Alena Shekhovtcova

Here’s Why Your Empathy Is Not Just Your Biggest Strength But Also Your Biggest Weakness

If you’re reading this, chances are you are a super kind, gentle, and empathetic person who goes above and beyond to make people feel comfortable and safe.

And that’s a huge, invaluable strength. You care deeply about others enough to put them before yourself and make them feel comfortable. But it can also be a huge weakness, and I’ll tell you why.

Once people learn that you will go above and beyond to do what you can for them out of the goodness of your heart, this attracts two kinds of people:

1. People who see this wonderful trait value you and give you the same energy back.

2. People who learn that since you will go above and beyond for them, they can do whatever they want to you.

So, how do we distinguish between the two? The people with genuinely good intentions and the people testing us to see how much they can take advantage of us? The answer is simple: pay attention.

People taking advantage of your kindness and empathy will not make it hard to tell. They will ask for things and not return the same energy. They will get mad at you when you say no or try to convince you why your boundaries are too much (think: you’re overreacting). They will do whatever they can to make you feel guilty for your needs because that’s how they maintain their power over you.

For highly empathic individuals, we often let our empathy for the person get in the way of standing up for ourselves or saying no. But we must remember that it is OKAY and normal to be firm with people we notice not respecting our boundaries. We must be our own advocates and speak up for ourselves in situations that feel wrong.

Being our own advocates is not mean, and having our own needs does not mean we are bad people. We have permission to be clear and honest about what makes us uncomfortable and what crosses our own personal boundaries.

And not everyone deserves our kindness. Not everyone deserves our respect. If we don’t speak up for ourselves, we give the other person permission to take advantage of us.

Empathy is an invaluable strength that will take you far. But it will also be a huge downfall if you don’t learn to distinguish between kindness and when people are taking advantage of you.

Here’s a journal prompt to help you: Can you think of a situation where you were kind to someone and they caused you immense pain and stress until you finally put your foot down?