Empaths & Toxic Social Circles

S. E. Wigget
6 min readAug 4, 2023

If you’re an empath who went for decades without knowing about boundaries and without knowing you were people-pleasing, maybe you have a history of being the scapegoat in circles of “friends.”

A bonfire in a friend’s backyard.

If so, you didn’t know any better. Maybe you were so accustomed to being bullied and generally treated without respect that you resigned yourself to being stuck associating with assholes or being alone.

Those perpetual playground bullies (PPBs) aren’t your real friends. It’s better to be alone than to associate with people who bizarrely believe it’s your duty to be their verbal and psychological punching bag. (That not only applies to “friends” but also to relatives, by the way.)

Post-college in my twenties, I was part of a social circle that even then didn’t feel like a circle of friends to me — or more accurately, it felt like I was an outsider hanging out with a circle of empathy-challenged friends. I considered most of them “friends of a friend.” No matter how many years passed by, I continued to think of them as friends of a friend or acquaintances, not friends. In that social circle, I felt barely tolerated.

I’m not sure if I even admitted to myself that I disliked these friends-of-a-friend. It was common enough for them to verbally gang up on me. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have associated with them. I was trying to fit in with that crowd because they were in fandom — attending sf/fantasy/horror conventions. Some were in the SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronisms, which I joined for two years — only to find myself socially awkward and out of place.

In recent years, I’ve figured out that I’m a neurodivergent empath. Add that to being femme, and it’s obvious now why I constantly attracted bullies before I reached my forties and became mostly invisible.

After graduating from college, I lost touch with feminist and queer classmates. I tended to assume that if I reached out and attempted to keep in touch with people, it meant I was being a nuisance. When I did have a letter-writing correspondence with someone, the other person was invariably the one who stopped writing back — supporting my assumption that I was being a nuisance.

In hindsight, after graduating I should have actively sought the company of other feminists with a…

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S. E. Wigget

Outside Medium, I mostly write fiction, especially paranormal and historical fantasy, under either S. E. Wigget or Susan E. Wigget. WhimsicalWords.Substack.com