All of us have gone through a situation in life that was less than ideal: getting laid off, dealing with a health scare, family difficulties, weight-loss attempts, weight gain, etc.
We have all experienced something and how we dealt with the experience is going to vary from person to person. Some people handle things well… with others, it might be more dramatic. Some may not be able to function at all. The way we handle life stressors is based on a culmination of factors from our current state of mind – our genetics, the environment, and the learned behaviours we acquired while growing up. No two people will experience a situation or an event the same. While people can certainly have empathy for your situation, as they might be able to imagine or relate in some way, they will never be able to fully understand what YOU are specifically going through.
I know many of my patients have heard me say, ‘Everyone is doing the BEST that they can.’
I stole that from my favourite author Brene Brown. Initially, I struggled to believe and understand the meaning of that phrase. I have heard my patients say, ‘there is NO WAY everyone is doing the BEST that they can. I know I can do better, so can they.’
I used to be one of those people.
However, the more I have pondered it, the more I have come to realize the truth behind it. When we look at or judge our fellow man, we need to remember: we have no idea what kind of childhood they had, what genes are being switched on and off in their cells, or how their physiology and brain chemistry might be functioning. We have NO IDEA what someone else is going through.
Therefore, at any given time with the skills, tools, and learned behaviours they have, everyone is doing the BEST that they can. Now if you still don’t believe everyone is doing the best that they can – allowing yourself to think that they are will allow you to have empathy for them and see them in a different light. Rather than someone who is underperforming or underachieving, suddenly they are a normal human being with normal genetics, and normal problems. They are dealing with life’s struggles just like the rest of us. This allows us to cultivate empathy and empathy creates connection. It breaks down this ME vs. YOU mentality. It helps us to realize we are all in this together.
Can people do better? Absolutely! I believe we all have an incredible amount of potential, but do we have the knowledge, skills and support to reach that potential? This is what I do in my practice every day. I provide my patients with the knowledge, skills, and awareness so that they can change their patterns and behaviours. I help to empower them to reach their full potential!
While it is important to create that empathy for others, we also have to remember to create it for ourselves. Realizing in moments of failure and shame that we too are doing the BEST that we can. Whether you are working on your weight-loss journey, overcoming perfection, or dealing with a family issue… have empathy for yourself and remember you are a normal person, with normal problems and normal genetics. Can you do better? Absolutely! We all have potential, but first, we need to start with empathy and compassion for ourselves.
And of course, when you feel like you need support – get in touch!
– Dr. Dan