Everyone reading this has felt self-pity at some point in their lives. As it is with life, not everything will go according to your plans. You tend to make mistakes and fail. Then, how does this make you feel? You feel crushed, defeated, and slowly, you start feeling sorry for yourself. Through absolutely no fault of ours, things just simply don’t go as well as you hoped it would.
“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure, and separates the victim from reality.” ― John Gardner
This is all normal. It does feel terrible when you’re stuck in this state for far too long.
However, the situation becomes dangerous when you feel sorry for yourself so much that it becomes a part of you. The first stage of getting better is recognizing that you are addicted to feeling this way.
This guide aims to help you get back up by giving you all the tips you may need to fight such an overwhelming feeling.
Feeling Sorry for Yourself: Knowing When to Stop
“It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are finished, Mrs. Miracle.” ― Debbie Macomber
Is it wrong to feel sorry for yourself?
The answer is no. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself because it’s a natural human emotion. It becomes wrong when it starts to consume you too much, to the extent that you are throwing big pity parties now and again. After all, when you experience it, there is a lot of exaggeration involved.
You amplify your misfortune more than it actually is. A deep sense of helplessness and hopelessness engulfs the fabric of your being. The feeling may also be accompanied by the belief that no one understands you, that you are not appreciated despite how much you work hard for yourself and the people you love.
You may even start thinking that you will never get anything useful out of your life anymore. This self-destructive way of thinking can push you to go out into the world in search of attention and pity. However, not many people would notice it as they are also consumed by their own thoughts, feelings, and problems.
People are out there, dealing with their baggage of issues as well, and that’s just the reality. You have to work on getting out of the black hole yourself. Feeling entitled or victimized — as if things are much better for everyone else except you — will get you nowhere.
Better yet, turn your emotions into something positive. Use it to produce radiant energy that works for you in more ways than one. The pity party will continue to be unsatisfying, leaving a void that you can probably never fill. But it can also be the start of some much-needed introspection.
You can convert your self-pity into zealousness to grow and challenge yourself instead of wasting valuable time by being unproductive.
7 Steps to Help You Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself
“Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have,” — Dale Carnegie
Feeling sorry for yourself has massive secondary gain. When you’re engrossed with self-pity, you feel a bit of dopamine rush as you feel good at the moment. You feel free to complain and moan and sigh as loud as you want.
Nevertheless, it only lasts for a short while. You will realize that it is never enough, and that’s when you begin to get addicted to the feeling.
Here are a few tips on how to express your emotion through the right channels.
1. Concentrate on Your Breathing
When you feel the ugly thoughts of self-pity creeping in, try to calm your mind and body. This way, you can think clearly and become more level-headed.
How can you do this easily? Sit down and close your eyes. Then, breathe deeply through your nose, hold it in for a few seconds. and let it out slowly.
Don’t let any other thought come in at this point. Focus only on the air that goes in and out of your lungs. To avoid finishing the exercise too late or too early, you can set a two-minute timer on your smartphone.
Taking deep breaths may seem insignificant, but it is instrumental in relaxing the mind. Deep breaths enhance our ability to memorize, concentrate, and focus. That burst of oxygen going to your brain will help you achieve the clarity you need at that point in time. So, instead of letting doubts take over your entire being, spending less than five minutes to breathe deeply will bring a sense of calmness in your system.
2. Tap Into the Feeling of Gratitude
The truth is, no matter how bad the situation is, someone is having a more terrible time somewhere. Yeah, it sucks to picture someone else’s misfortune, but when you’re about to be overrun with self-pity, ask yourself an important question first. Is there someone out there who has it worse than me?
By doing so, you are giving yourself the liberty to see things from a broader perspective. You’re not just focusing on your terrible situation and thinking about yourself alone anymore. Now, follow up this question with three things you are grateful for. There are some things that you probably take for granted in your daily life, but they are crucial to your existence.
They don’t have to be something so grand. You may feel grateful for having a roof over your head, for instance. Millions of people don’t even have that bare minimum. You may also be happy about having three square meals and clean water every day. Thinking of such things is enough to stop feeling sorry for yourself.
3. Embrace Optimism
How about looking at your situation as one more lesson in life? It helps to be more constructive about your predicament. For example, if you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you just lost a promotion spot for the third time, look for the optimistic side of this. Ask the relevant questions: Why does my dream position keep slipping away? How can I get it right?
Yes, you are allowed to feel upset for losing something so important to your career, but think about how fulfilling it would be to finally get it. Picture yourself in that new post and how you can feel more proud of it when you succeed against all the odds.
