Why feeling sorry for someone is harmful, and ways you can empower them instead

Have you ever felt inferior in the presence of a boss, colleague, teacher, or even family member who looked down on you or gave you that pitiful look? 

On the other hand, have you felt empowered, respected and loved when your friends and family supported and believed in you, your ideas, choices, projects and goals? Most likely, like me, you’ve experienced both of these scenarios.

In the former, I remember feeling so powerless in my attempts to fight against condescending attitudes in certain personal and professional scenarios, no matter how hard I worked or tried to please these people. 

In the latter, as I started to feel more in tune with myself through yoga practice and life experience, I naturally started to incline towards like- minded, kind people, who saw my value as a person and professional, and vice versa. Being surrounded by well-intentioned and inspiring friends and clients, always brings out the best in me. 

And despite the fact that our self-worth shouldn’t fluctuate based on what others think of us, it’s hard to deny the direct influence of our environment on how we feel. 

Furthermore, no man (or woman) is an island, and  we need  a support system of positive and genuine people in our lives,  who have faith in us and what we do. In the same way,  it’s really inspiring and fulfilling to be able  to reciprocate that support and admiration in our interaction with them.

We can even see this on social media, especially in groups that are dedicated to a certain activity or common goal, which if used for the right reasons can be an incredible source of support, connection, assistance and  CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, as opposed to being a tool for shooting someone down. 

And although the above stated may seem pretty straightforward when we are the ones in question, without realizing we can debilitate those around us if we don’t become aware of how important our attitudes, beliefs and actions are in the lives of those around us. 

In yoga we do a lot of Svādhyāya,  which in  Sanskrit means self-study. Studying yogic texts, observing our thought patterns through meditative practice, watching our behaviour and language, all fall into the process of self-reflection. 

Very often our judgements and beliefs are quite unconscious. Whether we pity  that cousin who got a divorce,  believe that our neighbour’s start-up is doomed to fail,  that our friend will never lose weight, or from a more empathic place, we feel that we need to save / heal our family members, partners and friends, we are being judgemental. As a consequence, we take away the power from those we judge (well, and from ourselves, but I´ll leave that topic for another blog article). 

So how do you empower those around you? Well, as a start, STOP DOING THESE 4 things!

Stop feeling sorry for them 

If someone in your life is going through difficulty, show empathy but don’t fall into the trap of pitying  them. Instead, focus on their inner assets and strengths that can help them overcome whatever it is they are going through. When we feel sorry for someone, we basically position ourselves as the grown-up and the other as a helpless child. Be mindful that feeling compassion and pity are two different things. 

Don’t offer help/ advice unless they ask you

This is a tricky one as most of us, empaths, have a natural tendency to want to help and pull someone out of their misery. Disclaimer: It goes without saying that there are emergency situations, when we need to help out as much as we can, but this article refers  to personal empowerment. 

Don’t judge them

This is probably harder than learning any yoga asana, as our minds are designed to process and form an opinion about everything and everyone. We are constantly viewing the world with our personal and cultural bias, so do become aware of this as you try to make any conclusions about anyone’s behaviour. Nooone really knows how much suffering one is going through internally, no matter how things may appear on the surface. Respect that each person is living their authentic life experience, and leave it at that. 

Don’t look down on anyone, ever! 

Again, this one may seem straightforward, and we may swear that we treat everyone with great respect, while it’s  the others who are the opinionated twats. However it is so easy to fall into the trap of feeling smug and superior when others take a different path from us, without even realizing it.   Ironically, although the concept of “we are all the same”, “we are from the same source ” is often the philosophical theme of the so-called spiritual circles, it’s  often in these kinds of groups, that one can hear judgemental comments like: “Only if they would become vegan, meditate, do more pranayama,  and accept our belief system, would they see the light. ” or “They are just not evolved enough, that’s why they are so stuck.” etc.  Self-righteousness is a sneaky little devil. 

Instead, 

  • show your friends and family that you are there for them if they need your help,
  • be a good listener,  
  • tell them how much you appreciate them,
  • accentuate their strengths, talents, positive traits and skills, 
  • offer constructive feedback when asked, as opposed to being condescending, 
  • be grateful for their presence in your life and, 
  • internally visualize their happiness, success and wellbeing.  

You’ll do much more for them if you let them shine!

If you want to learn more about personal empowerment or yoga, check out my personalized programs below.

 

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