“The universe is gifting us all the time if only we opened our eyes to receive it.” Anita Moorjani talks to Zibby about the differences between being a highly sensitive person and an empath, how individuals become “doormats” in other’s lives, and the ways in which we can all change our mindsets to fulfill our souls.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Anita. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Anita Moorjani: Thank you for inviting me, Zibby. It’s great to be here.

Zibby: I am thrilled to be discussing Sensitive Is the New Strong, your latest book which includes bits and pieces of your previous work as well, particularly your near-death experience which I could not believe when I read it. Why don’t you tell listeners first what Sensitive Is the New Strong is about? What made you write it?

Anita: What it’s about, it’s about embracing sensitivity and embracing being an empath. There are a lot of empaths and sensitive people, particularly, the people who are attracted to this genre of work, this genre of healing and spirituality and this kind of work. The people attracted to reading these kinds of books tend to be very compassionate, sympathetic. They tend to be empaths. They tend to be sensitive. One of the things that we — I speak for myself as someone who’s an empath. We have always been made to feel that there’s something wrong with us. I’ve always been made to feel that I’m too sensitive. I need to toughen up. I need to become harder in order to be able to navigate this world or deal with the real world. I need to get realistic and so on. In speaking to other empaths and other sensitive people and in looking at the state of our world, I thought maybe it’s the wrong way around. Maybe in order to really heal this world, we actually need to be more empathic and sensitive. Maybe empaths have actually got it right. The people who are not as empathic and compassionate, the people who we look up to, the people who we think, wow, they’re so strong, they’re so this, they’re so successful, I need to be more like them, maybe those are the people that need to be more sensitive.

Basically, in this book, I flip it around and say maybe, actually, we may need to change our metrics on what it means to be strong. We have to stop saying things like boys don’t cry and stop being so sensitive and grow a thicker skin. We have to stop saying that. In fact, we have to do the opposite. We have to say, wow, that’s a beautiful trait. You’re actually strong for allowing your vulnerability to show in this world. That’s the premise behind the book. I can tell you what made me write it. I didn’t realize I was an empath. All I thought was that I was just someone who’s super sensitive. There’s something wrong with me. I needed to grow a thicker skin. I needed to stop being so sensitive if I wanted to survive in the real world. As I wrote in my first book, Dying to be Me, I had stage four cancer, stage four lymphoma. I was in my final hours of life and went into a coma and crossed over and realized that I am who I am meant to be. There’s nothing wrong me. I realized that one of the biggest reasons why I had got so sick was because I was always beating myself up. I had never loved myself. I’d never embraced who I was. I’d never allowed my light to shine. I was so sensitive that I hid from the world. I was meant to shine. I got into great detail about it in that book. After I had that realization while I was in the coma, I ended up coming out of the coma. Much to the surprise of all the doctors, my physical body ended up healing. That is all documented, what happened in the hospital and how my body healed. Within five weeks, I was sent home from the hospital to go home and live my life cancer-free. That happened in 2006.

After sharing that story, a lot of people related to what I was saying. A lot of people started to say, I feel very sensitive about the world, but I dim my light. I hide in the world. I’m too scared to go out. I started to realize that I’m not the only one who feels this way. The second thing, the biggest thing was I realized that even though I had this near-death experience, I realized that this world is a really tough place to navigate. I realized that even though I had this NDE and got that I’m supposed to shine my light and embrace who I am, I still felt really sensitive and easily hurt by harsh criticism, by naysayers, and by debunkers and people. As my story went public and I was on social media, I noticed that I found the world to be a little bit harsh to deal with. I started to understand this is why, prior to my NDE, it felt easier to stay in the background and to hide my light. What was going on in my head is that it’s because all the empaths and the sensitive people are hiding. Because it’s a harsh world, because we’re all hiding, that’s why the world seems even harsher. The empaths are not sharing their empathic light because they’re hiding it. They’re dimming it. They’re being invisible because it’s too harsh out there. The more that empaths hide and the sensitive people hide, the more we’re giving the limelight to the people on the opposite end of the scale, the people who are not empaths.

Let’s say in the case of leadership positions and all, if empaths don’t step up and shine their light and actually take on leadership positions and if we hide because we’re afraid of the criticism and the feedback, then what we’re doing is we’re allowing those who are less sensitive and less empathic to take those positions. That leaves it open even for the people who are in those positions to exploit us. Then we as empaths, we say, oh, my god, look at how harsh this world is. Look at how all these leadership positions are taken by people who exploit us. We’re the ones who are not willing to step up and take those positions. I get into that as well in the book and speak about how I had this choice. Either I have to continue to share my story in public and learn the tools as an empath to deal with it without suppressing myself or I got back to hiding and allow the world to continue to be the harsh world that it feels like it is for empaths. Basically, I decided to create the tools for empaths to be able to shine their light in the world and to show that being an empath and being sensitive is a strength and not a weakness. It is something that the world needs now more than ever.

