Life would not be life without some adversity. We all suffer moments of hardship; for some, the moments seem to linger longer or deeper than most. For others, these moments seem to rear their head more frequently. It is not uncommon to feel helpless or out of control and in so doing, feel sorry for ourselves. However, when self-pity becomes self-indulgent or exaggerated and you regularly feel as though you are a victim to circumstance, you can become demotivated or dejected.
John Gardner said that “self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” From this it is clear that doing self-pity is likely to detach you from personal responsibility for your life. Self-pity allows you to dwell on the negative events in your life and focus on the hurt and pain instead of focusing on making positive changes. It creates a self-perpetuating system where feeling sorry for oneself leads to feelings of loneliness and isolation which leads back to feeling sorry for oneself.
So how do you take back your personal responsibility and dislodge yourself from the clutches of self-pity? Here are interlacing ways of being to assist you.
When in the grips of self-pity and focused on how unfair the world has been to you, there are three types of thinking that you need to be aware of. The first is a sense that you are deserving of sympathies from everyone. This kind of thinking, and subsequent behaving, is likely to leave you isolated and lonely. People generally want to spend time with someone who, although is going through a difficult time, is able to see the event for what it is; temporary. Secondly, feeling sorry for oneself usually results in your thoughts reinforcing your negative circumstances. Being aware of these thoughts and shifting your focus to the positive aspects of your life may stop the cycle. Thirdly, be aware of your feelings. You are most likely to feel sorry for yourself when you are feeling anxious or ‘down’. By recognising these feelings and the thoughts which accompany them, you are reducing your chances of doing self-pity.
Here, there is a need to increase your awareness of doing self-pity and deciding not to accept it. This involves you being able to identify when you are about to or already entertaining self-pity. It is likely that this will require some practice but it is achievable with consistency. It is not enough to merely identify the signs of falling into self-pity; you must also ensure that you do not indulge it. This means putting a halt to any self-pity thoughts or behaviours the moment you become alert to them. By not accepting self-pity and the related behaviours, you are automatically shifting your attention to being more optimistic and possibly even finding a positive outcome to your current struggle.
By having a positive outlook towards life and relationships, you are able to overcome self-pitying behaviours and thoughts. This may include setting daily, weekly or monthly goals and challenges. The important thing here is to keep aiming for something new and positive. Once you have achieved a goal, set a new one. Keep working towards something either in your career or personal life. Consider doing things that will provide growth opportunities, such as taking-up a new course or hobby or try volunteering. This will inevitably enable you to develop new skills, meet different people and form new relationships. Remember, your goals need to be realistic and achievable. The aim of this is to create a sense of accomplishment thus increasing your self-esteem.
“When we pity ourselves all we see is ourselves. When we have problems, all we see are our problems and that's all what we love of talking about. We don't see the good things in our lives.” – Ann Marie Aguilar.
Self-pity often leads us to be less aware of others around us and their pain and suffering. It stops us from finding opportunities to help other people and, generally, it makes us selfish. The power of being grateful can be highly underestimated when trying to overcome self-pity. Practice gratitude by reminding yourself of what you are grateful for. If you have to, take a few minutes out of your day to write these down. It may be something small or large or it may be a person or people. Consider the effects of this object or person on your life and what your life would be like if it was absent. There are always things to be grateful for; you just have to look for them.
The above is one approach to identifying and putting the brakes on self-pity. If you feel as though self-pity has gripped you and it’s difficult to get free, ask for help before you find yourself being isolated and alone.