Monday, July 25, 2011

I’m Sorry *shrug* It's Who I Am. No Apologies!

To walk a mile in
another's shoes...
When I was in my early teens my dad had me take the Myers-Briggs type assessment. In all honesty I don’t recall why, at such a young age, he wanted me to assess myself in this way, but I recall vividly that I was a high “F”. Though I was something akin to an INFJ, the range probably pegged “feeling” as my strongest, if not only, characteristic. My dad told me that meant I was overly empathetic. I was so young I didn’t truly understand the meaning of empathy or the difference between empathy and sympathy and at the time I recall feeling like he was slamming me for being too soft.

Twenty years later when subjected to the same assessment I don’t think “F” factored into the equation at all. In corporate life I preferred to operate in the ENTP range – settled, logical, always looking forward. I will never forget the day I learned this about myself. Much like the day my dad called me overly empathetic, now I felt like I couldn’t relate to people at all; like I didn’t care one iota about what others were experiencing in their lives. I remember sitting in my shared office with friends and coworkers Robin and David discussing the outcome. The two of them seemed so sensitive and caring compared to my cold, business-like matter-of-factness. I felt like the Grinch with a heart two sizes too small. It hurt.

Thinking on these two occasions in my life, I had to question which of these personality profiles was most like me. Had I changed so much over the course of twenty years? What had caused the upheaval? Does everyone change this dramatically? Was this business, or was this me?

After leaving my cold, career-focused life behind and spending two years at home in an effort to change me, my marriage, raise a healthy daughter, write the great American novel (I could go on and on but you’d go to sleep) I began to see that there is a healthy balance between the two that make me who I am. It took me a while to disengage from the business attitude and adapt to being the new, softer me. Once I did, my emotions were cranked into gear and I became that person who could put herself in just about anybody’s shoes. Though I haven’t quite reached the same point of emotional abandon as my dear friend Robin, who will cry in response to all of the Hallmark commercials (I can only shed tears for a couple of them), I have grown to realize that being empathetic, even overly so, is an amazing gift. It gives me a granite foundation of understanding others, which leads me to have faith in the good in the world, which subsequently leads me to forgiveness – maybe not necessarily in that order.

In recent months, during trying times, I questioned my ability, even my interest, in empathizing with others especially my soon-to-be ex, but ultimately I find sticking to what I know, or just being me, is an okay thing. It’s easier to bear the pain of loss than it is to endure the hatred that ensues after being left behind.

“We must accept life for what it actually is - a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.” - Ida R. Wylie

I may be empathetic, much to my wise father’s chagrin, but I make no apologies for the number of times I have uttered the words “I’m sorry” over the years because it’s who I am, and thanks to my unwitting father, I learned it early. Thanks Dad! And thanks to my dear friends, ones like Robin and David, I rediscovered it before it was too late.

Have you ever felt the need to make apologies for who you are? Is there one characteristic or trait you feel more accountable for than another? Join the conversation.

Life in Penned Perspective by Lindy Chaffin Start


Megan said...

In a nutshell, yes... I often find myself apologizing for (1) having an opinion and (2) being blunt. Kind of sad that I have to. (Was that too blunt?) :) Lovely post, Lindy. And don't for a moment feel your empathy is a bad thing! It's one of your greatest strengths.

WritersLiPP said...

Megan you are 1) entitled to your opinions and they are brilliant P.S., and 2) being blunt is opposite of doormat so I applaud you for that! I'm not apologizing for my emathy, I'm just glad I can finally apprecaite my father for pointing it out and my friends for helping me regain it. :-) Thanks for your support. - Lindy

Pam Asberry said...

I apologize far too often, assuming responsibility for things that really have nothing to do with me. I think I am making progress in that department but I still have a long way to go. I am an "ENFJ," and carry the empathy to the extreme of morphing myself into whomever the person I am with needs me to be, often losing myself in the process. This applies not only romantic relationships but also to friendships. Again, I am making improvement here, but I hope someday to have such a strong sense of who I am that I can just be myself always, trusting that will be enough. Thanks for the great post, Lindy. I think you're awesome!

WritersLiPP said...

Pam, your commentary speaks volumes to me as I completely understand what it's like to give up yourself to suit another. Here's to one day finding ourselves and being true and understanding friends, as we are to one another now. Smooches - Lindy

Julee J. Adams said...

We got a button for a buddy that read, "Hi, I'm Marie and I'm sorry," because she was constantly apologizing. Empathy is a great trait, as long as you don't lose yourself along the way. Sounds like you overcorrected, but righted yourself. Good for you--and all of us who need to find ourselves and our strengths. Thanks for a good essay and keep on with your journey.

WritersLiPP said...

Thanks Julee.