Zibby: Wow. I also was really interested, in your book, about the difference between highly sensitive people and empaths. There’s been a lot written about highly sensitive people. I have read a lot of what has been written because I am a very sensitive person, which is why, in part, this book was just jumping off the shelf for me. How great would that be if sensitive really were the new strong? What is the difference exactly? How do you know if you’re an empath versus just a really sensitive person?

Anita: In the book, I give examples, sort of like a quiz, a very simple quiz for you to identify how many of these traits you identify with. One of the biggest things with empaths is that empaths actually feel things in their own body that are not theirs. To give you an example — I didn’t know I was an empath until recently. Literally, until the last four or five years is when I really started to discover I was an empath. That means I have lived most of my life not even realizing I’m an empath. I remember when I was teenager, about fourteen or fifteen years old, I was watching a movie with my parents one evening in our living room. There was a scene of a woman in a car crash who went crashing through the front windscreen of her car. She obviously wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. It repulses me to even — when I say repulses me, it makes me icky to even talk about it. Her face was completely cut up because of that. She was rushed to hospital. They had to bandage her face up. It needed a lot of work, stiches and everything. She dreaded how she was going to look when the bandages came off. During that time while she was going through this, this dread, and her face was bandaged up, I actually blacked out. I fainted. The interesting thing is none of us, including me, made the association that I fainted because of what was going on on the TV screen. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, my head is spinning.” I started to just say that to my family. “My head’s spinning. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m feeling faint.” Everybody stopped watching. Their attention was on me. Then my brother went and got something sweet from the kitchen. He said, “Here, have this honey. Maybe your blood sugar’s gone down.” My mom said, “Oh, my gosh, I’m going to take you to the doctor tomorrow.” They were doing these things. After a few minutes, I actually felt okay physically. I was okay.

At no time did any of us make the association that that happened because of what was going on on the screen. They just thought it was a random thing where my blood sugar went down or something. To this day, I remember how much that scene and her emotions actually impacted me. I was feeling what she was feeling. As a kid, I didn’t know that other people don’t feel that way. I thought that’s normal. You just think what you’re feeling is normal. It was not until the last maybe five or six or seven years did I realize that, oh, other people don’t feel it in their own body and in their own emotions. They don’t carry the emotions of other people. That’s when I had a deeper understanding as to why I even got sick, got the cancer that led to the NDE. It gave me an even deeper understanding as to why I had got so sick in the first place to cause that NDE. I go around absorbing other people’s emotions and feel what they feel and don’t realize that they’re not my emotions. I didn’t know how to separate it. I didn’t know how to distinguish that this is not mine. As I take on other people’s stresses and other people’s pain in my own energy field, it starts to impact my body. That is the difference between being an empath and a sensitive person. A sensitive person doesn’t feel it in their energy field and their body. They are aware of it. They’re super aware that this is going on and this is what that person is feeling, but they know that this is what that person is feeling. The other thing about a sensitive person is that they’re sensitive about how things affect them. It’s like, I know that if I eat this, it’ll have this impact on me. I know if I drink this, it’ll have this impact. I’m allergic to these clothes. They can be sensitive in that way, but they can still identity, this is doing this to me. An empath often cannot even identify what is theirs and what is someone else’s. They literally take it on as if it’s their own.

Zibby: Wow. Maybe I’m not an empath. I took the quiz and everything in the book. I was debating on some of them. There was one data point in there in particular, I think it said something like when you’ve been around people, are you exhausted after because you’ve taken on all their energy? I don’t feel I’m exhausted. After we talk, I’ll be energized because this is so interesting, so maybe I’m not. Regardless whether you’re an empath or just highly sensitive, the book gives a roadmap for basically anybody who has put their own needs aside and prioritizes other people. You have a whole section on being a doormat. I remember my mom, when I went to sleepaway camp, was like, “Don’t be a doormat.” I was like, okay. Then I literally let all these girls in my bunk use my towels as their doormats. I was like, I am literally being a doormat right here.

Anita: That’s hilarious.

Zibby: I can even picture — they were my mother’s ridiculous green monogram towels with her initials on it. Why did I bring those to camp? You have all these affirmations too. Your soul is so valuable, and to remember why you’re here and that you’re here for a reason. It’s very inspiring. Tell me a little bit about how we can not be doormats, especially because I feel like so many moms in particular just get the brunt of everybody else’s stuff time and time again.

