I used to absorb the energy and emotions of everything around me. I mean everything. I couldn’t be inside of a mall, a concert, a subway, or a busy street without feeling at least a bit overwhelmed. I remember living in San Francisco and having to take the train to work every day, and arriving at work already feeling worn out and exhausted from all of the energy on the train car.

Now, I can go into the busiest place, even inside of the strangest neighborhood, and feel simply like myself. I can spend hours in a crowded space, with people I wouldn’t normally engage with, and come out feeling grounded, whole, and in love with life.

I hear people in the world of self-development and spirituality talk about the need to “protect” oneself. Recommendations for staying clear of outside energies, judgment, fear, etc. run rampant on social media channels and coming from the mouths of various spiritual leaders and self-development junkies.

I actually believe all humans are empaths if we become fully aware of our feelings. We all have the capacity to feel, we are all ultimately one, and it’s inevitable that we will all be able to feel the feelings of others. And, as someone who has been deemed by many previous mentors and guides as one of the most sensitive people they have ever met, I really get how this need to protect oneself can feel necessary.

But now that I’m beyond the woes of my sensitivities — now that my days are filled with harmony and joy, and my feelings are only my own, I can say that the nature of protecting oneself is quite contrary to what most empaths actually need.

Though it may be a fabulous band-aid (and I agree that, when in a place of desperation, a band-aid method is far better than nothing), for anyone who desires to find an ultimate peace in their empathic nature — to use their ability to feel as a gift and not a curse — the greatness of possibility lies far beyond protection mechanisms.

The greatness lies in doing exactly the opposite of what most empaths are inclined to do.

The key to overcoming the challenges of absorbing everything around us is not to hide from those challenges, or to protect ourselves from them. It’s to come to the root of the challenge itself.

We are given challenges because there is something in that challenge that, when integrated, will guide us to become a more powerful being. And, as empaths, the same goes for the challenges of the feelings around us.

As a planet, we are on a precipice of change. We are ready to peel back the veils of illusion, and as empaths, we have the capacity to guide and lead this world into that change — but in order to do so, we must be willing to show up to the face of the pain and find the truth within it.

Most empaths run from environments where change is most needed because it seems too painful, too dark, too scary. But it’s our opportunity, if not calling, to stay — to stay and integrate any appearance of darkness.

As empaths, we have the capacity to identify where pain exists on this planet, and support it into becoming light. But in order to do so, we must integrate the pain within ourselves first. Once we’ve done that, we can stand by the pain of the world with loving eyes and guide it into the love we’ve found within ourselves.

And because our sensitivities have led us to more cracks and crevices of pain, once it’s integrated, we will be able to carry oceans of love within us.

Therefore, it is not a matter of avoiding the negative in order to stay positive.

It is a matter of recognizing that underneath all that appears negative, there is something within us that’s viewing it as negative, ready to shift. When we integrate the darkness within us into the light it wants to be, we learn that nothing was ever actually negative — it was simply our fear of it that perceived it as negative.

Imagine how much light would exist in each of our own individual worlds if we were to integrate everything we fear into love? Imagine the lightness. Imagine the possibility.

As empaths, it is our responsibility to get out there. It is our responsibility NOT to shut down the feeling we are picking up from our surroundings. It is our responsibility to get out into the world and allow ourselves to pick up what we can feel from others, and to use it to shine additional light on the cracks and crevices within our own beings where there is still more darkness ready to be integrated.

If all of the sensitive beings in the world were to recognize the power they have to heal themselves through their ability to feel the rest of the world, we would have a massive army of beings on this planet who are ready to hold the space of light in the face of darkness, and transform it.

Though it seemed like more work at first, choosing the path of integrating the resonance of everything I could feel outside of me quickly became worth it, not only for the army of light I could feel myself becoming a part of, but selfishly, even for myself. The lightness of being I have found has far outweighed any moment where I played it safe by guarding myself in my earlier empathic days.

Which will you choose?

Stay tuned for part two of this story, where I share my favorite tool to transform our sensitive nature from a challenge into a gift.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out the Embrace Your Darkness challenge – a 5-day journey into celebrating all of you and deepening the gift of your empathic nature so you can join this army of light. The world is ready for you!