Editor's Note: Welcome to our new interview series, Wholehearted Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, there will be a new feature and interview. Photographers, writers, designers, bakers, activists, musicians, bloggers, authors, etc. If there's someone you think that would be a great fit, feel free to nominate them using this form here.
Without further ado, I'm excited to introduce my dear friend, Robin, over at The Diary of An Empath, to start us off with Wholehearted Wednesdays!
Hi Robin! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I never know what to say when asked this question! I much prefer to learn about other people! I can be awkward in conversation and get around that by asking a lot of questions, when it’s up to me to answer I panic! But I guess I could say I’m a 24-year old social worker from eastern Canada who loves to write and spend time in nature. I also love my pup, Melanie, and my hedgehog, Henry. Oh! And I'm an empath; a term I am still learning to embrace and honour.
What inspired you to go into social work?
You know, social work sort of found me. I’ve always been interested in people and the 'bigger things' in life; most people idolize athletes, pop stars, that sort of thing, but grew up wanting to be a therapist.
When I was younger I would use my Mom's medical plan to book sessions with different counselors around my area just so I could talk with someone who was like-minded! I’d also run home after school and offer my own “counseling” services over MSN to other students in my grade.
So I guess I've always known I would work in a helping profession, because I was naturally drawn to people and their needs. But as for getting into social work, I was in my fourth year of a BSc in Human Kinetics and Human Nutrition program feeling very lost and unhappy when my best friend died in a tragic accident. I decided then and there to follow my heart into the humanities. There was also a bit about mental illness but you can read that below!
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Human vulnerability. Social workers work with people at their most vulnerable, be it when they are asking for something they never thought they would need to ask for (money, housing, food) or when they are so overwhelmed that they can't see a reason to go on. It’s the most human us humans get and I feel honoured to be part of that moment in someone's life. Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about how my experiences and my choices brought me to a specific person when they were most in need of support.
The toughest part is accepting I can't be there for everyone and that someday I will have to charge to listen and be kind... because money is a barrier for so many people (but it’s also how I eat, clothe myself, and honour my worth). I also love being able to use my skills of advocacy to make the world a better place. Finding loopholes in oppressive systems and using them to better someone’s life is one of my most favourite things to do!
Could you share with our readers a bit about your blog, the diary of an empath? What do you talk about over there?
I started the diary of an empath as a lifestyle blog for sensitive folk but it’s slowly transitioned into a creative advocacy piece that says: “Empaths are real, sensitivity is beautiful, and it’s time we start talking about it.” Normally I advocate against labels, but being labeled an empath changed my entire life. I grew up believing life was really hard. I couldn’t understand my emotions; I would be fine when I was on my own and then all over the place when I was with other people. I’ve also always been highly intuitive and have had many clairvoyant experiences but never felt safe talking about them.
Having someone tell me I was an empath made everything make sense.
I wasn’t weird, or flawed, I belonged to a group of incredible people here to do incredible things. ‘Empath’ and ‘empath ability’ is popular in the metaphysical world and I feel there is a lot of potential in pulling the metaphysical knowledge into our western understanding of mental health. Sensitive people are far too often diagnosed with mental illness and told they need to be ‘fixed’ and I was tired of seeing that happen. I’ve been labeled with many things – anxious, depressed, dysmorphic – and given many things to “fix” everything that was wrong with me.
Being part of the formal mental health system taught me to feel bad for caring about other people and our world as a whole, and when I realized it was all a social construction I decided to fight back and create a space that sought to normalize sensitivity and encourage sensitive people to feel safe in who they are and what they experience.
Why do you think so many women are hesitant to share their truth? Do you have any advice for them?
It hurts to be rejected and rejection is part of being vulnerable. As women we've spent so many years trying to convince the world we are worthy, but we've done that by complying with what society (men) decided "worthy" meant. We don't have to hide our emotions and hide our stories to be worthy.
We need to challenge this concept of what makes one "worthy" and know that we are worthy just the way we are. The more women that rise up and claim sensitivity, honesty and vulnerability as worthy, the easier it will be for the girls who are following in our footsteps. Someday - depending on how soon we rise - women and girls won't have to consider if being who they are and sharing their truth will make them worthy. They will just know it does.
