Most of us know what empathy is, right? It’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s being able to feel what they might be feeling or to understand their perspective by relating in some way to their experience. And, of course, it’s a valuable tool to have in your personal growth tool belt.
Being empathetic allows you to put the brakes on judging others. It allows you to engage in even the most difficult social interactions with compassion and grace.
If you lack empathy, you’ll likely bristle at the perspectives of other people who see things differently than you or you’ll be closed off to new experiences that don’t aline with your own feelings. What’s more, you may even find yourself closed off to deepening your connection with others because you just can’t relate.
That’s why it’s such a valuable tool. Empathy sets you up to learn and love.
Yet, while I think having empathy towards others is important, I also think it’s just as important, maybe even more so, that you have empathy for yourself.
So what is self-empathy? It’s allowing yourself to feel all of your feelings without judgement, while also having compassion for yourself as you express those feelings. It’s giving yourself grace when you make mistakes. It’s choosing to go easy on yourself for not being perfect, realizing you’re only human and you’re probably doing the best you can at any given moment.
Truthfully, it’s deepening your connection to your best, truest self – it’s blossoming.
And the good news is, practicing the regular old empathy you know and love can help you get better at self-empathy. The more you open yourself up to the experiences of others, the more you’re able to see we are all living a shared human experience with the same threads of pain and joy running through each and every life.
In that way, empathy is like a mirror. You look out into the world and you see yourself reflected back at you. And, in this reflection, you find peace in knowing you’re not alone.
Now, self-empathy should not be conflated with self-pity or self-aggrandizement. I’m not asking you to wallow in victimhood or to turn this into some “I can do no wrong” ego trip. If you’re struggling, seek help. If you’re wrong, admit it.
But treat yourself with dignity in the process – the same dignity you would extend to someone else who was suffering or made a mistake.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you determine whether you are currently practicing self-empathy:
- When I make a mistake, do I chastise myself or do I forgive myself?
- Do I find it easy to discern my own feelings, or is my awareness of my feelings fuzzy?
- Do I feel guilty for feeling certain feelings, or am I able to see all feelings as neutral?
- Do I judge myself for not being stronger or smarter, or do I have an appreciation of myself just as I am?
- Do I judge myself for not “having it all together,” or do I clearly see the unfairness of this expectation?
- Do I speak to myself with kind words, or do I speak to myself with mean, hateful words?
- Do I seek help for my struggles, or do I tell myself to “get over it”?
After reading these questions, you may realize the degree to which you lack self-empathy, but this is actually a great opportunity to begin practicing it! You can start today by simply having empathy for yourself as you open your awareness to this new idea. It’s not easy or natural at first. But I promise, if you continue to practice self-empathy, you’ll watch a more peaceful version of yourself unfold.
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