the empaths I have worked with, the reason is about belonging.
We are hard wired for connection. When you are sensitive, you already feel like you don’t fit in.
You are always wondering where the rule book is and why everyone but you seems to understand how life works.
So your whole goal is to live and interact with people in ways that don’t tip your hand, that don’t give away your secret. The secret that you don’t fit in and don’t know the rules.
As a kid in school, this pattern was all about survival and it was very effective. As an adult in an intimate relationship, it was a disaster. The same pattern that kept me safe was now an enormous obstacle to the thing I wanted most in the world, intimacy.
I wanted to be seen and loved for who I was but I was trapped in a pattern that kept me constantly betraying myself, and in a web of dishonesty. And worst of all, I kept attracting people who weren’t good matches for me.
It was worth my time and patience to unravel this pattern. I am now in relationships where I can show up honestly. I am aware of my needs and know how to express them. And I trust myself to keep my feelings and my body safe.
The ability to communicate honestly is a game changer. If you relate to this problem, know that you can change. You can learn and heal and find true connection.
I work with empaths to heal this pattern and others that keep them from feeling as though they can connect with people and find lasting and meaningful relationships.