Empathy vs Sympathy: I don’t think empathy is a skill one can acquire easily, not unless one goes through the exact situation that the person you are trying to empathize with is going through, which is not very common. Everybody goes through tough situations but they are all different, and end up having different outcomes and consequences and because of this whenever one is going through a tough situation people tend to be more sympathetic than empathetic towards them, at least in my case. It’s hard to find someone that can empathize with you whenever you are going through a tough time but when you do it is definitely a comforting feeling because you know you can confide in them and actually let it all out because they understand what you are going through and when they talk to you, you know they know what they are talking about. In my case, when people try to sympathize with me it turns out being annoying, I understand they are doing it because they care about me or sometimes just to be nice but it just gets to the point where I grow tired of people coming up to me and literally all of them repeating the same phrase; it ends up being especially annoying when they say “I understand what your going through” when you know they have no idea.
My Story: Moving from Venezuela to the U.S. as a child was very tough for me. I loved my life back in Venezuela, I had all my family over there, my group of friends, I loved my school, my extracurricular activities, basically everything so when I got the news from my parents it was probably one of the worst days in my life. When I got to Miami, everything about the city was different than what I was accustomed to and adjusting to life there was not easy at all especially because I didn’t know English very well, that was probably one of the worst things: not being able to communicate with the people as well as the culture difference. The worst part though without a doubt was school, when I first got to school it was hell for me, I would get picked on a lot as I was the new kid and also since I didn’t know how to speak english very good I was just an easy target. As a kid, getting bullied is probably one of the worst experiences in life one can have, for me I just fell really embarrassed all the time and I didn’t have anybody whom I could talk to it about it. My parents knew something was wrong with me but I just couldn’t bring myself to speak with them about it because of embarrassment, because of this I was just really mad all the time and eventually depressed.
Someone to empathize with: What changed for me was that I found someone that could empathize with me. As I was really struggling with my schoolwork and falling behind because of the English, my parents decided to hire a tutor for me to work with after school. Back then, it was really easy to tell that something was wrong with me and my tutor caught that as soon as he met me. Little by little I started gaining confidence with him, he’d been through the same situation as I was going through except it was probably way worst for him as he had moved from Cuba to Miami at a time when racism was still very common in the area. I honestly don’t remember how I was able to gain so much confidence with him (I was 10 years old), but I remember I looked forward to his classes everyday. He understood what I was going through and found ways to help me and make me feel better through his tutoring which was impressive as well as relating it to his own experience. For me his classes were a relief, as it was a place I could go to and just show the real me based on what I was going through and how it was affecting me. “I understand what your going through” is a phrase that just ticks me off because at that time it was what basically everybody told me so it would just really make me angry especially from some of the people that said it to me, my tutor was probably the only person back then I confided in with this issue and by finding that person that could empathize with me I felt as if a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders as instead of holding it all in and staying angry I could just let it all out and know that he understood what I was going through.