In yesterday’s reading, we were provided the simple (yet difficult to execute) message of using empathy as an opportunity for our own self-expression. In Raise Self Esteem with the Lifeblood of Empathy, Bolton (2009) refers to empathy as lifeblood. When someone takes the time and effort to understand our emotions, to understand our side of a situation, it breathes new life into our hopes, into the energy we use surrounding everything. We feel understood. We feel validated.
And just like that the opposite is true when we come across someone that offers no empathy in their interactions. We feel disconnected. We may internalize the experience as something negative we did or are currently doing. Or we may find the person off-putting, wanting to limit our interactions with them.
A simple search on the importance of empathy returns millions of results touching just about every aspect of our lives. There are tips on how to develop your empathy, how to use empathy in situations, how to tell if someone has no empathy, etc. However, most of the information is wanting us to use empathy to understand others. The question is how do we also use it for our own internal self-improvement as well?
In 4 Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself and Build Self-Empathy, Brandt (2018) states that we need to forgive ourselves for our misgivings. This isn’t a get out of jail free card. This is accepting that we all make mistakes and there will be times in our lives where we don’t do the things that we should, for whatever reason. The thing is, we shouldn’t hold onto that. We should acknowledge it, we should take responsibility for it, and then we should realize that we are human and we make mistakes. BUT…those mistakes don’t have to define the rest of our lives.
This self-forgiveness also goes hand-in-hand with eliminating self-judgment. Our worse critic, most often than not, is ourselves. Unfortunately, each time we nitpick and criticize and ridicule ourselves we slowly but surely start limiting our own self-expression. We start censoring who we are and how we act and what we say. We starting fearing what others will think about us, what they will say about us. The thing is that we don’t even realize it. How can we expect others to be kind to us, to respect us in the way that they should, when we don’t even do that for ourselves?
Take the time to understand where you are coming from. Take the time to explore your own emotions, your own feelings. Take the time to acknowledge that when you make mistakes, it is part of your journey to learn. Don’t let self-doubt, self-judgment, and fear dampen your self-expression.