Anita: They do. First of all, I want to talk about how we can not be a doormat, but I just want to say that, yes, you’re right that you don’t have to be an empath to be a doormat. Sensitive people are also doormats, absolutely. This book is for anyone in that range of sensitive all the way to empath. Sensitive people and empaths, they have this susceptibility to be doormats because when you’re sensitive, you know what the other person is feeling. Even if you’re not an empath, even if you’re not feeling what they’re feeling, you know what they’re feeling. You want them to feel good, and so you do it to the detriment of yourself. Also, sensitive people and empaths want to be liked. Again, we sacrifice ourselves in order to be liked by that other person. Those kinds of traits are what leads us to becoming doormats. It matters more what that person thinks of me than what I think of me. That’s the singular trait. Ask yourself, does it matter more what they think of me or what I think of me? The work we have do or the affirmations I give people and everything I speak about is about making yourself matter more.

Now, here’s the thing I want to point out. Sensitive people and empaths seem to think that if we make ourselves matter more, it makes us selfish. Actually, we are the complete opposite of selfish. When you are somebody who is a doormat, when you are a doormat, you are the complete opposite of selfish. Let’s say if the word selfish is on a sliding scale and let’s say on one end of the scale is someone who’s super selfish, narcissistic — whatever we want to put there is on one end of the scale. At the other end of the scale is doormat. You’ve got this sliding scale of doormat. Then the complete opposite of doormat is totally narcissistic-level selfish. With a doormat, their perception of this scale is so skewed. To be healthy, you have to be, let’s say, at the halfway point where you care enough about yourself to be able to take care of yourself, fill your own cup, recharge your own batteries. You have to care about yourself to have self-care so that you’re healthy and strong. Then as a healthy and strong person, you can take care of others. If you’re on the selfish or narcissistic end of the scale, you don’t care about others. You’re only thinking about yourself. You want to get to this halfway point which is the ideal. You want to be able to take care of yourself so that you have enough to give other people.

Doormats are at the bottom end. Their perception of themselves is so skewed that as they start climbing that scale, long before they get to that healthy center point, even if they’re ten, twenty percent up, they go, oh, my god, am I being too selfish? Am I being too selfish? They go back to being doormat. That is what the problem is. Somehow, there’s some programming that’s been engrained in us from the time we’re young where the minute we allow ourselves to receive some goodness in life, we allow ourselves to receive from other people, love, gifts, anything, favors, we’re like, oh, my god, am I being too selfish? This is too much. We start feeling obligated. We start giving back again. We start feeling like, I don’t deserve this. I’m not worthy. Basically, in the book, I reaffirm over and over that you are worthy. You are deserving. Your soul wants you to shine. It wants you to receive. You have to receive. You have to charge your batteries so that you have enough to give and so on and so on.

Zibby: It’s interesting because I think a lot of doormat-y type people may end up — should I theorize this or not? Probably not. You’ve spent a lot more time on this than I have. When doormats are around people who are on more of the narcissistic spectrum, when they start reasserting, when they inch to the left of that scale, the people who are used to them and like them being doormats don’t particularly like it when they get closer. I feel like that’s another reason why it’s hard. Typically, people get used to that. They get used to, not abuse per se, but they get used to taking advantage of that, right?

Anita: Yes, exactly. That is what keeps a doormat a doormat. It’s their fear of, I’m going to say losing love from those people, but it’s not love because someone who truly loves you wants you to shine your light. They want you to be fulfilled and happy. That’s true love. When somebody is only with you because you’re a doormat, that’s not true love. What keeps a doormat a doormat is the fear of losing that relationship. Believe me, I know people personally, a lot of people. I’ve been that person myself. You build the relationship on your being a doormat. Then you realize that, oh, my god, I’ve been a doormat. As soon as you start to step into growing out of doormat-ism, you start to fear you’re losing that relationship. The person says, you’ve changed. Oh, my god, I preferred the old you. What’s happened? What’s going on? You allow that because you’re afraid of losing the relationship. The fear of grieving the relationship is greater than the fear of being a doormat. I bring this to people’s awareness in the book. It is so much more important for you to shine your light and to stop being a doormat and filling yourself up because that’s what your soul wants. That’s what it came here for. What happens is when you allow yourself to do that, it does one of two things. The person that you’re in the relationship with will either find that they need to change in order to hold onto the relationship — they’ll need to change, which then shows you that they really did love you. They’re able to step up. Or they move on because you’re not the person they wanted. You will attract someone who loves you for your light. Either way, it’s a positive outcome.

Zibby: I love this. I love this whole theory and that you wrote a whole book about this. That’s just amazing. Also, is Cosmo still your dog, who knows when you’re a mile from home, or did the dog pass away? I have a dog who I feel like is so hyper-attuned to my emotions. It’s crazy, really, really crazy. All your examples in the book of dogs and their ridiculous powers of intuition just rang so true to me as well.

