By: Sherry Levine, Regular Contributor
I’ve always been a big believer in the good of having empathy. But I didn’t always know what empathy was. I remember at a young age feeling like I could physically feel how people were feeling. I could easily put myself in someone else’s shoes. I wanted to see through their eyes and imagine how I would feel in their situation. I wanted to defend them. I didn’t think this was anything special. I didn’t think it was anything important. It was just a feeling, an understanding I guess you could call it. It was just me.
It wasn’t until I started coming in contact with people who lacked this empathy, this understanding and ability to see through another person’s eyes, that I realized maybe it was special. But not only special, important. Now I’m not calling myself special by any means. There are many special qualities I lack that other people have. But I guess this instinctual ability, but also desire to fully encompass another person’s feelings, beliefs and even journey, was special in its rarity.
As I came across people with an utter lack and non-desire to have empathy for someone else, and as I realized how this lack affected people’s relationships with others and relationships with themselves, I became aware that in fact, being empathetic could lend a person more happiness, peace and content. More perhaps than other characteristics. I started to see other’s who were so trapped by their own views, their own feelings and their own point of views, struggle. Struggle in relationships with their friends and their families. Struggle in the world.
Of course we all struggle now and again. I mean, life sometimes seems like one big struggle. But if I have learned anything in my short time on this planet thus far, it is that empathy will set you free. Free from the overwhelming world inside your own head. Free from the criticism you put onto yourself. Free from the judgments you put onto others. Free from the hate. Free from the loneliness. And it will open the doors to a different kind of love for those around you. If we spent half as much time doing good for others as we do thinking about ourselves, I truly believe we’d be happier. This means having compassion, tolerance, patience and acceptance. When you look at someone and just say, “I get it.”
Empathy is when you finally learn that you are not the only organism on this planet, human in this world, employee in your company, friend in your city, or teen lying in bed every night. When you finally realize you don’t need to be the center of attention, the world doesn’t revolve around you, that your problems aren’t the only problems on earth, that you may be able to fit yourself nicely into this world as a human being ALSO trying to live a fulfilled life, like everyone else. When you start to realize that doing things for others and understanding other people in the world will actually give you a better outlook on life. This understanding and desire to help others will make you feel better inside.
Empathy for others is the key. Understanding someone else’s problems as if they were your own. Understanding the journey of a fellow person--where they came from, what they have learned, what they may not know, how they may feel, and how they may react.
It’s not all about you. It’s about everyone. Take a step back and remember that you are living in a world with billions of other humans JUST LIKE YOU, with billions of their own problems, hopes and dreams. Next time you get caught up in your own mind, thinking about your own problems and your own world, snap out of it, turn to a friend, remove yourself and your own needs and wants, and just empathize.
Alan Covey once said something that simplified all of this beautifully. He said,
“The deepest need of the human heart is to be listened to.”
Remember guys, we need each other.
I am Sherry Levine. A 26-year-old woman committed to supporting and inspiring women in any way I can. With my contributions to I AM THAT GIRL and my life-coaching program Generation Teen, designed to provide guidance to everyday teen girls, it is my mission to encourage and empower all women to create the happiest and most fulfilling life possible.
Featured image via firstworldfacts.com