Are you, or do you know, someone who starts the day by rising and whining instead of rising and shining? You know the type; they love to swish around in self-pity. They believe the world is unfair and the only thing preventing them from enjoying it are their particular ‘problems.’
What makes feeling sorrow for oneself so insidious is that it is a sign of both unhappiness and the fact that the misery will continue. How does one become trapped in a morass of self-pity? It begins with self-doubt. When we fail to believe in ourselves, we fail to reach our potential. And by not reaching the success we deserve, we experience the psychological pain of regret, shame, and guilt. Now, what would you do if you accidentally touched a hot stove? Wouldn’t you pull your hand away? We automatically flee from or avoid pain. The same is true with psychological pain.
It may be too painful to admit I am not as successful or happy as I would like to be because I have either done the wrong things or haven’t done the right things. So, rather than feel that pain, I cover it up by denying responsibility and assigning blame for my misery to the outside world. In other words, we don’t practice self-pity to feel good, but to avoid feeling pain. So, you see, though feeling sorry for others is an expression of compassion; feeling sorry for ourselves is a cover-up, a form of self-deception.
So, how do we crawl out of the mire of self-pity and get on with the rest of our lives? Before sharing some ideas, let me first say that the purpose of the following suggestions is to help you, if any of it applies; it is not to be used to judge others. The reason for this is that we can never know what is going on in the minds of others. What you see as self-pity in others could in fact be legitimate feelings due to grief, clinical depression, or a major illness. One more point, all attributes, whether negative or positive, are shared in common. As a human, I am bound to experience self-pity at one time or another, and the amount that I experience will be greater or lesser than others. Because of the commonality that binds us, we probably could all benefit by the following suggestions.
1. Rather than run from the pain that’s troubling you, face it and use it as a catalyst for change. Use your misery as motivation for self-improvement. Find out what you are doing wrong and correct your behaviour. Become angry at your own self-defeating actions and do something about it. Yes, it’s as simple as that. Although it’s simple, change does involve more pain (no pain, no gain) because of the effort you have to make. But this type of pain is to be welcomed, for it will dissolve your misery and restore your happiness.
2. Don’t add to your suffering by comparing yourself to others. Life is not a competition; it is a garden. Every flower (person) is different but beautiful in it’s own way.
3. Stop being demanding. Stop believing the world was created to serve you. The truth is, you were created to serve it. It doesn’t center around you. You’re just a small (but important) part of the whole. Focus on what you can give back to life instead of what you can take from it. Make your contribution and enjoy the ride. Some whiners complain, “What’s the purpose of it all? What’s in it for me?” They find no meaning because they are self-centered and can’t understand why the world doesn’t cater to their every need. When they stop thinking of themselves they will discover meaning, for there is a whole world out there that needs their help in spreading joy.
4. Admit that many people are worse off than you; yet, they are doing better. So, follow their example and join their ranks.
5. Stop claiming the world is unfair. The only thing unfair is your distorted belief that the successes of others are due to their ‘lucky breaks’ and good fortune rather than their constructive action. Once you stop whining and start taking action, you will be able to join them in success.
6. True, some situations are more difficult than others, but beware of giving in to hopelessness and seeking comfort in chronic self-pity. For example, a woman married to an alcoholic that beats her five children will find it difficult to survive on her own. But for the safety of her children, she needs to let go of her fear, calmly study her options, make plans, and follow the best path available at the time, slowly working her way upward.
7. Realize that there are no failures on the road to success; there are merely a series of successive steps that must be taken and detours that must be maneuvered. ‘Failure’ is a term that negative thinkers attach to those steps and detours. Just as a stranger is a friend you have yet to make, ‘failure’ is a success you have yet to reach, so just keep plodding onward.
8. Understand that misery doesn’t exist in the world, but in our mind. It is not our present conditions, but our reactions to those conditions that are the source of our pain. The fault lies in us. Self-pity is self-defeating; no good can come out of it, so accept responsibility and change yourself.
9. Change your focus from what you cannot do to what you can do, from what you lack to what you have, from the way things are to the way you will make them become, from the person you are to the person you plan to be, from the problems facing you to their possible solutions, and from the difficulties you’re mired in to the opportunities they offer. Since we become what we think about, it is essential that we focus on the right things.
10. Use the power of your imagination to help, not hinder you. Don’t accept your imagination’s exaggeration of the magnitude of your problems, for if you do, you become its slave, paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. Instead, use your imagination to vizualize how wonderful things will be when you begin taking constructive action. By doing so, your imagination will become your coach, motivating you to act.
11. Change paths. Leave the Path of Self-Pity for the Path of Positive Action. Do this by asking yourself, “WHAT DO I WANT FROM LIFE? Do I want to be happier?” If so, you need to ask the next question, which is, “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”
12. Finally, understand the power of choice. Choice is a door. When we open one, we slam shut another. When we open the door of Self-Pity, we slam shut the doors of Positive Action, Success, and Happiness.
Self-pity is never a helpless cause because it can always serve as a terrible example. The choice is ours, we can serve as an inspiration to others by illustrating what is possible, or we can serve as an example of what NOT to do. Which will it be? Which door will we open?
Chuck Gallozzi lived, studied, and worked in Japan for 15 years, immersing himself in the wisdom of the Far East and graduating with B.A. and M.A. degrees in Asian Studies. He is a Certified NLP Practitioner, speaker, seminar leader, and coach. Corporations, church groups, teachers, counselors, and caregivers use his more than 400 articles as a resource to help others. Among his diverse accomplishments, he is also the Grand Prix Winner of a Ricoh International Photo Competition, the Canadian National Champion of a Toastmasters International Humorous Speech Contest, and the Founder and Head of the Positive Thinkers Group that has been meeting at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto since 1999. His articles are published in books, newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. He was interviewed on CBC’s “Steven and Chris Show,” appearing nationally on Canadian TV. Chuck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his photography at https://500px.com/chuckgallozzi. This article cannot be re-published without permission.