It’s another day and you’ve continued the journey down life’s precarious highway. Those who know you best, know how much you deeply care about each and every individual that you encounter. Knowing you, is to know an individual with tremendous empathy, compassion, and unconditional love. It’s the passion, within compassion, that is often the common thread that weaves throughout such a personality. Your empathy often knows no limits, but this can prove as a hinderance to your own maturation and ability to thrive. Individuals with this type of personality are often at odds with their own needs versus the needs of others.
Please understand that empathy is not an exclusive attribute of empathic individuals. Rather, empathic individuals often have a core mechanism within them that accelerates this feature of the human condition. So what is empathy? It’s the cognitive ability of immersing yourself into an event, situation, circumstance or the life of another. Plainly speaking, it’s about having unrequested compassion for someone else. Ultimately, empathy is about meeting someone where they are at.
How does someone cultivate or refine their own level of empathy? Dr. Jamil Zaki of Stanford University describes empathy as “our ability to share and understand one another’s feelings—a psychological ‘superglue’ that connects people and undergirds cooperation and kindness.” (The Economist, 2019). It’s the ability of understanding that we need to be more engaged and showing more unrestricted care to those around us. As a clinician, I have met individuals who sincerely believe that empathy is predetermined, hardwired, and decided at birth. Fortunately, empathy is not predetermined, hardwired or decided at the moment of your birth. In fact, research suggests that you are not restricted to the level of empathy that you currently retain within your person. Empathy is pliable, amenable, and capable of being changed.
As a natural empath, I have had to learn the careful balance of giving versus depleting your own natural reservoir. It’s the ability of knowing when you are offering of yourself versus sacrificing yourself. Please understand me that it is not always easy for someone who genuinely yearns to serve others. It’s not natural for those who have a deeply woven spirit that thrives to serve. To deny this aspect of oneself feels like a rejection of thy inner-self, but the truth is, we must all learn the necessity of balance and personal selfcare.
As a clinical psychologist, I have worked with other empaths on managing and bringing balance to their own lives. Again, it’s not easy when we have a heart to serve and be of service. While empathy is a gateway of service, we must also lead by example. For after all, how good is someone’s service if they are no longer capable of serving? It’s not about the rejection of others or their personal needs, but rather, it’s about balance of the preservation of one’s own life, health and overall wellbeing. It’s about recognizing that you have your own limits and personal needs.
Self-care is essential! It is of the utmost importance that we practice self-care in our home and in our daily lives. What good are we if we sacrifice our own life, personal health and wellbeing? Attending to your personal needs is exemplifying the best attributes and role modeling unto others. It’s ultimately about being an example unto others. Self-care is not self-centered or selfish, it’s about offering aid to yourself when you are feeling depleted. It’s about ensuring that your reservoir is full and that you have an adequate supply when serving others.
What is self-care? Self-care is the practice of being consciously aware of your needs and taking the necessary steps to preserve or improve your overall personal health. It is the ability of recognizing your essential needs. It’s the ability of recognizing when you have had enough. Fundamentally, it’s about knowing what you require to rejuvenate and feel refreshed. Research suggests that those who experience burnout, or report burnout, have had many signs and symptoms developing long before they are recognized. What does this suggests? It suggests that we must be better stewards of our own health and personal wellbeing. Remember that whether as a practitioner or a patient we must be diligent not only to look after the needs and wellbeing of others, but we should be looking after our own needs as well.
Self-awareness is one of the greatest instruments that an empath has on hand. It is through our self-awareness that we are constantly observing, interacting and experiencing life. We must understand that self-awareness begins by being cognitively aware, attentive and knowing our own person. It is through self-awareness that we are capable of understanding the essential needs and issues of others, as well as, our own.
Whether or not you identify as an empath, it’s important that each individual practice a balanced life. A balanced life may appear different in each life that it encounters. Yet, there is a common and consistent truth, life is about centeredness and balance. It’s about consuming as much good, as the negative, that will assuredly come our way. We must constantly monitor our own needs and our overall welfare, while serving others. Even if, our work does not allow us to work directly with others, we must strive to maintain a balanced life. So what does it mean to have a balanced life? A balanced life is about achieving a particular synergy in life. It’s about equipping your life with the proper support mechanisms that will enable you to live a healthy, productive and fulfilled life. It’s about recognizing those areas of your life that deplete your reserves and those that replenish them. It’s about utilizing tools that will enrich your life like daily breathing,
meditation, journaling, exercise, and a healthy diet. Ultimately, life is about living, thinking, and feeling healthy.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA