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Is It All About Me or Am I Showing Empathy?

An acquaintance of mine recently had a heart condition, that led her to be hospitalized. The get well card was circulated around, and I was asked to sign it. I opened the card and glanced through some of the  comments and they were more or less repeats of “Get well soon!” “Hang in there!” “Hope you feel better.” I was kinda late in the game to sign the card so, most of the comments were already taken, or repeated, and I didn’t know what to write so, I put it aside and said I would do it later.

This morning when I was driving into work, I was thinking about what to write and the first thing to pop into my head was, “My friend was recently hospitalized for a heart conditions so, I know how it is and hope you recover soon.” I thought about it and wondered if that comment meant that I was showing empathy, or, if it showed that it was all about me, first. I wasn’t sure.

Then later that day, I ran into an old friend. I knew he had been struggling with stress and trauma the past few months, and he told me that his Doctor put him on Xanax. Again, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Have I taken that drug before?”

My mind started to search for something to say that would help him, or provide advice. Back in the day, I had to dabble many times to find the right medication so, I was running through the list in my head, and realized that no, I had no personal experience to share with my friend. Then I saw fear in his eyes and he said it was in his pocket and he hadn’t taken it yet. My next thought was to make a joke to lighten the mood, and said I recently watched an old episode of the Real Housewives of New York City and one of the characters screamed out, “Take a Xanax! Calm down!!” He laughed a little, and I mentioned that a lot of people are on Xanax these days, and gave some tips on how to manage starting a new medication. Again, was it all about me, or, was I showing empathy?

I have been working on trying to be more vigilant and aware of my thoughts before they come out of my mouth. I have made a conservative effort to think before I speak when it comes to engaging in a conversation. I don’t want to come across as narcissistic, or insecure but, it’s a fine line between when it comes down to showing empathy without it’s all about me mentality. To better help distinguish the two, I have found myself observing other peoples behaviors to see if I can decipher if it’s empathy or not. When I hear someone up someone else in a conversation, that can be more on the insecure or narcissistic side. If someone talks about their kids and how great they’re doing, and the response is about their kids and how better they’re doing then, there you have a narcissist. Or, if I speak with someone that constantly jumps into conversation and cuts people off with their two cents, I find it more to be on the insecure spectrum.

So now I find myself at a cross roads. I want to provide insight, help, and support without coming across not manifesting those intentions but, it’s hard, especially when the first thing in my mind goes to me. I have to make a conservative effort to check myself to make sure my thoughts stem from a good empathetic place.

But, bottom line, it is a fine line, and one to walk mindfully.

Maybe that’s the answer to all this, so now I have to go back to practicing mindfulness, great.

Is It All About Me or Am I Showing Empathy?

Erica Loberg


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APA Reference
Loberg, E. (2018). Is It All About Me or Am I Showing Empathy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/manic-depression/2018/05/09/is-it-all-about-me-or-am-i-showing-empathy/

 

Last updated: 10 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 May 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.