A dash of optimism is perhaps all you need to discover the hidden errors denying you of something you want badly and give you the strength to try again. Look at those moments of failure as an opportunity to learn a game-changing lesson rather than as a door into self-pity land.
4. Embrace the Emotion
Remember that it’s perfectly normal to feel sorry for yourself. You are human, and it’s all part of our psyche. So, don’t waste your energy in fighting it. Be okay with that moment of weakness in which you see everything through a negative lens.
However, set a deadline. Giving yourself a short time to embrace the emotion allows you to thoroughly process what has happened. This situation may have caused shock, a flurry of thoughts, or intense emotion, but take it all in now. We are all familiar with some cases wherein we have tried to push away feelings to make ourselves believe that we have the strength to carry on as if nothing happened. How did that turn out? Most times, it never ended well.
Pushing emotions aside can make them pop up at unexpected times when you’re not ready to deal with them. It’s quite common to see people conceal their emotions because they don’t want to appear weak. Still, denying your experiences will not erase them.
You become a warrior by facing those painful experiences and moving on bravely. Feel free to cry a river, but when you’re done, build a bridge over it. Even if it is only ten minutes, savor that moment and then dust yourself up as you focus towards moving forward again.
5. Lend Someone a Helping Hand
One keyword in self-pity is “self.” When you feel it, you are focusing on a single person: you. Have you ever thought of directing all that attention to someone else? Focus on adding value to another individual. Whether it is a close friend or a random stranger, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you have that moment of respite to proffer solution to someone else’s problem or just lend a listening ear. It will get you out of your head, and you have the extra perk of feeling good when you genuinely help others. It’s certainly amazing to see someone’s face light up and know that it’s because of you.
So, this action doesn’t have to be grand. You can help out by assisting someone with moving or giving valuable advice for a crucial decision. Alternatively, you can simply listen while they vent. Kindness works wonders, and it may help you stop feeling sorry for yourself.
6. Take A Social Media Hiatus
We’re all familiar with the pressures that come with social media. On these platforms, everyone is focused on giving the illusion of a perfect life. The happy faces, countless vacation pictures, and flawless family photos could be a significant contributor to your self-pitying habits.
A lot of people start feeling sorry for themselves when they believe that everyone else around them is doing so much better than them. At this point, taking a break from social media is beneficial. You see only what people want you to see, and you don’t need someone’s fake life belittling what you have achieved on your own.
A social media hiatus allows you to dedicate some time to yourself. Engage in other activities to make up for it instead. You can try watching movies, reading a few books, hanging out more with your loved ones, or taking up an exciting hobby. It’s all up to you.
7. Set Realistic Daily Goals
Your attitude makes a whole world of difference. When you feel like you don’t have enough power to change a situation due to your terrible mental state, try to break it down. A task looks insurmountable until you break it into bite-sized chunks. It’s the same with your personal goals.
Take some “me” time and reflect on what you want to change about yourself. Think about how you can improve your situation. Why are you feeling sorry for yourself anyway? Say, it may be because you believe that everyone at your office hates you.
Then, sit down and get your pen. Why do you believe that they don’t like you? What flaws do you have that are possibly contributing to this? It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to brainstorm the little steps you can take to change this, especially if you plan one change per day.
The change can be as simple as smiling more, using daily words of encouragement, and being more proactive in your decision-making process. No matter how little it seems, it will make a massive difference in the long run. One day, you’ll wake up thinking that you have become a completely different person.
Nonetheless, it is a never-ending process that only looks easy because you have broken it down. With this, you will feel empowered and confident enough to see your life in a better light.
Stopping yourself from self-pitying is not an impossible task. Get started with the simple techniques above and overcome negativity successfully. All it takes is that determination and the right amount of energy to make this work. You can do this.
More on Dealing With Negative Emotions
Having high self-esteem is important if you are aiming for personal or professional success. Interestingly, most people will high levels of self-esteem act in similar ways. That’s why it’s often easy to pick them out in a crowd. There’s something about the way they hold themselves and speak, isn’t there?
We all have different hopes, dreams, experiences, and paths, but confidence has its own universal language. This list will present some of the things you won’t find yourself doing if you have high self-esteem.
1. Compare Yourself to Others
People with low self-esteem are constantly comparing their situation to others. On the other hand, people with higher self-esteem show empathy and compassion while also protecting their own sanity. They know how much they can handle and when they can offer a helping hand.
In the age of social media, however, social comparisons are nearly ubiquitous. One study found that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media”. Basically, you will feel worse about yourself if you are constantly getting glimpses into lives that you consider to be better than yours.