My advice is to simply show up as who you are, especially when it’s scary! There is no right or wrong way to be; everything we've been taught as 'right' or 'wrong' was defined by the men who came before us. For people who are sensitive - especially the empaths of the world - it's important to spend time alone to know who you are; we are like sponges for the rest of the world's thoughts and beliefs and it's easy to get caught up in pleasing others. I keep a list of the thoughts / beliefs / ideas that make me who I am in my journal to return to when I feel confused.
How has your sensitivity helped others throughout the years?
Showing up as my sensitive self has made it safe for others to show up exactly as they are; sensitive people, when they are fully in their power, create a safe space for people to just be themselves and through that heal. It's just how we are made!
My friends joke that coffee dates with me are like therapy sessions because we dive right into what really matters and not the surface level fluff. My sensitivity also helps me be a stronger advocate for human rights, animal rights, and the rights of our planet. I would never be the advocate I am if I was not sensitive.
As women, what do you think we should do more of in order to support, encourage, and love one another? How do we move forward?
I think as women we are hardwired to want to connect and support one another, but we've been taught that being competitive is the only way to find success. Remembering our world is one of abundance is how I personally deal with this. We all have strengths and weaknesses. I am a great writer and love to write blog posts, but I am not great with marketing, a major component of getting a message to the masses. So I need to call on women who are good at marketing to succeed.
That is how we will all get ahead; by realizing we aren't equal in what we are here to do, and how that is perfectly OK because the beauty of connection is in how our strengths and weaknesses work together to raise everyone up. Instead of seeing someone doing something 'better than' you, see them as someone who has different strengths than you and then reach out and offer your strengths in return for theirs. You will both rise up faster that way.
What’s next for you in your journey? How can we support you, and where can we find you online?
I am going to continue to show up each week to my blog to continue the conversation about energy and energy sensitivity. I really don't know what's next, and I think that's really beautiful. I'm not interested in my blog being "big" or my follower count being high. Maybe this will change, but for right now it's just about connecting with like-minded people and giving enough of myself for others to feel safe in who they are.
The best way to support me and my mission is to simply own who you are as a sensitive person. Everything in this world is socially constructed, and if we are going to reclaim sensitivity and change how the rest of the world understands sensitive people and their gifts, we first need to understand and honour it ourselves.
A lot of sensitive people hesitate to acknowledge themselves as sensitive (this is especially true for the empath community) because we don’t like acknowledging ourselves as ‘special’ or ‘gifted’ but there is a strong energy behind that; an energy that keeps sensitive people small. If we aren’t willing to stand up and advocate for ourselves, how do we expect the world to? Not sure how to start stepping into your power? What about putting empath or HSP in your Instagram bio? Or telling your friend you read an article written by a sensitive person and you think you might be sensitive too? It’s the little things that make the greatest change.
You can find me at The Diary of An Empath or on Instagram @thediaryofanempath (you can find me on my personal IG too @robinmelle but that’s mostly pictures of my dog). Oh! And if there are any empaths reading, I am always looking to interview people for my site to show how diverse and abundant sensitivity truly is.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Robin. One last question before we leave, what does being a woman mean to you?
Thank you for having me! I am so inspired by your work and your vision. Being a woman means different things to different women, because being a woman means having choice and not being confined by the standards our world has set for us. For me this means being sensitive and authentic in everything I do and encouraging others in my life - regardless of gender - to do the same.
Did you enjoy Robin's interview? If so, you can sign up for our mailing list to get access to the first Wholehearted Woman magazine issue free!
Here's a sneak peek of her piece, "Why Your Story Matters: How One Woman Is Using Her Story To Challenge The Future Of Mental Health"
"I started social work after being diagnosed with five different mental illnesses. Being told I was mentally ill made me want to advocate against the stigma associated with mental illness and build a career helping others navigate the complicated mental health system. A Masters degree in clinical social work is a key credential for anything involving formal mental health, and I had spent over two years pouring my heart and soul into taking the right courses, working the right jobs, volunteering with the right organizations, and creating the right networks in hopes of being accepted. It would seem then, that receiving an acceptance letter would have been something to celebrate. But instead, I cried."