The Liberation of Feeling Seen

Many sensitive children do not feel seen by their parents, teachers, or family. Their sensitivities are treated more like aberrations from the norm than precious and unique abilities. Many of us are told as children, “Get a thicker skin,” or “Toughen up,” suggesting that something is wrong with our empathic nature.

Growing up with the sense of not being “seen” by their family can also injure an empath’s self-confidence, which can lead to becoming a people-pleaser. These sensitive souls try to win love by getting into others’ good graces. Also, they may feel responsible for someone’s emotional or physical state. People-pleasers give away too much of themselves and squash their own needs and emotions.

In my book “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” I discuss the liberation of feeling seen with a capital “S” and how to build your self-confidence.

This means that others accept you completely for who you are. You are not judged, blamed or minimalized. In my psychotherapy practice, “seeing” someone is a crucial aspect of what I offer my patients. When you are seen–really seen–you can breathe a sigh of relief. You don’t have to change. You don’t have to do anything differently. You are authentically and unapologetically who you are, including your gifts and areas in need of growth. It’s a marvelous feeling to be unconditionally accepted.

You can begin to shift out of the people-pleasing pattern by saying “no” to something small. Also, express your opinion about an issue (start with less emotionally charged ones), even if it differs from friends’ or families’. Asserting yourself will build self-confidence. You don’t have to please people all the time. You deserve to be liked and respected for being your authentic self.

Set your intention. Today, I will “see” myself with loving eyes. I will be with others who can “see” me too. I will also find the right balance between expressing my own needs and supporting others.

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Dr. Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty.

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