Emotional labor refers to the management of other people’s feelings, comfort and social expectations. It is prevalent in workplace environments, where maintaining a certain disposition is crucial to keeping your job, but is also a big issues for people who are more empathetic, intuitive and sensitive than others. These people often end up with an unfair amount of emotional labor simply because they are more sensitive to it. Here are a few ways this happens:
1. Everyone comes to us with their problems. Everyone. We become makeshift therapists to everyone from our best friends to the person we meet on line at the grocery store.
2. We dislike conflict, so we’re more willing to compromise ourselves to avoid it in our personal lives. People who come to understand this about us will (sometimes unknowingly) use it to their advantage, expressing their unwarranted anger or annoyance to get us to “back down” or “change our minds.”
3. We can immediately identify when someone is upset, or when the vibe in a room is off. We’re typically the ones who have to initiate conversation to diffuse the situation, asking what happened or trying to talk about what’s wrong.
4. We adopt problems as our own. Empaths literally take on the energy of other people, and sensitive empaths are particularly vulnerable to this. People who pick up on the fact that we will identify with problems because we can – literally, physically – feel them often use this to their advantage.
5. Because we are more sensitive to consequences, we end up having to be more responsible than others. We are the people who end up doing the bulk of the group work, or being hyper-vigilant that responsibilities are taken care of in a timely manner.
6. Empaths, intuitives and sensitive people are the world’s resident “healers.” Whether we naturally gravitate toward fields like teaching, care-taking or the arts, we feel inclined to take on the world’s problems as our own, and do our best to offer solutions.
7. We have to care about injustices, fairness and other issues that affect marginalized people, even if they don’t directly affect us. Of course, this kind of awareness is a gift, but is a large burden in the face of a world of people who don’t care at all.
8. We take on the role of “peace-maker” in every relationship we’re in. We are more naturally inclined to make peace than make “right” when the only person who will be negatively affected is ourselves.
9. It’s easy to feel guilty about being happy when we’re so hyper-aware of the way other people are in pain. This is precisely what makes us “healer” types: to feel happy ourselves, we need to know that we are helping other people as well.
10. We inadvertently start “parenting” other people. We grow up quickly, and are unreasonably mature at a very young age. This translates to inevitably helping those around us try to do the same. It ultimately stems from us not wanting them to experience too much pain.
11. Valid emotions are easily dismissed if someone doesn’t understand our logic. Just because our feelings don’t make sense to you does not mean they aren’t real, and denying us what we feel doesn’t help us to reconcile them, it makes us more defensive.
12. We are judged if we express our full range of emotions, being called “crazy” or “unstable,” even if we are managing them in a healthy way. Society is afraid of strong feelings, and always has been. This is because a lot of people are suppressing their own emotions, and therefore can’t bear to witness someone else expressing them.
13. It’s difficult for us to draw the line between enabling someone and helping them through a dark time. Not to mention that it’s something people frequently take for granted.
14. We can become more inclined to isolate ourselves, even if we are extroverted in nature. Sometimes cutting off contact with others is the only way to maintain a semblance of sanity.
15. “Sensitivity” is typically thought of as a bad thing. Despite the fact that it is an undeniable gift, the reality is that being intuitive/empathetic as well as aware of what’s happening in the world is a recipe for existential turmoil.
16. We are mediators because people who are less sensitive to other people’s emotions and thoughts do not care to be. Their lack of empathy creates a lack of compassion, and their focus is on what’s good for themselves.