What I want to do is move past thoughts of self-pity that are self-sabotaging.
Have you ever said that to yourself?
Yeah, everyone does it. And, sometimes, you just have to let yourself be mad at the world, cry until there’s nothing left, except that sense of relief that comes when your body cannot shake, tense, or hardly breathe. So, there’s silence with a deep inhale and a sigh.
At that moment, you’re free. The angst, anguish, pain, sense of helplessness, resentment, and anger have washed through—generally moving up the emotional scale.
Then, by the time you’re lying there, letting the body regain strength and composure, there’s a glimmer of hope—the space and mindset needed to allow a new perspective, a new thought, to come to mind.
You begin to consider that, perhaps, there’s another way to see things, and you start leaning toward the thoughts that tell you, “I’ll figure it out. I don’t know how yet, but it will come to me.”
And then, you go about your day. Onward and upward.
But then you realize this isn’t the first time you’ve had that private pity party. What if, to your own dismay, you realize that it’s actually become a habit? Maybe not all the time, like on every topic known to you.
But, you have noticed a pattern. Then, again, do you know how to recognize when this habit of not coping so well has actually picked up some momentum, and you haven’t figured out how to change your behavior or how you respond to certain events, personalities, or challenges in life?
It’s okay. The first thing is not hijacking yourself back into feeling crappy about yourself by telling yourself you are no good or any other name that you’ve learned along your life trail from others that haven’t done their inner work.
So, stop for a moment and take a deep breath. You’re okay. After all, you’re here, right now, reading these words, and you haven’t flipped to another topic yet. That means you’re ready. I got you. Keep reading because it’s really not so bad, and I think you’ll like it because it’s going to make sense, and you’ll be well on your way.
How do I know? Because I have and am applying it too. That’s why I can talk about it.
So, let’s move forward.
Here are some external examples/pointers, like an arrow or a dog really, that help us recognize that pattern of self-sabotage showing up as habitual self-pity:
>> There’s an inclination to habitually cringe, shrink, or hide (literally or metaphorically) from whatever topic that feels like a threat.
>> Thoughts go directly to memories to “confirm” that the triggering topic is impossible, problematic, never goes away, is dumb luck, a curse, just the way it is, and so on.
>> There’s a habit of seeing the worst-case scenario as an initial response to an event(s) in life.
>> When others speak more positively, our first inclination is to state “a fact,” “being realistic,” anything that points toward the opposite by either minimizing their positivity, making the problem the focal point instead of considering the silver lining, or listing everything that’s ever gone wrong that we feel relates in some way, sometimes making a blanket statement afterward in order to sound positive to others.
Some internal indicators of the habit of self-pity (victimhood perception) are:
>> Silently feeling hopeless or helpless while “saying” the right words to others to prevent seeming pathetic, hypercritical, or weak.
>> Not sleeping well, poor digestion, feeling overly insecure, or overly aggressive—a need to control our environment and/or others to feel safe, superior, and of value.
>> Believing that if others (spouse, children, boss, coworkers, society, a political party, the government, or circumstance) would change, then we would feel better—safe, healthy, happy, secure, heard, of value.
These are just a few examples of how habitual self-pitying shows up—in other words, a venue of perceiving oneself through the guise of being a victim. Victim of what? Anyone or anything that, in the reality that we’re perceiving, we believe needs to be different before we will feel better in some way.
What’s really important here is to remind ourselves that there is nothing outside of our own mind that we can control or that we’re even supposed to attempt to control or be in charge of. The only thing anyone has charge of is the direction of the thoughts that improve their outlook from moment to moment.
When you or I say that someone else made us feel bad in some way, it means giving away the only power we have, which is how we decide to feel at any given moment.
Now let me clarify so we are on the same page.
Someone else’s words and behavior can absolutely be the worst display that a human being can express. There’s no denying that. This, my friend, is an extreme case of a human being viewing life and others through the lenses of self-pity and victimhood, and it is showing up in extreme ways.
That being said, just as others can only make their changes from the inside out, so it goes for you and me. We don’t have to do someone else’s internal inventory or deal with their internal dialog—because we can’t. And it’s not our job.
Getting caught up trying to tell others their business without addressing our own thoughts and behaviors means we are doing exactly the same as every other person who’s displaced personal responsibility and accountability.
In other words, we are giving over our power to something or someone outside of ourselves. This only changes when you and I address ourselves, do our inner work, and change our patterns for the better.
So we both get that. We’re on the same page. And that leads us to the next question.
What do we/I do about it?
Glad you asked!
Let’s go over some things that I’ve done for myself and that you can do too:
1. Asking ourselves questions that help reframe the way we’re looking at a situation can be helpful. It isn’t always easy, but there’s a way to talk to ourselves, which helps us ease into a better perspective. We can ask ourselves the following:
>> There must be another way to see this. What’s another way that I can view my situation?
We need to remind ourselves that we do have the option of looking at things from a glass-half-empty attitude, thereby feeling hopeless and helpless. Or, we can have a glass-half-full perspective or mindset, thereby being more receptive to thoughts and ideas that allow us to feel the freedom that comes with knowing that situation is temporary, and that other options or relief come in various forms, which we want to be clear-minded enough to recognize.
