Throwback Thursday: Are you empathetic?

Hello and welcome to my blog! Welcome to Throwback Thursday where I bring back a post from a year ago and reflect upon it. This is what I wrote a year ago today:

What is empathy?

It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

How do you know if you are empathetic?

Do you feel that you are sometimes empathic and other times you feel detached like you’re not able to imagine how a person may feel and you want to help them feel better but you don’t know how?

I struggle with this sometimes.

I think of myself as an empathetic person, because I’m affected by the mood in the room. If you cry, I cry. If you smile, I smile.

Sometimes, though, when someone is distressed, especially if they are secretive and try to mask their emotions and I want to show my sympathy (feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune) without them getting offended. I want to offer my help, but I don’t know what to say to make them feel better because I think they’re supposed to feel the way they do and I want to show I care because what is happening is sad but I end up standing there with a pained expression on my face that makes them say “what’s wrong with you?”

Honestly, I think I try too hard to show empathy. These things are supposed to come out naturally.

So I did a quiz, as one does, to see how empathic I am and I made an interesting discovery.

There are 2 types of empathy

Effective empathy

I scored high in this one. It means I have a strong ability to sense other people’s emotions. This makes me more concerned about their welfare but I may become distressed if I encounter personal suffering (which is why I seem dramatic at times).

Cognitive empathy

This is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes. I scored moderately in this area. It’s being able to imagine what other people are feeling or thinking. Having cognitive empathy helps you communicate effectively in your personal and professional relationships (maybe social anxiety is why I’m a bit lacking here?)

So if you find yourself lacking in either type of empathy, what’s the solution?

How to be more empathetic:

1. Practice active listening: listening carefully without judgement or interruption to the other person’s words, facial expressions and body language.

2. Share in other people’s joy: expressing enthusiasm when someone shares good news

3. Look for commonalities with others: look for shared experiences in those you don’t share interests with. This will help you overcome feelings of fear and distrust (good tip actually because I tend to zone out people who have different interests than mine).

4. Read fiction: I do that already. I read novels all the time. I guess I should search for novels that increase empathy as well. I also cry easily in movies, so that counts, right?

5. Pay attention to faces: facial expressions communicate a lot about other people’s emotional state. Read and practice to increase your emotional intelligence. I recommend the book Emotional Equations which I read a few years ago but somehow lost.

These are the tips they gave me after doing the quiz. I took the titles and elaborated to my own knowledge.

Do you consider yourself an empathic person?

Are you better at effective or cognitive empathy?

I’d like to believe my empathy has improved during the past year. I try to imagine how stressed out my husband must be to cut him some slack when he overreacts. I also have become a better listener. I look beyond the anger and try to find out the hidden feeling so I can empathize and help. I still feel detached when it comes to strangers. To empathize with someone, I must know them personally or know someone who knows them and cares about them.

Poetry Friday: Happiness eludes me

I watch the sun rise

Feel the breeze on my face

The power’s out, I realize

But my joy isn’t phased

What is this vibe?

It’s like the stars aligned

Is this what it’s like?

To be content

Because happiness eludes me

It seems like a delusion

The moment I hold on to it

It drifts away

And I’m left shipwrecked

This heaviness in my chest

Is so familiar

I almost forget it’s pain

And I’m flooded with regrets

Shame and confusion

I don’t know why I do this

But this pain is comforting

Sometimes I chase happiness

Sometimes I search for meaning

It’s impossible to feel blessed

With my anxiety like demons

But it’s like

It’s become my identity

Like I’m broken

And I need someone to fix me

Theoretically

I know what to do but

It’s a lifelong journey

And it’s a bit too much

I know that I should love myself

I know I should be kind

But I don’t eat or sleep well

And I occasionally exercise

It’s like I have a death wish

I feel so lost and helpless

I think I’m co-dependant

But I don’t want to be

My hands are shaking

From too much caffeine

And intermittent sleeping

My social skills are weak

I wish I could be put together

Like other people that I know

But maybe they’re all just a mess

And they’re putting on a show

Focusing on myself

And my surroundings

It helps me to relax

And keeps me grounded

The magnets and stickers on my fridge

Remind me of the miracle that is

My sunshine, my sweety pie

The Apple of my eye

I have shelter, food and clothes

I’ll never take for granted

I have running water, who knows?

