Last week marked another birthday come and gone. Most would acknowledge it as another year older which is inevitable as we all march toward retirement, stronger eye-glass prescriptions and utilizing the senior citizen discount. Personally, I like to think of it as another year experienced.
The past year was full of lessons learned both with my health and my work life. I learned both go hand in hand often and if you don’t have a balance between the two, life can get completely overwhelming. I truly became a workaholic–managing my territory almost 24/7. Being a field operations manager in the vacation rental industry meant I was on call all the time and starting a new territory meant I didn’t have a team to back me up at the beginning. It was all me and my hard work made me very successful at the position.
As the position started changing and the team grew larger, I changed with it and that’s when the stress started creeping in. It wasn’t stress over performance. I was very confident in my handling of clients and guests. It was the politics of the job, of course. As someone who has always had a lot of empathy for others, office politics can sometimes catch me off guard and me when I least expect it. I like to think I’m a person who can be trusted and who will have her coworker’s back–and I did many times. I will never throw someone under the bus to make myself look better. It’s not in my nature–ever.
I often forget that others don’t think the same way I do. They lack the empathy gene that forces them to take responsibility for their own mistakes. Instead, they will throw someone else under the bus so they don’t look bad. Since I naturally trust people until they give me a reason not to, this kind of behavior takes me by surprise every single time and every single time I can’t help but take it personally.
Empathy is like a double-edged sword. Those of us who have it are better human beings for it, but it also means we suffer a huge amount of anxiety and stress. Empathizing means we take on the feelings of others whether they are happy, sad, stressed out, anxious, mad, etc. and it affects how we approach situations and personal attacks. For me, standing up for myself is a huge hurdle because I don’t want my teammates upset with me. I just want to defuse the situation meaning I’m the one that apologizes and takes responsibility when it really wasn’t mine to take.
This past year really taught me a lot about empathy, trust and work ethic. It taught me those with too little empathy are often successful because they have no problem blaming others for their own mistakes. They simply don’t care what others think. Having too much empathy means those people will have a hard time standing up for themselves and it will eventually chip away at self-confidence. It will add to stress levels and anxiety.
So the lesson I learned this past year is that no matter what I do or where I go, empathy will always be a strength and weakness for me. I am very proud I have it and can relate to others, but I also know it will cause me to be the fall girl for certain people who can’t handle being wrong. I will always care about other people and how they feel and I will always care about my integrity and loyalty. I cannot change that about myself. I can only be aware of the situations around me.