Try on Some New Shoes
January to September. That is a long hiatus. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how quickly that length of time had passed, but as is life. Life has a tendency of taking the day to day and flipping it on your head in just a moment. One minute you are looking through things coming up with a life plan, putting it into action, and the next you’re changing that whole plan. In case I wasn’t being vague enough, that is exactly what happened in my life. Thankfully, the change in my life was a long awaited change and will be coming into our lives within a month in the form of a sleepy, squiggly, hungry, little baby!
The reason I’ve been reluctant to post about this is due to how long we struggled with getting pregnant and I know that so many people struggle with this issue as well. During this time, I should have continued with lifestyle type posts, the problem I kept running into was that my brain was just so wrapped up with other thoughts, preparing for our new arrival, and adjusting to all the changes I was physically experiencing that posting really took a back seat. In this post, I’m not going to delve into our fertility struggle or how wide spread the issue has become, so then, what to write about in a first post after such a long hiatus? Let’s go with…how big life changes can impact, consume, and completely change our lives (maybe in another post, as that will probably get lengthy), but more importantly I want to talk about the role of empathy.
One morning, any morning, evening, afternoon, or just any moment something can happen, shift, or change that will impact your life temporarily or permanently. In these moments one of the most crucial qualities you can have in your tool-belt is empathy. Life isn’t about comparing yourself to others or trying to one up someone else, but it is important to remember that we are all experiencing life at the same time and we will all be impacted by it differently. Each person struggles with something with a private battle that you will never be privy to fully understand. The best thing you can do is to attempt to put yourself into another person’s shoes, even on your worst day. You may have just received the best news of your life, while someone else is experiencing a loss. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may have lost someone, while someone else is in the process of or has lost multiple someone’s. This is also one of the reasons why I don’t ask people when they are going to have children because I know firsthand how difficult that question can be to stomach. It really has always intrigued me that most people feel completely entitled to every intimate detail of everyone else’s life and will become offended when being politely told that it is a topic you would rather not discuss.
Empathy and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes are not skills that everyone inherently just has at their disposal and must be learned. So let’s try to walk through what that learning process could look like! Mind you, I’m not an expert on these matters, but these are some steps I have taken over the years to hone try and hone these skills or to put myself in check when I feel like I’m taking someone in my life for granted.
Listening and being an active listener can be a huge first step in this process. Are you someone who tends to interrupt when someone is telling a story or are you someone who will patiently listen and then ask questions when the story teller is finished? If you’re an active interrupter, then the next time you’re talking with someone and you get the urge to interject with a fact about your life or to offer (unsolicited) advice, count to five and force yourself to hold your tongue. This can be one of the most difficult skills to master as we naturally just want to help fix everyone’s problems and it can be difficult to accept that people just need to vent and be heard. After a few conversations like this, it will feel more natural to listen and just provide advice and feedback only when it is requested.
Once you’ve become a better listener, then you can try another step. After you have listened to a story from someone going through a difficult time or you can listen to a story on the news, break it down in your head. This step may be easiest to do when you’re by yourself in a quiet environment. Once you’re in your quiet environment, go ahead and start breaking down the story in your head. You can do this by thinking of how the events unfolded that created the situation or you could simply just try to envision that same story using the people, places, and things in your own life. Did you hear a news story about a nasty accident that severely injured someone and they are talking about how their life is now different? Now, this part is where it can be upsetting, but I find that it is valuable. Picture that the news story was about you. Picture how you would have felt during the accident, after the accident, and during the recovery process. What emotions would you have felt? How would you react towards the people in your life who would reach out or try to help you during the process? How would you feel about the person who caused your life to change? This process can be difficult, though it does help you in the process of being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes or at least change your thought process in some way to consider how you impact the people you come across.
After you have taken these few steps, try to apply them in your everyday interactions. As you’re listening to a friend tell you about their day try to think about how you would have felt if you’re day went the same way. You may even find this can help you to be happier for your friends during their highs and be able to provide a more compassionate shoulder during their lows. Hopefully, with putting out a more empathetic vibe into the world, you may find that others grant you the same curtesy.
I hope that this post will help you in some little way to try and embrace some empathy and be a little kinder to everyone you interact with throughout your life. Take the time each day to apply that same empathy to yourself as well and realize that we tend to be our own harshest critic.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope that it will help you in some small way. Remember to take a moment and smile!