The Flipside of Empathy


Mike’s frustration comes from trying to relate, but ultimately being unable to do so because of his beliefs. Kudos to him for trying. The world might be a better place if more people tried to empathize. At least, that’s how we like to idealize empathy.

I’ll say it like this: empathy is overrated.

A lack of empathy has its problems, but by trying to adjust that, people start to over-empathize. Instead of having a zen-like state where everybody’s getting better, you’re stuck in this limbo where everything is just tolerated. Nothing improves.

I can look back at the years where my esteem was down in the pits. I felt like my friends didn’t really “get” what I was going through. I wanted them to understand, and they tried to, of course. And in trying to empathize, they put up with a lot of my BS. A lot of it.

They managed it because, hey, we’re friends. “I’d do the same for them.”

But when I think about it now, I feel like that type of thinking doesn’t help anybody. People who want to empathize will end up coddling. The person who wants more understanding will hit two walls. One, they’ll never feel like people “get” them no matter how much attempts at understanding and support people pour out. Or two, they’ll develop the wrong sense of acceptance.

That’s what happened to me anyway. And maybe you, the reader, are sharper than that. You know that finding someone “to accept you for who you are” shouldn’t be excuse to not take care of yourself. It shouldn’t be an excuse not to improve yourself, to be a better version of yourself.

Mike got it right: your excuses are unacceptable. For people making those excuses? Don’t fool yourself into thinking that people need to “get” it before you can move on. Supported or not, build a better you.