Anita: Cosmo was my dog for fourteen years. Unfortunately, he’s crossed over. I miss him. He was so perceptive. His moods would reflect my moods. Also, another story I think I shared in the book was back in, I think it was 2005 or 2006, I was living in Hong Kong at that time. In Asia, there was this huge tsunami. It was called the Boxing Day Tsunami. It was the day after Christmas. A lot of people succumbed. Houses were taken. A lot of people died. People in the coastal towns died in a lot of parts of Indonesia. The thing is, what they noticed later, that very, very few animals died in the tsunami. Before the tsunami came, the animals all went for higher ground. They all started moving their way up the hills. I found that to be fascinating when I realized that. The animals are more empathic. Animals are more sensitive. One of the things I talk about in the book is how when you’re young, when you’re intuitive and you sense things, very often the adults around you tell you that it’s your imagination. They diminish what you’re feeling. It’s not treated like it is a real sense, if you will. What I actually speak about in the book is that we have to embrace it as something that is as powerful as our sense of sight and smell and taste and touch. Especially empaths and sensitive people, we need to embrace that we are six-sensory beings. We are not five-sensory beings. We have to stop saying that that is our imagination. If you were to take away that power of intuition away from animals, they wouldn’t survive. Maybe it’s time for us to realize that for our next level of survival we need to embrace that. We need to embrace that it is as strong as our sense of sight and smell and touch and hearing.

Zibby: Yes, I loved your whole part about the sixth sense and its importance. This is so empowering. I find this just super inspirational personally. Thank you. I know we’ve barely talked about the actual writing of this book, but do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Anita: I would say write from your heart and not from your head. If you’re crying while you’re writing, that’s a very good sign. I will also admit — probably, publishers or agents or whatever may not like what I’m saying. I pushed back a lot on what my publishers, editors, things that they said, parts that they circled as being too woo-woo. I was like, no, but this is me. This is my book. This is what I want to say. I pushed back on a lot of things. In the beginning, I was getting pushback for the title. I did change the title once. The original title was Confessions of a Recovering Doormat.

Zibby: I love that.

Anita: I did too, but then a couple of people pointed out to me that it’s not an empowering title because it suggests that you’re still a recovering doormat. I thought, okay, that’s a fair point. I also got pushback on Sensitive is the New Strong, but I held my guns on that because I thought, no, that is what the book is about. What I would advise to budding writers, if you feel strongly about something, don’t compromise on it. When people read your book, they read the energy behind what you’re writing. Don’t be dogmatic. Don’t stick to the rules. That’s what Sensitive is the Strong is about. Share your vulnerability. Share it, and share it proudly and boldly. Make it about you. For me, it was cathartic. If it feels cathartic, it means it’s deep. Then let your editor clean it up for you. You just write. Write from the heart. Then let an editor clean it up, but don’t let them take out or challenge you on the bits that are important to you. That’s my advice.

Zibby: Amazing. I think Confessions of a Recovering Doormat could be a great title for something else like a spinoff podcast or an article. You should do one of those Scribd Originals or something. You should use it. Don’t let it go. I love that this became the title for the book because it is empowering. It’s also a rebranding of anyone who identifies as sensitive, which is great. I loved that. Thank you for the rebrand which I will proudly wear as my own.

Anita: Thank you. I just wanted to touch on something. In the quiz, I mentioned that, do you get drained when you are with a lot of people? I want to qualify that. It depends who the people are. With sensitive people, when they are around people who are also sensitive or on the same wavelength or who are inspiring you and making you feel good, you don’t get drained. Sensitive people are very sensitive to being around people who are very, very depleted with energy. The other piece to that is, however, sensitive people are drawn to helping such people. Then they don’t realize why after helping such people, they feel really drained. This is why it’s so important for sensitive people to learn that it is not selfish to receive. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish to charge your own batteries. It’s not selfish at all because you have this innate tendency to want to give and to help people. Unless you learn to receive and to charge your batteries, you will get drained whenever you help people. You need to create that flow where it’s coming in and you’re able to follow your innate nature of giving. We tend to follow our innate nature of giving, but we tend to have a blockage when it comes to receiving. Somehow, we seem to think, I can’t take this. It’s selfish. As soon as somebody gives you a gift, you’re immediately thinking, how do I repay them? It comes from feeling that we’re not worthy of receiving. The universe is gifting us all the time if only we opened our eyes to receive it.

Zibby: Wow. I’m open. I’m ready. Come on, universe. Anita, thank you. It was so nice to meet you and chat with you about this. Thank you for your book and all of the empowerment for so many people who I know will need it. Thanks.

Anita: Thank you so much for this. I really enjoyed it. I feel uplifted too.

Zibby: Good. There you go. You can feel me.

Anita: I can feel you.

Zibby: Bye. Thank you.

Anita: Bye.


Sensitive Is The New Strong by Anita Moorjani

Purchase your copy on Amazon or Bookshop

You can also listen to this episode on:

Apple Podcasts