How long it will last and

I have so much, yet I complain

Does that mean I am vain?

It just means I’m human

And I’m trying

Storytime: Oh how I wish I was more mindful

Hello everyone,

How are you doing?

It’s 1 am and I can’t sleep. Partly because I had a nap today and also because I’m anxious about the Friday outing. We are going to be out all day. This is exciting because, since the pandemic, my outings have become few and far in between, but also scary because I have social anxiety and I’m going with 44 other people, most of which I barely know. But also it’s nice because we are going to be amongst nature and I can’t wait to play with my son and with others (I’m a bit nervous about the latter).

I decided to find the pictures from the last and only time I went to this place 3 years ago. My in-laws went and I had to convince my husband to let me go with them because he didn’t want to go so naturally he didn’t see why I should go. Normally, my husband’s presence acts as a buffer with my mother in law but if I’m going to appease him, I’ll end up at home all day doing nothing but housework.

When we went in 2018, my sister-in-law said she had so much fun and wanted to make it a weekly outing. We never went again (my husband isn’t the only homebody in his family) and when I suggested it to my family, for some reason, they weren’t interested. None of my friends ever suggested going and so I never went again, but this Friday is my chance, and if I play my cards right, I’ll be invited to future outings as well and I’ll be able to bring my son before he becomes old enough to not want to go anywhere with me.

Looking back, I always wish I was more mindful whenever I went anywhere. I always end up yelling or getting irritated or acting neurotic, then when I look back, I wish I was more playful and in the moment. You can’t get these moments back. I mean, I can get some really good pictures from an outing, but do you know how much I complained during the trip? No, because it’s not on camera, but I remember. I will try to remember the good parts of every trip I’ve been on, especially since the pandemic began, my outings have diminished considerably.

Throwback to 2018. Hopefully, in the future, I’m more mindful.
P.s. my son doesn’t even remember going here, even after I showed him the pictures. The good news is he doesn’t remember that I was in such a mood that day because my husband refused to come with us (he’s a total homebody, which is something I wasn’t comfortable telling people before the pandemic but now apparently many people have come out as homebodies or become homebodies so it’s okay).

Storytime: Am I antisocial or just socially awkward?

Hello and welcome to my blog! I have a lot to say today. I don’t do this often anymore (storytime). I used to. Whenever I had thoughts I’d just drop them down on the blog and that’s how I processed them but now I’m trying something new by processing them on my own (AKA sleeping on it) and then maybe if I still feel like it, I put them on the blog because I know that once it’s on the blog, the internet is forever.

So here’s the thing. Yesterday, I visited my parents and right before I went, I received a message. I don’t know if I mentioned it here but I have been volunteer teaching quraan somewhere for 4 years. Basically, I do my job, I teach, and then I leave. I don’t interact with the other teachers. I don’t socialise with anyone. It’s not that I hate them nor that I don’t have any interest in getting to know them. It’s just I feel they’re very different than I am and I’m afraid of making social mistakes that will make it impossible for me to volunteer over there anymore and this belief has been brought to me from experience of people wanting to get to know me because I’m so mysterious and my life is so interesting and then once they get to know me, they get bored of me and then they leave me and this happens over and over again and I used to think that it was only in my head but then yesterday my husband said this about me.

The woman in charge of the place where I teach quraan send me a message. She said that for years once a year the teachers go out together and socialize outside of work and they have been doing this for years and she has never invited me before. This is the first time I hear of this. I had no idea that they went once a year even though I’ve been volunteer teaching there for 4 years. When she invited me, I got so excited and then I asked for some more information like can I bring my 6-year old with me and who can drive me there.

