Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From closed to open

Sometimes I get asked the question, "Why are you focusing on empathy, and building up connections with other people?" I used to be a self-reliant person, and I rarely wanted to reach out. "So what's the difference now?"

I talk to them about when I saw this video about empathy and outrospection. I connected with his message, partially because I remember a time many years ago when I followed the self-help movement.


In my twenties, I was not happy. I didn't like my job. It was fun and inspiring (which was great!) but it was also part time, didn't pay well and had no future prospects (not so great). I felt scared; I wanted things to change but was afraid of making bad decisions. I didn't want to admit I had failed. I thought, "Let me try reading a 'self-help' book, then if I made a mistake, I can figure it out without telling anyone."

All of the books I read (and I read a few) seemed to be saying the same thing; they all told me to look inward, and find my center. I was to look inside myself and see my true nature - only then would I learn to follow my heart. According to these book authors, I was a golden star of shining light, and if I nurtured my soul I would be able to polish that star to a gleaming glow, and to find what I needed inside myself. Now in my forties I look back and think, what a load of crap. :)

Not that I'm not a golden star of shining light, or anything, but if I had the solution inside myself I would have done it already. I wasn't lost. I was just unhappy and full of fear of making the wrong choice.

It took me several years of working at that job and reading those books and looking inside myself before I realized I wasn't getting anywhere. It was a growing moment for me; I stopped looking in and instead reached out, to talk about my concerns and share my feelings. I remember I was so embarrassed, and scared, I could hardly get the words out (cough, cough, hack!). I couldn't look my friends in the eye but I did talk, and they listened to me. They made me feel safe, and made me realize it was okay to move forward. Only after that day was I able to be done with the dead-end job and move on.


Now I look back and think again about all that time of (to me) useless introspection. Once I was able to open myself up and be vulnerable with the people in my life who cared about me, that's when I was able to make a choice. Those friends listened to me, and they were what I needed to get me through.

Now I'm definitely more open of a person. I believe that all this empathy growing and connection building has made a difference. It's still not comfortable to share but it does come more easily. 

I'm just not so scared anymore. I don't feel alone; instead, I look out at the world every day and think, "Look at all these amazing people living their lives. I can talk to them, find out how they do it, and then maybe by hearing their stories I'll learn how to be an amazing person living a good life, too.'

Has empathy and connection-building helped you?


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