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Embracing Personal Growth and Empathy

Written by: Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT


In a world where comfort often becomes our sanctuary, it's easy to become complacent with the status quo. We find solace in the way things are – our jobs, environment, and even our identity. However, change is an inescapable force that shapes our lives, molding us into different versions of ourselves with each passing year. Even the subtlest shifts can't be denied.


For some, change may trigger discomfort and resistance, but it is precisely through stepping outside our comfort zones that we truly transform. The choices we make in our everyday lives – from how we greet someone to what we wear – reflect who we are as individuals and have the power to shape our future.


Amid our quest for personal growth, it is crucial to remember the impact of our interactions with others. This is where practicing empathy comes into play. By seeking to understand the perspectives of others, we expand our way of thinking, fostering deep connections with those around us. Empathy becomes the driving force that propels us on our journey of personal growth, ultimately leaving a positive impact not only on ourselves but also on our community.


girl expressing empathy to one of group mates

Now, take a moment to reflect on the aspects of your life that necessitate personal growth. How can you embrace change and practice empathy to unlock your true potential?


The Start of Your Transformative Journey 

To begin our journey of embracing personal growth and empathy, it is crucial to first find what our core values are and what truly gives our lives meaning and purpose. Some examples of core values could be:

  • Relationships: Reflect on your relationship with your friends, family, and/or partner or spouse. Understand your expectations in a relationship, communication styles, and other desired qualities need to be to keep those healthy connections. 

  • Education: Consider your academic achievement or the extent of higher education obtained and where you can apply what you learned to your career choice. 

  • Respect: Respect for us and others is key to how you view yourself, build character, and affect the way you treat others. 

  • Career: Having a job is essential to making a living in today’s world, and it’s important to consider the type of job that brings you personal growth, financial stability, and overall enjoyment.

  • Faith: Whether you are religious, spiritual, or philosophical etc., finding the foundation and meaning to life and purpose drives our actions and viewpoints of life itself and who we are. 

Core values are what shape who we are and define what we do in life. By aligning our significant core values in comparison to those around us, we can foster our development and practice empathy by understanding the different core value systems that serve as the foundation of ourselves and drive our personal growth.


Empathy: Expanding Your Horizons

After finding our core values, our next step to personal growth involves the practice of empathy. We can learn from one another’s cultures that are different from our own, and there are many ways to step inside the world of those around us. 

For starters, we can expand our horizons through travel excursions and immerse ourselves in diverse cultures from all around the globe. For example, think about a time when you ate out at your local restaurant: 

  • What cultural background does the restaurant stand for? 

  • Did you try a new dish offered on their menu that perhaps did not reflect what you eat from your own culture?

  • Did their menu serve dishes that originated in other regions? 

  • Or what about attending a local festival and dancing along to music that wasn’t your local Top 40 hits and was in a different language other than your own? 

We live in a world where diversity and multiculturalism are used as a band-aid term for acceptance of all backgrounds. While inclusivity is present, there is still a huge division between individual cultures and a lack of empathy to learn about one another’s backgrounds and genuinely embrace them. 


Multicultural exposure allows us to gain new perspectives, break free from narrow-mindedness, break down stigmas and stereotypes, and overall embrace the realization that multiple ways of living do coexist harmoniously. Here are some ways in which we can practice empathy from a multicultural lens:


Perspective Taking

Ever heard of the phrase “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes”? By practicing perspective-taking, we encourage and embrace empathy to put ourselves in the place of someone else’s point of view (or culture, for instance). 


We must look to understand one another’s experiences, drop assumptions about each other’s culture, share outcomes of what we expect in our interactions through words of affirmation, and adjust our worldviews. This removes biases, egocentrism, and social stereotypes and builds meaningful connections with others. 


For example, let’s say an individual is characterized as a "bad person." Perhaps they often find it challenging to empathize with others or see situations from alternative perspectives. Other challenges lie within their struggle: having a “tunnel vision” perspective of life, clinging to their ways of doing things, and being unaware that multiple approaches and perspectives exist. 


The individual’s sole focus is entirely on negative aspects of others, the tendency to shift blame from themselves onto others, and complete disregard for personal responsibility. What aspects of their life or characteristics label them this way?


We must learn to take the time to dig deep into their personal life experiences before labeling or making assumptions about them based on perceived negative qualities of someone without getting to know them and their circumstances. Perhaps they had a bad day or were never taught how to care for and embrace others if it was not demonstrated to them, or they never had exposure to other worldviews outside of their own. 