>> To say my life is just one miserable experience to the next is not true. I know I’ve had experiences where I got past a challenge, got through things. What evidence do I have that I can draw upon to remind myself that I can get through this?
It’s logical that in the heat of the moment we may feel sorry for ourselves. When we feel this way for more than a few moments, it’s evidence that we feel a lack of confidence in our ability to handle problems. This is where we should encourage ourselves to draw from times past, no matter how big or small, to raise our confidence in our ability to get through and solve a problem or cope with a tragedy. This is a proactive approach to reviewing and affirming the skills that give us an extra boost of confidence. It will also help us stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
2. An additional proactive step is shifting self-pity to an attitude of gratitude. In the face of not feeling like ourselves, it might seem trite, or at least irritating to hear. But trust me, since our goal is to feel better in order to do better, then applying the practice now will reap the positive, confidence-building sense of inner strength, security, and aptitude we’re reaching for. The way to do this is by building new habits that help us to focus on what we have to feel grateful for:
>> Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, we can write down 10 things that we are grateful for. It could include being grateful for simple things we may take for granted, like having fresh air to breathe, the fact that our heart beats and we don’t have to think it into being, seeing the sunshine, sunrise, or sunset. We can list them and allow ourselves to feel the uplifting emotion that correlates with gratitude and appreciation. Making it a visceral experience trains the body and mind connection to respond accordingly, producing the chemicals and hormones that support the well-being of both.
>> Shift our thoughts when we start to feel self-pity. When we start to notice that we’re beginning to feel sorry for ourselves, we have to shift our focus. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to continue thinking that life isn’t fair or that life or others should be different. Instead, we can sit down and create a list of 10 things, people, circumstances, and experiences in our lives that we can be thankful for. We can also reread our gratitude journal to remind ourselves daily of the good we do have and do experience in our lives.
>> Talk about and share gratitude time with others. What we practice becomes our way of being in life. And practice is progress. Talking with others about gratitude not only helps us discover what other people are grateful for, but hearing it will remind us of more areas of our lives that deserve our attitude of gratitude.
The more practiced we are at appreciation, the more things show up for us to appreciate. Set aside a time and create a family activity where everyone expresses gratitude over an event of their day, either over dinner, dessert, weekend activity, or something else. We can even do this for ourselves. The purpose is to make gratitude a regular practice, even a ritual filled with joy, fun, and lightheartedness.
>> Look for positive aspects. We can make lists of positive aspects of things and events in life and people, or better yet, their qualities that we love and appreciate. For example, I love nature and wildlife, so I look for the qualities and positive aspects I can learn about them—spiritual symbology and things to appreciate about nature and the earth. When I think about certain friends or family, I write down characteristics I appreciate in them like their kindness, compassion, generosity, sense of humor, artistic or musical ability, and so on.
3. When we feel better, we do better. We can implement other self-care tools to support the mind, heart, and body relationship for well-being. A well body is a well mind, and a well mind is a well body. Some beneficial practices to implement along with the suggestions above are:
>> Physical activity. We can choose the activities that incorporate the mind, body, and spirit connection such as Yoga, Energy Work, Qigong, Mindful Walking, Mindful Eating, and other Mindfulness practices.
>> Meditation. Tuning into our higher power, intuition, inner wisdom, or stillness and stress-reduction meditation greatly aid in setting a foundation for the well-being of body, mind, spirit, and health and wellness mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
>> Get creative. We’ve all heard that having a hobby or two is important. There’s truth to that. For one thing, it occupies the mind in a productive, enjoyable way. So, where attention goes, energy flows. Again, enhancing the understanding that when we feel better, we do better in all areas of life.
Secondly, engaging the mind through focus and body through movement (action: that act of moving in response to thought) reinforces and programs ourselves to productivity, aptitude, and positive action, positive reinforcement. This also translates to the human psyche as being of value because we take time to allow and implement activities of pleasure without demand, or requirement to prove worthy (as over-competitiveness tends to teach us). Consider anything from arts, crafts, writing, painting, singing, or even playing an instrument.
>> Get clear and focus there. Meaning, we have to be clear about what we want to experience in our lives. Sometimes, the habit of self-pity, self-loathing, and self-defamation arises when we’re too caught up in doing what we think is expected of us, people-pleasing, or not taking time to know ourselves, our own desires, and interests. Then, we focus on what actually matters to the self. Everyone’s opinion doesn’t matter. It’s just an opinion, and we don’t need to hear them all. Only we can know ourselves the best.
When negative emotions arise, like a young child who doesn’t have the language to express fully but just wants to be heard and understood, give that inner being time to be heard. Listen with compassion and understanding. Then we can offer ourselves the encouragement and language needed to feel better, express better, and thus, experience better.
Do you, boo.
You got this!
One day at a time. One step at a time. Celebrate each step along the way. Don’t fool yourself into believing there’s perfection.
Remind yourself that there’s only learning and progress, and practice is progress.