The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.
Ever since I was young, I watched how I treat people. My parents taught me that being empathetic was important. You didn’t have to be friends with everyone, but you have to recognize their right to exist. Growing up with this teaching has allowed me to talk to people and build a sense of trust with them. I enjoy building these bonds because I love to help others.
As I grew up, I started to realize some flaws in my own system. Yes, I was getting close to people and making them feel better, but what was I getting out of it? This seems like a selfish question, but I started to think about it after I realized that I didn’t feel nearly as good as those around me. While I was investing my time in others and putting effort into relationships, I found that they were not nearly as interested in me. When I was struggling and looking for someone to turn to, it felt as if all of these friends I had made no longer existed. In the end, I would turn back to the family who taught me that kindness is key.
Am I saying that you shouldn’t care about others? No, not at all. In fact, I still stand by my belief that empathy is valuable. However, I encourage people to surround themselves with people who are good for them. This sounds very cliché, but it’s key to living a happy life. If you go around with an open heart for just anyone, you will get torn to pieces. While you may have someone else’s best interest in mind, they aren’t even thinking about you. I’ve learned that this can lead to loneliness and fear that you’re doing everything wrong. The truth is that sometimes our hearts are too big. People will begin to take advantage of those who put themselves on the line for others. It doesn’t seem very fair, but we’ve all grown up being taught that life is hardly fair.
Sometimes I feared that having all these people turn their backs on me or use me as a tool would turn me bitter. Of course, I was frustrated, and I was definitely hurt and confused. Even with the mess of emotions that some people made me feel, I didn’t want them to change who I was as a person. I encourage you to do the same if you’re struggling with this. Rather than allowing someone to step all over you and flatten you into a person who you don’t recognize, take that pain and allow it to shape you into a better version of yourself. Recognize that maybe you made a mistake by trusting someone who didn’t care, but never allow them to turn you cold. You are your own person and the people around you don’t define you.
Even if we go through life regretting every mistake we’ve ever made, we know we can learn from them. When I had people that would throw my feelings aside and show me who they truly were, I learned that not everyone is like me. People don’t always grow up being taught about kindness. Some people may have even turned cold as a result of their kindness. Despite what it may be, I learned that I can’t always expect people to share my same view on the world. I can’t expect them to put their hearts on the line for me as I may do for them. Instead, I can find people who would show the same amount of care for me as I would them. I can surround myself with individuals who make me happy and care about how I feel. On the other hand, I can recognize that everyone else has a right to exist and be their own person. I don’t necessarily have to put my heart on the line for them, but I can offer a hand when it’s needed.
I do encourage everyone to try to be an empathetic person. It’s important to be able to see life from another person’s perspective and try to put yourself into their shoes. However, don’t expect the world to give back what you put in. Being nice isn’t going to bring your happiness. You have to put effort into finding those people who care for you and make sure to stick close to them. When it comes to others, don’t let them take advantage of your kindness. Recognize when a relationship isn’t good for you and learn to walk away. You can still offer help, but it’s important that you don’t give yourself to everyone. Your feelings are just as important as those around you. Don’t let anyone make you forget that.