The Importance of Self-Empathy

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  • by Hope Norman

In case you're new to SEEK, empathy is kind of our thing. We've been living and breathing it for years, teaching our clients how to empathically connect with others. 

Personally, I've led dozens of trainings around the world, showing the difference it makes when one decides to fully engage, listen and fully connect with another.

And it has amazing benefits! While companies have improved business results, my personal favorite testimonial came from a partner in India who told me: 

"The one impact of this training that I am truly cherishing is I am a lot more patient with my daughter and she came to me one morning and said 'Amma (meaning mom), you listen to me a lot more and I like it.'"

But in all the focus on being empathic for others, what does it mean to be empathic to ourselves? 

After over eight years of teaching others how to be empathic towards others, I've realized that at times, it's easy to forget how to be empathic towards myself. This disconnect means that while I'm helping others and acting on their behalf, I'm not in tune with what I need. How's that for ironic? And if we aren’t being empathic with ourselves, what does the lack of self-awareness do for our ability to truly connect with others? 

So step 1 - honesty. Acknowledge there's an issue. 

It’s easy to say that self-empathy is another version of self-care. But it’s not just putting a bandaid on the heart of the issue via face masks, bubble baths and spa music. Being empathic towards oneself goes much deeper, getting to the heart of what is really going on. 

When doing research for this post, I found a plethora of blog posts all around self-empathy meaning being self-compassionate, forgiving oneself and talking to oneself the way you would talk to a friend. But not many “how-to’s.” And if you’re anything like me, I need action steps. HOW do I practice self-empathy because let’s be clear - being kind to oneself is not always the easiest task.

It really all begins with the question of “how,” then followed by “why.” How do I feel? Why do I feel that way? How can I support myself? Why will that help? 

A perfect example of this: as I went through a breakup, I had a friend who texted me every day to ask how I was just at that moment. That acknowledgement that the moment was all I could control allowed me to be honest throughout the healing process. Whereas my self-talk focused on why and how I should “get over it.” 

So take a gauge. How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? What do you need in this moment? Why will that help?

For me, right now, I’m tired, exhausted even. I’m feeling that way because there’s a lot of chaos in parts of my life. Things that feel out of control that I’d like nothing more than to control. So what do I need? 

Before I tell you what I need, I do want to say that it’s taken me time to figure out the right answer. So don’t be surprised if you aren’t sure right away, or, if your answer changes.

For me, I need rest and recharging. That doesn’t mean binging a TV show, although I do enjoy doing that. It means using my imagination, having fun, playing - learning how to make candles or taking a class on floral arrangements. Eventbrite has become my best resource for ways to play around Cincinnati. And it helps because it infuses joy, energy and life back into my soul. 

This is all an art, not a science. There’s not a perfect formula for knowing exactly what you need when you check in with yourself. Keeping a journal, volunteering, starting a daily gratitude practice, doing a physical activity, saying no to plans, saying yes to plans, meditating, singing in the shower are all wonderful ways of being empathic towards yourself. Just remember to keep checking in. Keep reevaluating. Because it’s only when you’re truly connected to yourself that you can fully connect with others. 

I’d love to know your thoughts, successes and missteps with self-empathy! Send me an email at and let’s discuss!