Mental Health Week; Sympathy vs. Empathy

Today is the start of CMHA’s (Canadian Mental Health Association) 71st annual “Mental Health Week” campaign which runs through until Sunday May 8th (that’s Mother’s Day in case you forget!). 

Their theme this year is ‘Empathy’. 

Empathy means “having the ability to share someone else’s feelings” and actively listening to them. When you are empathetic towards another human being you are also aware of their feelings; something which most people don’t realize, differs greatly from having “sympathy” for someone. 

When we sympathize with someone else’s emotional pain and suffering it may come from a place of pity or sorrow or even judgment. While it is okay to have sympathy for others it does not necessarily build a connection with them or create a feeling of safety, openness, compassion and genuine understanding, which in turn may not always be helpful. Sympathy is often doing or saying what is expected of you based on another person’s circumstances or misfortunes. 

Having empathy for someone though means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and feeling your way into their lives by acknowledging their emotions as if they were your own and genuinely trying to understand where they are coming from whereas when someone is sympathetic to you they are only able to see through their own perspective. 

Being empathetic towards another person is a very valuable asset to hold on to but being empathetic not only differs from being sympathetic it also differs in a way from being an empath (which I spoke about the other day in a vlog as to how much being an empath affects my health at times) because being an empath means not only feeling the pain of others but also absorbing it to the point where it can take a toll on your health and leave you feeling drained. But I will never stop being kind and compassionate and nurturing and feeling great fulfillment by helping others. It’s just a part of who I am, good or bad.

And I will also never stop being empathetic towards others either, especially when someone is dealing with a lot of emotional pain or suffering because I know firsthand that when a person feels both seen and heard it can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. 

Being empathetic is good for your health and more important than ever before. I have felt the difference in my own life many times. Practice empathy, I assure you it doesn’t hurt! 

#mentalhealthweek #motivationmonday #cmha #empathy #sympathy #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #emotionalpain #GetReal #GetLoud #empaths #bekind #yourmentalhealthmatters 

Author: Kim Fluxgold

Wife, mom of 3 beautiful children, dog lover, creative sole and children's book Author. Sharing my journey with depression and anxiety through blogging in hopes of educating and ending the stigma.

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