June Reading Recs: On Empathy


Empathy is the ultimate superpower.

It is what makes relationships last and entire communities flourish.

The problem is I think we’re suffering from a major lack of empathy today. Worse- we confuse sympathy with empathy.

Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and feeling what they are feeling right alongside them.

Sympathy is saying it without actually putting yourself in the person’s shoes.

A few weeks ago, we saw this in its cruelest display with the suicides of two beloved famous creatives- Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

If anything, this is a reminder that we all have our own struggles, setbacks and demons. Fame, money or success cannot alleviate all of our struggles. Yet the more of any of these things we get, the easier it is to try and rationalize internalizing all of our struggles and problems to the point where we feel completely alone.

We may think we’re practicing empathy but the reality is we can only practice as much empathy and compassion with others as we first practice with ourselves.

Empathy is a lot like love. You can’t possibly fully love someone without first practicing self-love.

I know the theme for this month’s newsletter is heavier than usual. Instead of sharing my usual 4 recommendations for things I read in the last month, I’m going to share 4 great reads about compassion, empathy and yes mental health. The reality is they are all interconnected.

1. “The Internet has not just open-sourced information; it has also open-sourced insecurity, self-doubt, and shame.” 

This is a quote from Mark Manson’s bestselling book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, that I can’t stop thinking about.

2. Community builders as well as any creative type experience higher levels of anxiety and burnout than the average worker. If left unchecked, it can spiral into depression. In this post, Carrie outlines the core reasons for community builder burnout.

3. Empathy is a choice. When I think about empathy, Brene Brown is one of the first people who come to mind. This video talks about the defining qualities of an empathetic person.

4. I’m not the lone wolfMental health is so stigmatized in this country. So anytime a public figure is willing to talk about their struggles is helpful. The last person you expect to talk about battling their mental health woes is one of the most winningest college football coaches in recent memories. This longform article on Coach Urban Meyer’s mental health struggles is not only hard-hitting but beautifully written.

What are you reading right now? Drop me an email, and let me know. The only thing I love more than reading is getting thoughtful recommendations for what I should read next.

*An earlier version of this post went out to my email subscribers. If you want to get first dibs on what I’m reading and the occasional update (I never send more than 2 emails per month), sign up here.

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Jessica Malnik

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