An open letter to my younger self... November 02 2016

Why do we always turn to our grandparents or parents for advice? Are the elderly wiser individuals? I am a firm believer that hardships, turmoil and life experiences turn you into a more compassionate and empathetic person. Does that make you wiser?  Not necessarily. But, I do think it makes you more relatable. You have been there, and done that. You can give real life advice to others while being truly empathetic to the situation.

First of all, we need to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is a much deeper emotion, you feel the person's state of being. You can literally feel his pain or joy. You have experienced the situation yourself (or something similar) and you want to help or celebrate with the person in need. Sympathy, on the other hand, is a feeling of understanding without experiencing the emotion yourself.

Often times, we think that trauma, heartbreak or pain seem to only be negative and destructive emotions. That's not always true. In the long term, these emotions tend to balance us and even make us a more compassionate person. When you experience these emotions, it makes you a more empathetic person. It gives you the life experience that some associate with great wisdom.

Have you ever known a soldier who returned from combat suffering from PTSD? Have you ever known someone who lost everything in a house fire? Have you ever known someone who has been through a painful divorce? Have you ever known someone who suffered from an accident that leaves them depressed? Have you ever known someone who conquered cancer, only to be left with unbearable anxiety about the disease returning? All of these experiences are life changing and can bring on anger, resentment and even bitterness.

However, many people can turn these traumas into a powerful spur for personal development. They gain significant benefits. You can discover inner strength, skills and abilities that you never knew you possessed. You can become more confident and appreciate all the "little" things in life. Trauma makes you a more compassionate towards the suffering of others. Heartbreak makes you a more empathetic person, which in turn, creates deeper and more satisfying relationships. Most importantly, suffering can lead to a deeper level of awareness.

You may feel like there is not a light at the end of your tunnel. I am here to reassure you that not only do you have a light, but you will come out more compassionate, confident and overall a stronger person. Don't lose sight of the forest because you are stuck in the trees.