I’m in a really wonderful ongoing group chat with some fellow adult ammys. I love those ladies and am so thankful to have them for their amazing advice and support. We all live in different parts of the country and are focusing on a multitude things in our horsey-related lives. Some of us show, a few are moms balancing being wives, mothers, professionals and adult ammys, one is bringing along a three year old she broke herself and another is rehabbing a horse that is looking so good he GLOWS. Not all of them own their own horse, but it’s on their bucket list and I can’t wait to celebrate the day they do. I enjoy hearing about their daily ongoings and discussing our successes as well as struggles. I’ve learned so much from them and have grown more as a person while developing the utmost respect for how hard each and every one of them works to integrate horses into their lives in their own unique way.
Recently, one of them sent us an article on empathy vs sympathy. (You can check it out here.)
The main takeaway? There is a BIG difference between the two.
Excerpt from the article:
Sociologist Charles Derber describes two kinds of responses in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts attention back to yourself, and the second supports the other person’s comment. Here is a simple illustration:
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Me too. I’m totally overwhelmed.
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Why? What do you have to get done?
Shift responses are a hallmark of conversational narcissism. They help you turn the focus constantly back to yourself. But a support response encourages the other person to continue their story.
I am guilty of shifting. I used to think offering up a similar experience I went through would make the person feel less alone and allow me to relate to them on a closer level. I now understand that isn’t the case. Often times, you can help so much more just by listening and being present.
So how does this relate to the green-eyed monster and who exactly IS the green-eyed monster?
Technically Shakespeare coined the phrase in Othello, but I have to fess up, I first learned about it from the Berenstain Bears children’s book series. Basically, the green-eyed monster is a manifestation of our jealous self when we see someone with something that makes us envious. It’s those feelings and our inner voice saying, “It isn’t fair,” “I work just as hard” or “Why does he/she get to do that and I don’t.” It is a slippery slope, and one I think far too easy to start falling down when scrolling through the equestrian realms of social media.
Reading about someone else successes, the excitement about a new horse or saddle or the opportunity to attend a big show are all things that can trigger shift vs support thoughts and responses. It’s far too easy to jump to “green” conclusions and go with, “wow, she got another jumper?” versus “good for her, I hope they have a successful partnership and she shares some videos! He is beautiful!”
Trying to compare yourself to others will not get you far. Why not? Because no one in this entire world can compare to you. You are an individual, perfect just the way you are. Do I wish I could ride like Georgina Bloomberg and have .01% of her success and… why not… maybe one of her horses? Sure! Do I think about it often? No! I refuse to compare myself to others because I am my own person. I set realistic (and a few lofty) goals for myself – both short and long term to practice focus, patience and planning. Of course I hit road blocks – I’m only human and it wouldn’t be real life without the occasional mental, physical or financial hiccup. And. That. Is. Okay.
We all come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and have personal goals & plans when it comes to our equestrian lives and I think that’s what makes this sport so unique. It also makes it very easy to compare ourselves to the riders constantly in the spotlight who are fortunate enough to have the opportunities they do, regardless of how they make it happen.
So I challenge you to this: be present and aware of your support vs shift responses when having a conversation with someone else as well as when you’re scrolling through Instagram. Instead of sending a post to one of your barn friends saying “must be nice…” leave a supportive or congratulatory comment on the post instead. I think you’ll be surprised at how good it feels.