I was thinking had she invited me in the years before, I may not have been able to go when my son was younger because he would have given me a hard time and he’s 6 now and I’m still afraid that he might give me a hard time but he’s old enough for me to tell him to be on his best behaviour. I don’t know if I’m going to have to use the bribing technique but I can’t use the punishing and threatening technique in front of them.

I feel like the last time I volunteered, I was a bit more social. Just something as simple as saying hi, how are you doing, where do you live, I love these designs, I love what you did to the place,… these kind of things and I felt like they made a big difference and my compliments are really genuine. I was really trying to connect with them.

Anyway, I was really excited about the outing and I asked if I could bring my son and she said no problem and then she continued to explain to me that I’d be the only one with a kid (there’d be only one other person who has kids because the rest of the people going all 60-year olds so they’re all Grandmas) but she said that they will relax and play racket ball and just chill.

The place that they’re going to is a picnic area 20 minutes away from my house by car and I have been dying to go there for 2 years and my husband doesn’t take me anywhere (he’s a homebody) and he only takes me to the seaside (5 minutes away from my house by car) every six months. He used to take me to Turkey once a year with his entire family but because of the economic situation we can’t go to Turkey anymore. I also suggested several times to go to this place with my family and they weren’t really interested so if I don’t go with these people that I volunteer with then I won’t go at all.

I used to socialise a lot more before I got married. It’s like marriage and motherhood kind of isolated me. It also happened to be that after I got married, my friends got jobs and got married too and I just got preoccupied with my son and when my son was younger, I would rather stay home then to go out in public with him and risk a tantrum which in hindsight was wrong. He should have gotten used to going out and learned how to conduct himself in public at a young age.

Back to the picnic. I’m afraid I might not have fun but I guess I’ll be fine. We’re going to be in nature, there’s a hammock (I don’t really like hammocks but I’m sure my son would enjoy them) and my son has been to this picnic area before when he was 3 but he doesn’t remember. I’m really excited for this experience because he really doesn’t go anywhere, it’s really sad, but the saddest part is that like I was just worried about my son giving me a hard time there and then my husband started to warn me yesterday. He said if you want to go then you have to be on your best behaviour and you can’t be butthurt by every word that someone says.

Also, he said that I don’t know how to socialise and I only like to go into deep friendships (this is true to some extent but I have learnt from experience that having acquaintances is very important but as an introvert I do tend to focus more on my close friendships rather than my acquaintances and the reason is because I don’t really have a job so I don’t socialize much, except for the volunteer work but I just do my job and leave),but it’s a two-way street, I mean nobody tried to reach out to me but this time they did and I reached out back. My husband also said I tend to talk about myself a lot and people are interested in me and then they get me to talk about myself but then once I open up and they find out the things about me that fill their curiosity, they just walk away.

So now I’m freaking out and now I need a list of questions to ask the people that I’m going with because the one that’s in charge of the volunteering is the one that’s going to be giving me a ride.

At the picnic, there are going to be activities and if I feel socially awkward I can go play with my son. I feel like my son will be the buffer in this situation. He’s a little shy at first but then he gets really social, but he does act silly and I don’t know if they’ll like that or find it annoying. Anyway, I’ll just try to have fun and focus on the positives and be mindful and also socialise. I’m just worried about the ride there because like the woman that I’ve been volunteering for for 4 years doesn’t know anything about me and she’s not the type of person who I would talk to about my blog and my books. I don’t want to show her that side of me.

There are different sides of me so I just want her to know superficial information so I need to have other questions ready because she is going to ask me questions if not out of curiosity but to fill the silence during the car ride. I need to counteract her questions so that she doesn’t ask too many questions.

Does that make sense?

Am I antisocial or just socially awkward?

I believe I’m socially rusty but with practice I’ll get better. My husband believes that no matter how much practice I have, I’ll always be antisocial and socially awkward.