Is Self-Empathy An Oxymoron?
Self-empathy and oxymoron are two interesting words. When we put two seemingly contradictory words together we have what is known as an oxymoron. Examples like, “good grief,” “wise fool,” and “jumbo shrimp” illustrate what are normally consider oxymorons. Sometimes, it’s helps to add other words to clarify the reason for putting the two contradictory words together. Two examples of adding another word are the expressions, “little big man” and “now and then.” I mention these different kinds of oxymorons because in the title I ask, “Is self-empathy an oxymoron?” The correct answer is most likely no. On the other hand, the meaning of “oxymoron” is more about the contradiction than the words. So, for the sake of “whatever,” let’s pretend there is at least an oxymoronic flavor to self-empathy. :-)
Empathy (I have written about empathy in a previous posting), where you “put yourself in another’s shoes,” is an important way of thinking when assessing others. But self-empathy? Of course! We should always assess ourselves – shouldn’t we? A statement that I have used often is: “Self-assess, to know yourself best!” Therefore, self-empathy, where we put ourselves in our own shoes, will be like looking at ourselves in a mirror. And, we all know how important a mirror is when we are shaving, putting on make-up, etc. In that sense, self-empathy is like using a mental mirror on our thinking.
OK, all of this self-empathy stuff is good, but how, specifically, can it help us? Consider the above mirror example. When you look into a mirror, what do you see? From personal experience, I know sometimes I see something that isn’t really there. You see, I will focus on a particular spot on my face and see my face as imperfect. In other words, using and hopefully, not abusing, a well-known metaphor, “I can’t see the forest because of the trees.” I focus on one bad tree and see an ugly forest. I’m not saying the spot should not be considered as part of my face, but, I think allowing the spot to take the place of my whole face, is not allowing my thinking to reflect reality.
Another perspective on this concept of self-empathy is the use of the word,”is.” No, no, no, I’m not going to reference the now famous quote from Bill Clinton: “It depends on what the meaning of the words ‘is’ is.” :-) What I mean is when someone believes s/he is an optimist, then that person will tend to look at the bright side of life. I think it’s important for a person to believe s/he IS an optimist and not allow current feelings to be a determining factor. An optimist “is” who you are and not, necessarily, what you feel.
I think we behave in ways based on the person we believe we are. If you believe you are a drug addict, then you will tend to behave as a drug addict behaves. If you believe you are an athlete, then you will tend to behave as an athlete behaves. If you believe you are blogger, then you will behave as a blogger behaves. How does a blogger behave? :-)
Of course, you may believe you are something that you aren’t. This is where self-empathy comes in. If we use self-empathy to put ourselves in our own shoes and use good intellectual standards such as clarity, reasonableness, logicalness, significance, relevance, etc. to assess ourselves, then we can determine the “is” we are or want to be. In other words, after this exercise in self-assessment, a person should be able to know what s/he believes about her/himself.
If there is something about you that would like to change, then the first thing to change is how you think about it and how it relates to you. Once you change how you think about yourself, then change how you talk about yourself. For example, consider an optimist and a pessimist. How does a pessimist talk, compared to an optimist? I’m sure you know — the old adage, “Is a glass half empty or half full?” If you want to be an optimist, then you think and say the glass is half full.
Use self-empathy to help with self-assessment. Use self-assessment to improve your thinking. Use your improved thinking to improve your words. Your actions will follow your thinking and talk. Or, another way of summarizing this is: “Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk”
Do you talk the talk and walk the walk, in such a way that you are who you want to be? Do you use self-empathy?
Is self-empathy an oxymoron? Probably not, but is self-empathy a good intellectual trait to have? Absolutely!