Empathy Defined: What is Empathy & How to Show Yourself Empathy

We define empathy and explain why showing yourself empathy is important for your mental health and personal growth.

When people talk about empathy, it's usually described as something you feel for another person.

Of course, it's important to treat others with the kindness and understanding that come along with empathy. It helps us be better leaders, friends, and romantic partners.

But more often than not, we don't do ourselves the same favor.

As it turns out, showing yourself empathy is a key way to deepen your relationship with yourself and better your mental health.

In this article, we define empathy and provide 5 easy ways for yourself to start showing yourself more empathy.

What is Empathy? Empathy Defined

Empathy can simply be defined as putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

If you empathize with someone, you can sense how someone feels, understand why they feel that way, and even feel along with them.

Contemporary psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman further describe how empathy works through their 3 types of empathy.

The first kind of empathy is cognitive empathy. Cognitive empathy is the most simple, basic level of empathy: it means you can identify how someone feels and understand their perspective intellectually.

The second kind of empathy is emotional empathy. This describes the way you may begin to feel someone else's emotions along with them when you empathize.

The third kind of empathy is compassionate empathy. Along with understanding someone's perspective, and feeling how they feel, you're also compelled to take action to support them.

Ultimately, in all forms, empathy can be defined as making an effort to truly understand people around you.

Why Showing Yourself Empathy Matters

Ok, so we get what empathy is all about.

But why should you show yourself empathy? Isn't empathy supposed to be about other people?

It's true that we define empathy as great for relationships with other people. It makes you a better leader at work and beyond, and strengthens bonds between friends and romantic partners.

Here's the thing: that high level of compassion and understanding that you show others, can really come in handy in your relationship with yourself.

Simply taking the time to notice how you feel, understand where it comes from, and take steps to care for yourself can go a really long way!

Self-empathy can help you:

  • Regulate Your Emotions: Taking a moment to understand where your feelings are coming from can help prevent feelings from spiraling out of control. Even better? You'll be more equipped to handle unpleasant emotions the next time they come up.
  • Build Self-Awareness: When you get in the habit of pausing to notice how you're feeling and why, you can identify patterns in your thoughts and emotions. This helps you get to know yourself and your emotional health on a deeper level.
  • Better Your Mental Health: Choosing to have empathy for yourself and eliminating self-judgment during difficult times can really better your relationship with yourself, and in turn your overall mental health!

How to Show Yourself Empathy

1. Practice Mindfulness

A mindfulness practice can help you notice your emotions and better understand where they are coming from, which is an essential first step to showing yourself empathy.

Learn more about mindfulness and simple exercises to try. ->

2. Stop Comparing

We've defined empathy as a deep level of understanding and compassion for yourself or others.

Just like you wouldn't judge someone else for not being enough, showing yourself empathy means freeing yourself from comparisons to other people.

Instead of resulting to jealousy and putting yourself down, recognize your strength and how far you've come!

3. Eliminate Self-Judgment

It's easy to judge yourself for how you feel - you may think of yourself as overemotional, needy, or stupid when something makes you upset.

Self-empathy requires that you take the time to process and understand your emotions rather than judging them. Chances are, there's probably a past experience that makes you react the way you do.

4. Engage in Self-Care

Remember that "compassionate empathy" that Goleman and Ekman talked about? That's critical to self-empathy, too.

In addition to noticing and understanding your emotions, engage in self-care to help yourself feel your best when you need it most.

Learn more simple self care ideas. ->

5. Start Journaling

One of the easiest ways to better understand your emotions is through journaling. Why? When you write down how you're feeling, you're forced to put it into words. And when you can articulate how you feel, you're able to take a step back and look at it more objectively.

Journaling with a guided journaling app like Jour can even help you notice unhealthy thought patterns contributing to negative emotions, and learn to process them better.

The best part? It's right there on your phone, and only takes a few minutes!

Learn more about the scientifically-proven health benefits of journaling. ->

You Deserve Empathy

Empathy is often defined as a way to show love and care for other people: by putting ourselves in someone else's shoes, we can see their perspective, understand how they feel, and feel along with them.

While empathy is in fact a great way to deepen relationships with others, it's also a great way to deepen your relationship with yourself.

To show yourself empathy, you can try journaling to help you better understand your emotions and work through them in a healthy way.

And when you're feeling ready to show yourself some love? The Jour app is waiting with tons of personalized journaling prompts to help you understand yourself better, one step at a time.