I grew up in a household where understanding others and forgiving them for the humane flaws of their characters was the ultimate guideline. Or at least I thought so. Despite my surrounding's intentions, I grew into my personality as an empathetic being, ready to understand, explain, forget and console.
As the years went by however, I realized that I was there for everyone else but myself: I would be under-appreciated by friends, boyfriends and family members and I would always find an excuse for their demeanor. Arrogant in my throne of empathy, I believed of myself as a superwoman, able to work around attacks and to rise above.
I would portray myself as a swan: fighting to keep its head out of the water but looking perfectly refined as it slid on the surface with aplomb. I eventually reached a point where protecting myself and speaking up for what I wanted had become a secondary goal that I thought wasn't worth pursuing. Even to this day, I sometimes need to be reminded of why I should take it upon myself to guard me and react under pressure.
During my university studies, I started continent-hopping from Europe to the United States and backwards for internships and business commitments. Traveling, living and working alone, I realized that it was about time I stopped expecting others to understand and respect me and I started claiming what I thought I was worth of. This is when I came up with two survival skills in order to prevent my empathetic self from taking the best of me. My two realizations included:
1) Being empathetic, I am not a superior being. I am rather an inferior being that works underground to keep things going. I rarely vocalize and address my needs, practically amputating them.
2) If I am able to protect others, I need to think about myself on the third person. I usually feel selfish when I think about what I want. I will thus see myself as another person who needs assistance.
Many magazine articles will stress the importance of developing an empathetic character for personal, professional and social success and they have good reason to do so. My goal through this blog is not to discourage people to understand humans around them and to establish deeper communication bonds between them. It is rather to protect the ones who have lost their sense of self in order to cater to other's needs exactly because of their profound understanding of the latter's psychosynthesis.
Fighting against extremes, it is one's right to temper their empathetic instincts in order to develop a more adamant sense of self. Understanding others, hypothesizing about how they feel and acting accordingly may lay steady grounds for benevolent acts of selflessness. Selflessness and selfishness however should not be placed in an either/or context. Our aim should be to trace and hold on to what lies between these two buildings: one's self, standing alone, without -lessnesses or -ishnesses burdening its stamina. An empathetic being should thus see empathy as a trait of their character rather than their life's mission.