Amy Rees Anderson

The Power of Empathy and the Comfort of Knowing Someone Understands

Tonight I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students and their parents involved in the YEA! Program which stands for Young Entrepreneurs Academy (www.yeausa.org ) , a non-profit program for students in middle school and high school that teaches kids to generate business ideas, do market research on their ideas, write business plans, and pitch to a panel of investors.  My foundation, the IPOP Foundation (www.ipop.org ) partners up and sponsors the YEA program in Utah and tonight we held a CEO panel with a moderator to answer questions about life lessons we had learned with our businesses.

I absolutely love speaking to the young people and seeing these kids look so sharp in their suits and ties and dresses it was so impressive to see the poise and drive they have at such a young age. I can’t wait to see everything those kids accomplish because they are so far ahead of the game at their age then I ever was!

As I left the event I was approached by one of the mothers who asked to talk for a minute. She shared with me that she had heard me talk about how I  had been a single mother running my business and she let me know that was also a single mother trying to balance work, three children, and going back to school to pursue an MBA. She wanted advice on how I was able to handle things in that same situation. As we began talking and I shared the struggles I had I could immediately see the relief on her face to know that someone else out there knew and understood exactly the fears and insecurities and feelings she was having. And on my end as I was sharing how I felt in those days I could literally re-feel the exact emotions I knew she was feeling herself. I had been there…I had walked in those shoes and shared those same feelings and we both felt a sense of knowing the other person knew exactly what it felt like, something that those who hadn’t been in that situation could never really fully understand. Others could hear about her struggles and feel sympathy toward them, but it is very different when two people know that the other person knows exactly what it feels like, and there is huge comfort in having someone who can relate to exactly what you feel.

As I walked to my car I couldn’t help but think that it was nice to know that the struggles I once faced could actually be helpful to someone else’s life just by them finding out I had been there and could understand what they were going through. Empathy is a truly powerful thing.

 “Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.” – Maya Angelou

We’ve all been through struggles and had fears and insecurities at different points in our lives. I believe there is tremendous value in being willing to be open about our fears and struggles and insecurities because in doing so we give others the peace of knowing they are not the only ones…they are not alone.  We should all have the courage to share because you never know who is around you that is feeling all alone and wishing someone else could understand exactly what they are feeling…let them know you’ve been there too and let them know how you overcame…help them see there is hope and a better tomorrow ahead. Because there is, and you might just end up helping it be better….

~Amy Rees Anderson

2 Comments

  • Jane says:

    We never know who will be helped when we tell our story – not because we want attention, but because someone needs to be encouraged. I have never owned a business, been a single mom, or been in any of your situations really, but your stories encourage me in some way every day. Thank you for sharing.

  • Katie says:

    very touching 🙂

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