The empathy trap
What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
And… a friendly reminder to highly empathetic humans that falling into a hole with others, in Brene Brown’s words, causes net harm, not good. (With the caveat of those who are actually feeling a positive call to help — see BetterUp’s article on the distinction between compassion and empathy).
Leaders can (and are more likely to) have a profound impact without trying to solve too many problems. Empathy is not the same as being a bleeding heart. And emotional dumpster dives about things beyond your control or trying to personally fix everything that’s “wrong” — in your company, relationships, community or beyond that— will only dilute you (Trying to fix yourself will dilute you too, for that matter).
Another way of saying this is that if we all walked around feeling personally responsible to meet everyone else’s needs, feel everyone else’s pain, and/or to fix every problem, we’d have no inner compass or capacity to self resource. We are all connected, yes. And we are also individuals, with individual bodies, minds, gifts and callings.
Drawing clear, compassionate boundaries is easier said than done when times are tough and people or groups you care about are under duress — and it’s a skill that can be acquired with practice.
Interested readers can check out Greater Good Magazine for more nuance on the empathy trap.
The take-home? Thank you for the enormous power of your heart.
And unless you’re into Romeo + Juliet style tragedy (at a dyadic or collective level), putting your own oxygen mask on first as well as being true to your own path as others stay true to theirs is critical for sustainable, healthy, empowering and freedom-enhancing connection and support.
Want more work + leadership tips and inspiration? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at caseyonder.com.