Navigating social situations is often very challenging for people who identify as Highly Sensitive People or Empaths. They frequently need a lot of quiet time by themselves following an event. Even going out for a cup of coffee with certain people may require some alone time afterward, to recharge.

Are you wondering if you identify as a HSP or an Empath? Consider these questions:

  • Do you often feel “lost” in other people, as if you don’t know where you end and other people begin?
  • Do you often feel drained, or even ill, after being around people?
  • Are you prone to burnout and frequently feel physically and mentally overwhelmed?

If you recognize your experience reflected in these questions, you are not alone. If you are ready to reclaim your energy and power, there are some adjustments you can make. The first step is to understand your own boundaries.

Sounds great, right? Now what, exactly, is a boundary?

Boundaries is a term that we are all used to hearing, but, in the energetic sense, its definition can seem elusive. Our cultural concept of boundaries is often limited to seeking or giving consent, or saying “no” to things that do not feel right for us. But this is only the surface-level view of our boundaries: to fully understand–and work effectively–with them, we have to look deeper.

In the purest sense, a boundary is where you end and another person begins. This may conjure an image of “personal space”, as though you are in a crowded subway car. However, consider your boundary in the energetic sense: how other people’s thoughts and feelings affect you and how you affect them.

Our lived experiences within our families and communities shape our perspectives. It is these perspectives that allow one person to shake off a conversation but might trigger a strong reaction for you. These experiences help us define our individual boundaries.

When you notice that someone’s comments or tone seem to “stick” to you, or you are feeling an energy leak around certain people, you are beginning to recognize your own healthy boundary.

You may notice this happening while you are having an interaction with someone, or you may not notice it until afterward. When you do notice what is happening, it is important that you observe it with curiosity and compassion. Take a few breaths to steady yourself and contemplate what is happening:

I feel that this person is controlling/gaslighting/blaming me. [or] I can’t shake off the experience that I had with this person. I want to remain in control of myself and regain my balance.

Our experience of blurred boundaries is usually so deeply rooted that we don’t recognize that our boundary has been erased until we feel triggered. In these moments it is vital to slow ourselves down and ask:

“What/How am I feeling in this moment?”
“Is what I’m feeling really ‘mine’?”
“If this feeling is NOT mine, how do I sort out which feelings and experiences belong to me and which belong to someone else?”

When we get lost in someone else’s feelings and experiences and take them on as our own, we disrupt our connection to our own experience and sense of self. This cross-wired feeling leaves us disoriented and ungrounded. Not only does this deplete our own energy, we become ineffective in the way that we relate to other people. Practicing this awareness allows us to understand what is happening and helps us to neurologically reform our boundary.

Once you recognize that you are not being fully present with yourself, you can change your energy by relaxing and disentangling from the other person’s experience. See if you can hold compassion for yourself and for the other person, as you unbind yourself from their feelings.

Observing and communicating your boundaries may feel like a radical act of self-care and you may experience push back from people who are not used to this relationship dynamic. Building this conscious connection to your inner wisdom will help you reclaim your sovereignty and enhance your relationships.