I just saw this video, with audio from Brene Brown, and boy, do I have to say thank you to her for putting labels on things and expressing them in a way that I can relate to - and can now share. Many of the things she is saying I have tried to address in the last year and a half, but I didn't have the distinctions that she has created.
I didn't realize that what I have been doing is seeking EMPATHY because more times than not I am getting SYMPATHY from those who interact with me. The way she explains it, I am not sure anyone would want sympathy from anyone else. My guess is that most would rather have empathy because within in there is a relatedness, a connection. Another guess is that because many do not know any better, sympathy is mistaken for something that should feel like empathy, but is so no where near.
I also didn't realize that by experiencing what I have, I have become much more empathic when it comes to others. I consciously choose to interact the way that she describes as empathic because I know how it feels to be the recipient of some of what I sometimes call "cheerleading."
I am not really a fan of labels or boxes, but...sometimes it seems they can really be helpful in explaining something in a way that can be valuable. Being the recipient of the attention of others, I have often felt that I have the possibility of being judged if I don't appear grateful for what often amounts to sympathy (at least by Brene's definition).
If you go by Brene's definition, it is very difficult to be grateful for what is often offered me. I realize that people have good intentions, but the thing is that those good intentions can often rub me the wrong way when I am in my darkest, most desperate places. Those good intentions don't give me what I need, but empathy likely would come a lot closer.
If you can make the time to watch this short video, I think it will be worth your time, and has a good shot at offering you some powerful perspective. If you watch, see if you can relate it to how you relate to others who are coping with stressful and seemingly frustrating and impossible situations. Are you being empathic or sympathetic? And which do you think you'd rather be the recipient of? Has anyone ever reacted negatively to your sympathy? Perhaps this will help you better understand why that was the case.
Thanks so much Brene Brown!