If you know me, you know that I am an upbeat, positive person. I prefer to live my life with the glass half full, or as usually is the case: overflowing at all times. I love pouring my happiness and infectious attitude into the lives of others whenever I can. Often I feel guilty that I can’t do it for everyone I know, every single day. I certainly wish that I could, but I guess I am human after all.
Many years ago, I realized that I try to always leave people with the feeling of “looking up”. I want to help people see the positive side of everything, even when it’s a stressful and frustrating situation or event. When friends come to me with a problematic situation or are just looking for advice, I often try to land so far onto the positive side, that I have realized I can come off as dismissive sometimes.
I am not naturally good at empathy. I am someone who bypasses hard, sad, or angry feelings quite easily and I never dwell in them. I skip past them like a blissful and ignorant child because I absolutely detest feeling “negative” emotions.
Over the years, I have been working on my speech and words that I use to try and overcome this unfortunate consequence of my happy and upbeat attitude. I try to listen more attentively and really make sure the person I am communicating with feels heard and feels empathy from me, even though it’s really hard for me to do.
Some people might find it hard to understand that true emotional empathy is actually very hard for me to display, and it causes a fidgety, anxious reaction inside my body. For someone to easily display that level of empathy, they need to be comfortable with the emotions that are present and understand how to deal with them. I am quite uncomfortable with feeling those tough emotions, and so therefore I am naturally really bad at this.
To cause growth within myself, I started to wonder “What am I missing?” “How can I act differently in these situations?” and I started to do something slightly weird that fits within my curious personality.
I looked up. Physically. I would walk through a forest and look up at the tops of the trees. I would occasionally just stop whatever I was doing in a store, and I would look up at the ceiling. I have found beauty in so many unexpected places by doing this (including in stores).
In changing how I looked at the world physically, it has made me look at human emotions differently as well. At work, I have a sticky note on my computer telling me to acknowledge emotions. I literally need a physical reminder to pay attention and notice emotions each day.
Because of these small changes that I have made, I have begun to realize the subtle differences that can be made in a relationship or even a conversation with a stranger when you can tap into that true empathy just a little bit.
There’s not much more beautiful than looking up and seeing the sun pour through the trees in a forest, and I think I am beginning to see the beauty in a wider range of emotions as well. It doesn’t mean I am good at it yet, but I’m certainly going to keep looking up and seeking beauty in all things.
Bonus: Here’s a song Andrea shared with me that fits with this sentiment quite well.