Discovering the Power of Empathy

Angels LandingA couple of weeks ago, I found myself feeling a little down, which could have been a result of mid-winter’s gray skies and cold temperatures, but I connected these doldrums to my job dissatisfaction. This is not a new scenario for me, not by any means. Those close to me are very familiar with my discontent with the professional realm. I want to be using my language skills and experience on a day-to-day basis, and know I should be proactive in looking for a situation that would allow me to do just that. And that is exactly what is so perplexing and upsetting: my lack of initiative to act on this important personal goal.

This was one of those times when you step outside of yourself and don’t like what you see. I’m not talking about an out-of-body experience. I know very well that I am no longer stimulated by my current professional situation, and at the same time, I am not actively engaged in modifying it. That said, it is not as if I’m floundering or not doing anything! I look at job listings regularly and periodically go through LinkedIn postings for connections and potential companies. I send out the random résumé when something catches my eye and occasionally call headhunters and network with professional organizations. In addition, I’m learning new technical skills to make myself more marketable. I’ve also had a few interviews, but up to now, nothing has really clicked. And I feel that’s because my attempts are half-hearted or lacking in chutzpah, as if I’m just going through the motions.

Maybe I have become accepting or comfortable being uncomfortable. One close friend told me she thought I was stuck, and I considered her observation, but don’t think that it is entirely the case. I am content with my home and social life. I have good communication with my teenage son and am in regular contact with my friends and family. I’m doing things that I find fulfilling on a personal level, giving myself time for writing, reading and practicing yoga. My malaise lies primarily with the job situation (and accompanying remuneration), which is no longer fulfilling or engaging, and I can’t seem to jump-start myself to do something about it! It isn’t just about getting another job, but about using my time, energy and experience in a more stimulating way.

Having grappled with this situation for a while unsuccessfully, I am trying to think about it from other angles. So, I recently reached out to another very dear friend, I’ll call C, about my agita. Much to my surprise, she helped me to feel better immediately with her response of six little words: “I know just how you feel.” Upon hearing it, I found my spirits raised from one minute the next. It’s a relatively simple message when you think about it, but one that is rich in empathy and understanding. She wasn’t telling why I was feeling a certain way or giving me advice on what to do to feel better. She was relating to me and my situation and feelings.

C’s comment reminded me that there are others, like me, who are also tackling or have tackled their own versions of this challenge, herself included. She took away my sense of isolation, and I was relieved to let it go. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so trapped or alone in my predicament. I felt less embarrassed and less inept at my difficulty to overcome that, which has become my Everest. It made such a difference to be reminded that I’m not the only one trying to climb this  mountain.

I guess I have been stuck or paralyzed by my own aversion to this process, partly because of age, partly because of the changing work environment and partly because of my fear of rejection and failure. I also think I’ve made this challenge larger than it actually is. The process becomes more palpable when I break it down into smaller steps and consider the extent of my professional skills and experience and then think about work environments that could use either or both. So, there are ways to be more proactive right now. I needed to hear C’s message, and you can bet that I thanked her for it. I just hope I can share it with others who would benefit from it as well.



4 thoughts on “Discovering the Power of Empathy

  1. Roxanne

    What a wonderful example of pure, simple, empathy. It made me feel good too, as I was feeling your angst over the situation. Thanks for writing about empathy.

    1. myownmilkyway

      So glad to hear that. It was such a powerful experience for me that I wanted to share it. Thanks for letting me know that it touched you too. I think most of us could use a little empathy in our lives every now and then.

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