On Sympathy vs Empathy

Q: Why is it wrong to feel sorry for someone or yourself? What is there behind that feeling that makes it wrong? How is compassion different from feeling sorry?

EE: This is an awesome question.

It is often considered self-indulgent to feel sorry for yourself, even if you have good reason. People tend to mock you for being a wahhh.

Feeling sorry for someone else is generally more socially acceptable, provided you rephrase it to ‘sympathising,’ which is less patronising.

There is nothing wrong with demonstrating compassion towards yourself or other people – in fact, the world needs more kindness in it.

However, there is a school of thought that suggests giving sympathy isn’t especially productive. I disagree.

For me, the most effective way to show compassion is to empathise, which is different again.

When you sympathise, you express sorrow for another’s misfortune, but when you empathise, you validate their experience and the feelings it has engendered, having been through it yourself.