Empathy vs. I believe in you

I’ve been accused of lacking empathy on more than one occasion.

This accusation takes many forms, but the most common one goes something like this:

I fail to recognize and acknowledge the struggles and limitations of others, as well as the advantages that I enjoy. As a result, I often expect more than is sometimes possible from others. Essentially, I believe that if I can do something, so can you. It’s merely a matter of effort, focus, and desire.

This, according to my accusers, is simply not always true and is the result of my lack of empathy.

Perhaps it’s true. I acknowledge that my viewpoint fails to take in a host of factors that might impact someone’s personal trajectory, many of which are beyond a person’s control:

Mental illness. Intellectual limitations. Physical disabilities. Aging parents. Family illness. Depression. Financial insecurity. Unavoidable, external forces.

All true.

But couldn’t this also be true:

I simply believe in people more than they believe in themselves. I fundamentally believe that almost every human being in the world - myself included - is capable of more than they are currently achieving and possesses the potential for greatness, just waiting to be realized.

Is my problem a lack of empathy or a belief in people beyond their own imaginations?