Although they subtly differ in terms of impact, empathy and sympathy are both abilities of expressing our concern for others. They are two of the few foundations in making, maintaining and strengthening relationships. Empathy and sympathy are essential to social interactions—in communication. They are needed in everyday life, or in living life itself.
What is Sympathy and Empathy?
Sympathy is the ability to feel what another person does. It is merely the recognition of the emotional hardship being dealt with by everyone. It does not matter whether it alleviates the pain or not. Simply, sympathy is feeling bad for the misfortunes of people.
Empathy, on the other hand, goes beyond sympathy, in context and in depth. More than just recognition, it is reflecting how others are feeling and experiencing their emotions as if they were your own. Rejoicing when people are happy, and weeping when other people mourn. It’s basically shared humanity; a selfless act.
To further elaborate sympathy and empathy, imagine yourself walking down a sidewalk. As you were walking, you noticed an old man begging for alms. If you have chosen to toss a coin or maybe put a dollar bill inside his tin can because you feel sorry for his condition, then you have just shown sympathy. If you have opted, with the intent to give comfort, to chat with or maybe give the beggar a hug because you have somehow felt his situation as if you were the one suffering, then that is empathy.
What is the problem with being an “empathizer”?
“Empathizers” are like human sponges. They can absorb all sorts of emotions in almost every situation they are soaked in. It is also like going through a mirror-like-effect in everything that they see and feel. In terms of dealing with the emotions of people, empathy is highly regarded as the best way to ease the pain
The problem with being an “empathizer” lies within taking in much negative energies—i.e. pain and suffering—from others. Such energies make them too emotional, thus affecting their other abilities—i.e. esteem and creativity flow—and keeps them from performing well. Therefore, in acquiring the negativity of other people, empathy is disadvantageous to “empathizers” as much as it is advantageous to help others.
Knowing what and how to respond to people’s feelings is an important social ability. As an “empathizer”, assessing how empathizing will affect you as an individual is another ability you must learn as a way of attending to your own emotional health. Learning WHEN to respond to the negativity of others is an
essential tool, because your emotions can affect every aspect of your life—especially the mental and the spiritual.
Here are five ways to avoid absorbing the negativity from others:
1.Learn not to please everyone.
Do not expect that everyone can be like you. Not everyone empathizes with other people. Stop fixating on the thought that other people will understand you the way you understand them; or at least try to make them like you. This will deeply draw you into other people’s negative field and will only make you live like a slave to everyone else’s opinion.
Do not expect that everyone will like you. If you hear complaints or any form of disregard about you from others, always bear
in mind that not everyone is going to like every bit of you—and
that there’s nothing wrong with this! Everyone has preferences regarding who to like or hate. Learn how to love or please yourself first before anyone else. This will help you avoid burning yourself out from thinking what others might say about you.
2. Know when it’s time to say “NO” .
Generosity is a good trait, but being too “giving” to others exposes your vulnerability and people might take advantage of that. It is not your obligation to give comfort to anyone! Saying
“no” to situations that will make your emotional health in distress is totally valid. Most importantly, saying “no” is sometimes the best way to let others know what kind of treatment you want to receive from them. Life is not always about giving.
Establish when it’s time to say “yes” and “no” to every situation. Draw a line between those people you would like to have in your life and the ones that you think will ruin every aspect of your life. Learn how to say “NO” whenever there’ s a need to.
3. Stop being a problem solver for anyone.
Empathy is always in demand. Everyone who’s having a bad day seeks the company of “empathizers” because it is useful for them. Although it is emotionally uplifting to help others, the amount of emotions you put into listening to your friends just to provide a “solution” to their problems will exhaust all of your energy. Worse, you will find that most of their problems are left unsettled despite everything. They will be too dependent on the fact that they have you to fix their issues time and time again. Instead of
helping them stand on their own, you are actually giving them the consent to be incapable of dealing with their own.
It is not your duty to fix everyone’s misery, nor should you be held accountable for the many reasons how they ended up miserable. Everyone is responsible for his/her own happiness. It is satisfying to lend a hand to those in need of being heard, cared or loved, but filter the people that you give your support to. If you find that those in need of your help are draining you out, learn how to shun them away as soon as possible. Turn
around and walk away.
Sometimes it is best to just simply offer sympathy to those who are just leeching around other people’s emotional stability. Sometimes it is worthwhile to say “We all have our own dramas! Take it as how a grown-up should”–and there’s actually nothing wrong with this “mean” attitude.
4. Always seek for inner peace.
Sometimes, all you have to do is to have your “me-time”- a place where you can contemplate, be yourself and just breathe. Take a break from work for a day or two. Dine alone in your favorite restaurant. Shop all you want for hours. It is your call where and when to spend your breather. It is essential for all of us to find our inner peace for it flushes all the heavy and annoying negative vibes out of our system.
Social interaction gives a spectrum of energies and most of them are just too much of a burden. Imagine the simplicity nature offers—the peace it has for us. For instance, think of how the wind blows without a definite goal and harmoniously sweeps across the horizon. Find peace in silence. BREATHE IN POSITIVITY!
5. No one is responsible but YOU.
You alone are responsible for your own happiness and consequently, you are the one to be blamed in case you have an emotional breakdown. Have confidence in who you are. Appreciate what you are. Always remember that how you see yourself weighs more than how others see you. You don’t live your life on the basis of receiving the approval of others.
The moment you choose to be responsible for yourself and what you feel will you realize that you have finally set yourself free from the bigotry of others. Empathy is a choice and an ability. As such, you can always opt to apply it or not. It’s okay to empathize and to put yourself in the shoes of other people as long as you know how to “cleanse (remove negative energy)”and take care of yourself after.
Take control of your life! Make your life worth living!