When we are low on self-esteem and in a bad place, it is easy to want to give up on our project, challenge, or even our whole entrepreneurial dream. Only when our friends, clients, or even strangers are in that place we keep on trying to save them, even without an invitation.
Because we want to live our lives with empathy and compassion. The ideals we all strive for. We want to teach our children how to be empathetic and compassionate, or we train ourselves how to have more patience, understanding for others. Maybe we are somehow more sensitive by nature, more receptive to recognizing other people’s needs and feelings, or maybe life circumstances, family dynamics simply made us “small” helpers and caregivers.
I love empathy, I consider it very important.
I don’t like people who are not empathetic and in whom it is difficult for me to penetrate that minimal dose of empathy. Yes, today’s world needs more empathetic people. That empathy sounds so great that we just can’t find anything bad in it. I have the impression that it is becoming the ideal of our society and setting before us new standards of education and living. I agree and it should definitely be so.
On the other hand, if we are going to talk about all the benefits of empathy, then we should also talk about the other side of the coin. Which we do not want to talk about, which we are not aware of, or which we skillfully suppress from ourselves.
Empathy without boundaries is pure destruction.
Empathy, if at the same time it does not imply self-compassion and taking care of ourselves 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, that is if you do not know how to give the same in any shape or form to yourself.
And I’m telling you this from a completely personal experience.
Empathy without boundaries will impair your health, relationships, and self-esteem. Empathy without boundaries will tire you, exhaust you and lead you to indifference, sadness, and helplessness. Empathy without boundaries is a reflection of carelessness about oneself, one’s own needs, feelings, and thoughts.
Empathy without boundaries is sometimes a sign that it is easier for us to deal with others instead of ourselves. Empathy without boundaries can also be a sign of low self-esteem, lack of faith in ourselves that we can be loved and appreciated if we are not always at the service of others.
Empathy, if it does not imply compassion for yourself in the process, that is, paying attention to what is happening inside you while you are there for others, certainly leads you to burnout, compassion fatigue, or emotional exhaustion.
How can we take care of ourselves while helping others?
By working on awareness of our own emotional, mental, physical state when we are in the role of someone who gives empathy to another.
By keeping in mind that we need to continually turn our attention back to ourselves and our inner world. In that way, we will notice when we need to mentally, emotionally distance ourselves and take a deep breath and a deep exhale first for ourselves, or simply to clearly tell the person that we no longer have the capacity to listen to her story. It’s not selfish – it’s honest. It is selfish to cling to the image of yourself as unconditional empathic support based on false values, first of all, because often we suppress anxiety, fatigue, or frustration… but all just not to distort the image of ourselves as an unconditionally empathetic friend.
When you are better for yourself, then you are better for others. Then that empathy is HONEST. By learning to give compassion and empathy to ourselves… not to seek validation of our own value through helping others, but to realize what need is in me unfulfilled so it is always important for me to be there for others and to feed on the idea that I’m helping everyone…
Is that the need to be appreciated, respected, loved?
How would it be that instead of putting myself at everyone’s disposal until I burn out completely, I learn to give myself support and recognition to appreciate, respect, and love myself just the way I am… without having to look for that value by helping so that they’ll tell me that I am a wonderful friend, mother, colleague…
When we learn to be our best friend, support, encouragement….
When we dare to ask, not just give…
When we learn how to give empathy without it endangering us…
Sharing my personal experience helps others to see that change is possible and gives others permission to go through their own transformative process. And not for it to serve to fulfill our own unmet needs, only then can we be truly sincerely empathetic friends, parents, colleagues, and most importantly – people. Be there for yourself, so you can be there for your clients and beloved ones.