“Shoe-shifting” – The Importance of Empathy


“Put yourself in their shoes.”
I believe that this phrase is all too easier said than done, and that is because to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes is to empathize with them.  Empathy is a skill that is difficult for many but not impossible.  When you are able to feel empathy towards someone you have taken part in the ability to recognize the perspective of someone else.  You are staying out of judgment and you are feeling with someone.  You are recognizing that persons’ perspective.  Brene Brown says that empathy fuels connection which I strongly agree with, it kind of goes back to our posts about vulnerability.  I said that when I finally was able to be vulnerable with someone I was able to make a stronger connection.  When someone comes to you in their most vulnerable state and you are able to empathize with them you are fueling these stronger connections.

Family First.  I am lucky enough to have a huge family with tons of cousins, aunts, and uncles.  I have always looked forward to every holiday party, Sunday BBQ, or whatever occasion we were getting together for.  My closest relationship was with my mom’s sister and her two kids, she was like a second mom to me and my cousins felt much more like siblings.  We fought together, laughed together, and we were inseparable.   My uncle had a stroke when we were all around the age of 8 that doctors said he should have not survived.  From that point forward everything changed.  He could not care for himself and my aunt became so depressed it was crippling.  My mom took it upon her self to help out as much as she could and I was right there by her side.

Addiction.  My aunt’s depression gradually led to heavy drug use.  Growing up me and my cousins always knew something strange was going on but we chose to ignore it because we never wanted our family dynamic to change.  Her addiction began to not only contr
ol her life and my cousins but also me and my moms.  She became manipulative and mean and often times made me feel like everything going wrong with her and her immediate family had something to do with me.  The deeper into drugs she fell the more she voiced that she despised my mother and her “perfect” little family. After her drug use worsened and was out in the open my mom took it upon herself to try and raise her sisters two kids.  They lived with us during the summers and during the school year they were with their mother but my mom was at the house almost every day.  When I was younger it was great, I now had three siblings to spend my time with.  But middle school and high school were tough.  I never had a definite ride home or even a way into the house and I never knew when either parent would be home.

We were so young when everything happened it became the new normal and I never thought that this was something I would need help to understand or deal with. All of the confusion and uncertainty led me to become incredibly depressed but I did everything I could to try and hide it.

Empathy Fuels Connection. One of my close friends in high school saw what was going on and how it was affecting me without me even needing to say a thing.  She had gone through something very similar a couple of years prior.  She drove me to her house one day after school and her mom had made up a bed for me and had a nice home cooked meal ready for dinner.  They never tried to tell me everything was going to be okay or that they felt sorry for me they just went about their day to day lives and included me in it all.  They offered to help me find someone to talk to and never once did I feel out of place or judged. It was the nicest most empathetic thing anyone could have ever donimg_2224e for me.   Whenever I needed anything I could count on her and her family; a ride home or a bed to crash in. I am forever grateful for how much they helped me throughout that period of my life.

My relationship with Lisa has distanced a bit since we have been in college but she is always that person I can count on for anything and the same goes the other way around.  The empathy shared between the two of us fueled a connection that will last a life time. Whether we are down the street from one another or living miles and miles apart she always has and always will hold a special place in my heart.

 

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