Empathy and compassion. Ideals we all strive for. We want to teach our children to be empathetic and compassionate, or we train ourselves to have more patience and understanding for others. Perhaps we are naturally more sensitive, more receptive to recognizing the needs and emotions of others. Or perhaps life circumstances, family dynamics have simply made us “little” helpers.
I love empathy, I consider it very important.
I dislike people who lack empathy and in whom it is difficult for me to find that minimal dose of empathy. Yes, today’s world needs more empathetic people. Empathy sounds so wonderful that we simply can’t find anything wrong with it. It seems to become the ideal of our society, setting new standards for upbringing and living. I agree, and it definitely should be that way.
On the other hand, if we’re going to talk about all the benefits of empathy, then we should also talk about the other side of the coin. The side we don’t want to talk about, of which we are not aware or which we skillfully suppress and deny in ourselves.
Empathy without boundaries is pure destruction. Empathy, if it does not include self-compassion and self-care in the process, is not sustainable and will not last forever.
Why? You can’t pour from an empty cup. You cannot give love, understanding, time, and effort if your capacities are limited, if you don’t know how to give the same to yourself in any form or shape.
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I’m telling you this from my personal experience.
Empathy without boundaries will harm your health, relationships, and self-esteem. Empathy without boundaries will exhaust and drain you, leading you to indifference, sadness, and powerlessness. Empathy without boundaries is a reflection of neglecting yourself, your own needs, feelings, and thoughts.
Empathy without boundaries is sometimes a sign that it’s easier for us to deal with others instead of dealing with ourselves. Empathy without boundaries can also be a sign of low self-esteem, a lack of faith in ourselves that we can be loved and respected even if we are not always empathetically available.
Empathy, if it does not include self-compassion and care for yourself in the process, paying attention to what is happening within you while you are there for others, will undoubtedly lead you to burnout, empathic fatigue, or emotional exhaustion.
How can we change that?
By working on:
Becoming aware of your own emotional, mental, and physical state when you are in the role of giving empathy to others.
By keeping inmind that we need to continually redirect our attention back to ourselves and our inner world. In doing so, we will notice when we need to mentally and emotionally distance ourselves, take a deep breath and exhale deeply, first and foremost for ourselves, or simply communicate clearly to the person that we no longer have the capacity to listen to their story. This is not selfish – it is honest. Selfishness is clinging to the image of ourselves as unconditional empathetic support based on false values, primarily because you are struggling inside with anxiety, fatigue, or suppressed frustration… but all to maintain the image of yourself as an unconditionally empathetic friend.
When you are better for yourself, you are better for others. That’s when empathy is GENUINE. By learning to give compassion and empathy to ourselves… not seeking validation of our worth through helping others, but rather becoming aware of what unfulfilled need within us makes it so important for us to be there for others and to nourish ourselves by helping everyone.?
Is it the need to be appreciated, respected, loved?
How about instead of cramming ourselves to be available to everyone until we burn out, we learn to support ourselves and acknowledge that we appreciate, respect, and love ourselves just the way we are… without the need to seek that value by helping everyone and having everyone tell us that we are wonderful friends, mothers, colleagues…
When we learn to be our own greatest friend, support, anchor…
When we dare to ask and not just give…
When we learn how to give empathy without jeopardizing ourselves…
Or using it to compensate for our own unmet needs, only then can we truly be genuinely empathetic friends, parents, colleagues, and most importantly – human beings.
If you need help on your path to becoming your own greatest support, please contact me and schedule a free consultation at: [email protected]
Read also the story A Glimpse of Light in the Dark World
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