That is why it is key to practice perspective-taking and look to understand each other to 

build positive interactions, remove biases and labels, and overall change our worldview 

and attitudes about those we interact with.


Listen Actively And Be Judgment-Free

Show that you are genuinely curious about learning another’s culture and recognize any biases held or emotions carried about that person and their culture. In one aspect, our reactions and judgments are passed down generationally, so it is up to us individually to change how we respond and act toward others from another culture. 


Ask open-ended questions, use body language, and paraphrase what is being shared with you about the other person’s culture to show that you are being attentive and setting up a connection. Remember that being empathetic allows you to take on a deeper understanding of someone else’s point of view without allowing your understanding or biases to get in the way.


Share Similarities

When getting to know and understand a new culture, oftentimes, you may find that there are more things shared than realized. This aids in breaking the stereotype that all cultures are significantly different and, therefore, can coexist.


For example, when looking at the cultures of Haiti and France. From the forefront, they may appear very distinct: One being a European country, and the other an island in the Caribbean, with differences in day-to-day living and the population that lives there. Yet, they both share commonalities about their colonial history, spoken French language, and even their cuisines! By consciously taking note of seeing similarities within both cultures, we gain a better understanding and exercise compassion with others. 


We can learn to appreciate what makes other cultures each their own and oftentimes share commonalities to gain a deeper understanding that other ways of living exist for a reason. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are largely impacted by our own culture and how we interact with those around us from another culture. Therefore, we must respect individuals of other cultural backgrounds who may or may not share the same core values and culture as our own and broaden our horizons through practicing empathy and being culturally immersed. 


Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness, meditation, or any other holistic techniques that enable us to be fully present in the moment can greatly aid us in self-reflection toward personal growth and empathy. Our thoughts influence our actions, and our actions influence our environment and those within it. 


For starters, reframing negative thoughts serves as a powerful strategy to overcome difficult hurdles in life. If we go about our day thinking, “I’ll never be good enough,” “People just don’t understand me, and it’s pointless to keep trying,” or “This person treated me poorly, therefore everyone else will too.” Rather than allowing a negative interaction or thoughts to taint our entire day, we can consciously choose to view it in a more positive light. 


Here are two examples of ways to retrain our thoughts based on our experiences and cultural understanding:

  • Neurofeedback, or Biofeedback, Gives us information to help us retrain our brain to remain stable and more productive during times of stress. Exposure to multiple stimuli daily elicits certain reactions, so it's crucial to engage in training in neurofeedback, which helps to strengthen our brains to respond to those stimuli in a calm, compassionate, and stable manner. 

  • Journaling: Keeping a journal and reflecting upon our experiences can deepen our understanding of the world and actively influence our thoughts and behaviors. Journaling is centered on emotional awareness, and taking the time to self-reflect on our own cultural experiences builds awareness in personal growth. Pay attention to the behaviors, emotions, and daily activities within your lived experience as you journal. Note any key themes that also tie in with your positive and negative experiences and how those encounters shaped your perspective and worldview of other cultures compared to your own. 

In closing, remember that there are countless mindfulness practices to explore beyond what was mentioned in this blog. Yoga, massage, spa visits, walks in nature, meditation, and more, including individual therapy, can all contribute to self-care, personal growth, and empathy. These activities can be done alone or with others, allowing for sharing personal experiences and the opportunity to learn about different backgrounds. It's important to reflect on the valuable insights gained from perceived negative experiences and consider how they contribute to personal growth and practicing empathy. By seeking solutions and focusing on personal growth, even in challenging situations, we can foster a positive mindset.


By embracing personal growth and cultivating empathy, we can unlock our true potential and make positive contributions to the world around us. Remember that every choice, no matter how insignificant it may seem, has the power to shape our ongoing development and the future we create. Take the time to reflect on your core values and what they mean to you and those you interact with. Expand your horizons by practicing empathy and embracing cultural acceptance. And don't forget to incorporate mindfulness techniques into your journey for overall well-being.


If you're ready to start your journey to personal growth and empathy, we invite you to schedule an appointment with the Neurofeedback and Counseling Center of PA. Our team offers Neurofeedback and Therapeutic Services designed to support your personal growth and guide you toward wellness at every step of your journey. Contact us today at (717) 202-2510 to get started.





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