Try to limit your time on social media. Also, when you do start scrolling, keep in mind that each profile is carefully crafted to create the appearance of a perfect life. Check yourself when you find yourself wishing for greener grass.
2. Be Mean-Spirited
People with low self-esteem bully others. They take pleasure in putting other people down. People with positive self-esteem see no need to down other people, choosing instead to encourage and celebrate successes.
If you find that you feel the need to put others down, analyze where that’s coming from. If they’ve had success in life, help them feel good about that achievement. They may do the same for you one day.
3. Let Imperfection Ruin Your Day
Perfectionism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but obsessing over making everything perfect is a sign that you have low self-esteem and can lead to never-ending negative thoughts. This can turn into an inability to solve problems creatively, which will only make self-esteem issues worse.
Those with high self-esteem disconnect from the results and do their best without expecting perfection.
People with that kind of confidence understand that messing up is a part of life and that each time they aim and miss success, they’ll at least learn something along the way.
If you miss the mark, or if your plan doesn’t work out exactly as you would have liked, take a deep breath and see if you can pivot in order to do better next time.
4. Dwell on Failure
It’s common to hear people dwelling on all the ways things will go wrong. They are positive that their every failure signals an impossible task or an innate inability to do something. People with healthy self-esteem discover why they failed and try again.
People with higher levels of confidence also tend to adopt a growth mindset. This type of thinking supports the idea that most of your abilities can be improved and altered, as opposed to being fixed.
For example, instead of saying, “I’m just not good at math; that’s why I did bad on the test,” someone with a growth mindset would say, “Math is difficult for me, so I’ll have to put in some more practice to improve next time.”
Next time you experience a failure, check out this video to help you believe in yourself again:
5. Devalue Your Self-Esteem
People with high self-esteem value their own perception of themselves – they understand that they come first and don’t feel guilty about taking care of themselves. They believe charity starts within, and if they don’t believe that, they’ll never have a healthy self-image.
Self-care is often top of the priority list for people with self-esteem. For some ways to practice self-care, check out this article.
6. Try to Please Others
They can’t please all the people all the time, so confident people first focus on doing what will make them feel fulfilled and happy. While they will politely listen to others’ thoughts and advice, they know that their goals and dreams have to be completed on their own terms.
7. Close Yourself off
Confident people have the ability to be vulnerable. It’s those with poor self-esteem that hide all the best parts of themselves behind an emotional wall. Instead of keeping the real you a secret, be open and honest in all your dealings.
As Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, points out, “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen”. When you embrace each facet of who you are and allow others to see them as well, it will create deeper, more meaningful connections in your life. When that happens, you’ll realize that perfection doesn’t lead to people liking you more.
You can learn more about the power of vulnerability in this TED talk with Brené Brown:
8. Follow and Avoiding Leading
People with low self-esteem don’t believe they can lead, so they end up following others, sometimes into unhealthy situations. Rather than seeking a sense of belonging, people with high self-esteem walk their own paths and create social circles that build them up.
9. Fish for Compliments
If you’re constantly seeking compliments, you’re not confident. People with high self-esteem always do their best (and go out of their way to do good deeds) because it’s what they want to do, not because they’re seeking recognition. If you need to hear compliments, say them to yourself in the mirror.
You can even try some positive affirmations if you need a confidence boost. Check out these affirmations to get started.
10. Be Lazy
People work harder when they have high self-esteem because they’re not bogged down by doubts and complaints. Those with low self-esteem end up procrastinating and wasting their energy thinking about all the work they have to do rather than rolling up their sleeves and just getting it done.
This may also bounce off perfectionism. Perfectionists often feel intimidated by certain projects if they fear that they won’t be able to complete them perfectly. Tap into your confidence and simply do your best without worrying about a perfect outcome.
11. Shy Away from Risks
When you trust yourself, you’ll be willing to participate more in life. People with low self-esteem are always on the sidelines, waiting for the perfect moment to jump in. Instead of letting life pass you by, have confidence in your success and take the risks necessary to succeed.
People with low self-esteem are always in other peoples’ business – they’re more interested in what everyone else is doing than themselves. People with high self-esteem are more interested in their own life and stay out of others’ affairs.
Instead of participating in idle gossip, talk about some positive news you heard recently, or that fascinating book you just finished. There’s plenty to talk about beyond what this or that person did wrong in their life.
The Bottom Line
Self-esteem is to success in life. People who maintain a healthy level of self-esteem believe in themselves and push themselves to succeed, while those with low confidence feel a sense of entitlement.
If you need a boost in your self-image and mental health, avoid negative self-talk and the other mistakes of people with low self-esteem. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.