Empathy, and the "Choose Yourself" Trend

As I mentioned yesterday, I am examining ways to move in the direction of empathy. To begin, I must move away from self-focus and indifference, and in the direction of compassion and thoughtfulness. That does not mean the self does not matter; it just places the self in a greater context of all existing matter. It’s why the expression of stability through empathy and self-management is so important; it’s not just all about me.

The popular "Choose yourself" slogan is one I’ve been grappling with. Sometimes, humanity’s penchant for extremes wins out- we take an idea and run with it in a damaging direction.

Now I will say, it has been helpful in setting people free from the idea that caring for the self at all or even first at times is unhealthy. We have learned that is not the case. “Choose yourself” has put things back into perspective, so that self-neglect does not occur, and in that way has improved the lives of a lot of overworked and under-appreciated people.

It has been helpful when those who are made to feel small or unseen or unworthy realize that they do not have to wear those labels and they do not have to wait for permission to live their inspired callings passionately.

“Choose yourself” is unhealthy when it means you are crushing other people with your choice. Choices are never made in a vacuum with only the one self being affected. A good practice before making a choice that affects others is to think ahead and empathize with their reaction. Is it an equitable choice? Is it ethical?

In my family, there are five of us, and every choice or decision is made with the consciousness that it will affect all of us, so it had better be beneficial to all. There are five people to consider and each may be affected in a different way.

If the house is a mess but I am in need of rest and the messy house is not endangering anything but my ego, “Choose yourself” works. I can choose to rest and take care of the house when my body is more able. That is ethical because it does not cause harm.

On the other hand, if my family is sick and I “just can’t take it anymore,” I can’t quit and walk out for good, because it is not okay for “Choose yourself” to work in that way.

There are plenty of grey areas, for sure, especially when it comes to balancing writing time with family time and keeping everyone healthy and fed. I have to work at it. I have to put myself in others’ shoes a lot, (and make sure no one is getting stepped on with those shoes!)

This is an enormous challenge that takes an intentional approach. It takes listening to everyone’s opinions. It takes putting my needs in a holding place with other people’s needs while we determine priorities. It takes discernment and a caring heart. It takes a continual attentiveness.

Putting the consideration of others into the choices we make doesn’t mean a loss of identity. It means a respect and reverence for each part contributing to the whole- which means everyone.

If we widen the circle and look at the whole world as an extended kind of family, that all matter matters, and that all can be affected by the individual choice, then we are moving in the direction of empathy.

When a decision is made, all effects must be taken into account. This means assuming responsibility for all that follows as a result of that decision, and by assuming responsibility it means we do all in our power to make it a positive effect, whether we have to sacrifice personal comfort, status and position, or reputation.

I'm not ready to throw away the good along with the bad. I just think “Choose yourself” is a choice that needs healthy boundaries. And as I’ve written in a previous post, healthy boundaries are how we maintain stability.

What does “Choose yourself” mean to you? How is empathy part of the picture? How can we practice it well?

Read the rest of the 31 Days of Stability series here.

Jamie Bagley