Something that I had never fully embraced.
Something I had always considered a weakness.
It was empathy.
Yes, that was it. Empathy
If someone shares their story I instantly connect with it. I become immersed in the emotions they feel. I emphasize and then feel this drive to find a way to help and support them.
So what’s the big deal about having empathy? Why did I feel the need to keep it hidden?
For me it had always been a big deal.
Throughout my life many of the messages I had received about empathy were ones that implied it was a weakness and that it would hold me back.
Here are some of the common ones.
You don’t need to think about that, that’s their problem.
Don’t let your emotions get in the way.
You shouldn’t care so much about other people.
Just focus on your own life and getting ahead.
The big one: Karen, you just need to toughen up.
The problem was I couldn’t “toughen up” push it aside and look the other way. I would try but it would always be there under the surface reminding me, gnawing away at me. Why didn’t you help Karen? Why did you look the other way?
Then I would rationalize it with the messages I had heard. “It’s not your problem, don’t get involved, that’s just life, they’ll get over it” I would shut myself off from my feelings.
But then I wouldn’t feel good. I would have this underlying feeling of restlessness, like something was missing, I would feel frustrated. Experience a lack of fulfillment in my life.
Finally I figured out what it was with the help of some great mentors in my life. I wasn’t living my truth. I was holding back a part of me that is essential to who I am. So crucial to my wellbeing and living a life of fulfillment and purpose.
So I embraced my empathy.
For the first time in my life I saw it as a gift. I realized feeling empathy for others was not a sign of weakness in fact it was a sign of strength. To take the risk to deeply feel and understand others lives and situations took courage.
It opens your heart up to a whole new world of emotion and feeling. It involves feeling their pain. Sometimes it means feeling helpless because you can’t make it better. Sometimes it involves making hard decisions.
Feeling empathy takes risk.
Taking that risk has changed my life. I have given myself permission to be who I am truly meant to be. I can share my gift with the world without apology. I can help people exactly how I want to and never feel the need to look away again.
We all have parts of ourselves we hold back or hide in our lives. Often because we have been given messages that this part of us is not OK. Our experience of sharing it in the past may have been received with judgment or lack of acceptance.
So we hide it back away where it is safe. We act in a way we think we ‘should” if others are to like us.
Here’s the key. There are plenty of people out there who will love us for exactly who we are. Every part of us. We may have just not found them yet. When we fully express the parts of ourselves we have kept hidden then we will give them the chance to discover us.
If we feel a sense of restlessness in our life, an underlying sense that we just know we have so much more to offer the world it is possible we are holding parts of ourselves back. A part of ourselves that is just waiting to be given permission to shine.
Embracing all parts of who we are starts by asking ourselves these 3 questions:
What parts of me am I holding back from fully sharing with the world?
Have you been told you’re too opinionated so you hold back from sharing what you think in case others will judge you or not like you? Have you been told you’re too nice and need to toughen up or you will get taken advantage of? Have you been judged by how you dress? Or told there is no way you should leave your safe secure career to start your own business.
What are the messages you have received about parts of who you are that has led you to hold them back?
Why do you hold them back?
This is the big question we want to ask ourselves. Why are we holding them back? Here’s a hint. It’s not because someone told us we were too loud or too nice. Usually it is because of how it made us feel when parts of us are judged. That we aren’t’ good enough how we are. That in order to be accepted or liked we need to change. Get clear on what thoughts, feelings or fears come up when we think about sharing those parts of ourselves.
How can you embrace and share those parts of yourself with the world?
This step comes down to finding the courage to start sharing these parts of ourselves with the world. It takes risk. We risk rocking the boat with people in our lives who haven’t seen this part of us before. We risk being judged and criticized for who we are. When we feel those fears ask ourselves the BIG questions. What does it cost me in my life to not live the full expression of who I am?
For me the benefit far outweighs the cost. Yes I get judged and criticized sometimes and that is still a challenge. But I get to live everyday being exactly who I am and who I am meant to be. I get to be the mom I was born to be and do the work that truly fulfills my life purpose. At the end of the day there’s not much more I can ask for!
Karen Steele is a Mom, Entrepreneur & Founder of The Entrepreneurial Working Mom atwww.TheEWorkingMom.comwhere she teaches overwhelmed working moms the confidence, courage and skills to ditch the 9-5 and create a business and life they love for their family. Download Karen’s FREE Training Call “5 Working Mom Secrets to Ditching the9-5 and Creating a Life and B... Follow The Entrepreneurial Working Mom on FACEBOOK.