Understanding empathing

Recently I found myself thinking about someone else’s problem. It was really frustrating but I kept thinking about what I would do if it was me.

From my perspective and experience, this person wasn’t handling the problem in a way that was helpful to them. I felt this way because time had passed and they had taken little to no action to solve the issue. What they were talking about was pretty much the exact same problem they had months before.

At first I thought what I needed to do was be really clear with them about what I thought would help when they asked me for advice and remind them of this when they were getting caught up in the issue.

But then I reminded myself that this wasn’t my issue to solve, so even if I did happen to be ‘right’, I needed to just allow this person to make their own choices without worrying about the outcome.

Even though I knew all this, I still couldn’t understand why it was all bothering me so much. Then it clicked.

I was over-empathing. I wanted to help the person avoid a ‘bad’ outcome. On the surface this may not seem like a bad thing. However, we don’t need to feel other peoples feelings and take on their problems as our own, it’s unhealthy and unhelpful

There is a vast difference between understanding someone is having a hard time and offering them support and burdening yourself with another issue to the point where you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

I think it’s important to be aware of what we’re actually doing when we respond to things because you may have good intentions and you may think that you’re being helpful but you might just be over-empathing.

Meet your own needs

Sometimes we put our expectations and ideals on other people without considering the other persons own wants and needs. We feel empowered when other people meet our expectations and ideals.

This is fine when things go our way. However, it is important to be able to accept that the other person is entitled to their own expectations and ideals too.

Sometimes they won’t align with yours which may lead to them saying no instead of yes. This can result in a form of tantrum behaviour.

The thing is though, even though you want what you want, it’s not healthy to want it at the expense of the other person.

It’s not healthy to want another person to be miserable, inconvenienced or go against their own needs just so you can have your way. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with asking for what you want.

You just have to keep in mind that you might not get that from the person you’re asking it of. But I believe that it is so important to give people the space to be themselves instead of trying to force them to follow your expectations and ideals.

And sometimes the best thing you can do is stop putting your stuff on other people and meet your own needs.

Bridging the gap

There is a gap between our wants and our actions.

For example, the gap between wanting to do better and actually doing better.

I believe that there is a always a gap but by putting in the effort little by little you’re able to bridge the gap. However, their is also the danger of falling into the gap by becoming inconsistent, uncommitted and making excuses. Essentially, your actions are no longer aligned with the things you say you want.

An example of this could be if your want is to become healthier but your action is eating chocolate cake for breakfast instead of something to provide nourishment to your body.

When you know what you want the focus should be on bridging the gap. Reflect on if the actions you’re taking are bringing you closer to where you want to be. Now this doesn’t mean never eating chocolate cake again but it probably means you shouldn’t be eating it everyday.

Chocolate cake for breakfast

Chocolate cake for breakfast is a great idea in the moment. It’s sweet, chocolatey and tastes great.

But if you’re working towards becoming someone that is healthier and eats more nourishing food then you might not want to make a habit of it.

It’d be like saying you want to stay dry then going outside in the rain.

But if that is not something you are working towards then it doesn’t really matter what you have for breakfast.

Is now the time for productivity?

Instead of questioning whether or not you should be maximizing your productivity at this time, it might be more useful to check in with how you feel.

If you spend 3 weeks watching netflix, how will you feel?

If you spend 3 weeks working yourself to the bone, how will you feel?

Chances are you won’t feel great doing either.

As much as it is good to rest you’ll also feel good doing things. Whether that is one task a day like reading x chapters of a book, decluttering a room in your house or starting an online course.

But you don’t need to compete or try and milk this time for all it’s worth. It’s healthy to rest and it’s healthy to do things. You just need to figure out what works for you and go with it.