Feeling sorry for yourself uses energy that could be used to turn your life around explains Carole Spiers

Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world

Helen Keller

 Some people often appear to be consumed with self-pity; they constantly find reason to feel sorry for themselves whatever the circumstances of their life.  They are identifiable because they start many of their sentences with ‘If only…’

‘If only I was thinner…’ , ‘If only I had more money…’, ‘If only I lived in a larger house…’, ‘If only I had a different job…’ , ‘If If I only had a nicer boss…’.

When people feel sorry for themselves, they imply that they really deserve more from life than that which they already have.

As a temporary measure, self-sorrow can be comforting.  Just as an animal licks its wounds, it gives us a way to ease our pain.  It can also be a way of distracting us from painful emotions such as grief or fear.  If we express it to others, self-pity can be a cry for help or a way of enlisting sympathy.  While it may be comforting in the short term to have the sympathy from others, the chances are that after a while, they will start to avoid you and then, soon, there will be nobody there for you.

Learning from mistakes

Feeling sorry for yourself uses energy that could be used to turn your life around.  But as long as you are stuck in the past, it is going to stop you from moving on into the future.

We all make mistakes and fail at times.  It is human nature. But instead of worrying about those failed attempts, we should see them as an opportunity to learn from the experience and do better next time.  Let us not forget that some of the most successful people in the world have had their share of failure but they have learned to look forwards – not backwards.

Self-pity can feed upon itself and when you project a sad image and lack of personal belief, then your circumstances will probably deteriorate further.  It can become a vicious circle in which you are seen by others as pathetic.

Being wrapped up in self-pity can spoil any chance you have of being able to see new opportunities for self-advancement, as and when they appear.  However, this circle of self-defeat can be stopped and your ‘half-empty glass’ can become ‘half-full’ instead.  When we make a habit of self-pity, it only impedes the progress we make in life and it can create self-destructive cycles of self-sabotage.

Taking Action

Think of how depressive you are on others. Imagine you are the other person: would you not get tired listening to you pitying yourself?  The chances are that you would, and you would try your best to avoid the other person, whenever possible.

  • Recognise the warning signs of feeling sorry for yourself and consciously stop yourself from going down this route. Listen to the words that you are saying, or even thinking, and if they are ‘If only…’ then you know you are on the slippery slope to self-pity.
  • Do something for someone else less fortunate than yourself. Maybe some voluntary work that will give you a new perspective to your own life.  Seeing other people who have their own challenges can help you see your own life differently and it would also be a good opportunity to increase your friends and acquaintances.
  • List all the things for which you should be grateful. It is all too easy to forget what you already have and only think of that which you don’t!
  • Think back to the last time that you felt happy and content. Can you recall what it was that triggered that feeling?

Self-pity stops you from gaining emotional strength, and those who feel constantly sorry for themselves, never grow strong in character.  It is important to look in the mirror and see how you look to others. When you appreciate that self-pity is a waste of time and energy, then you will be making that first leap forward to ensuring that the direction of your life is going strongly upwards, without always looking back at what could have been. The past is past – the future beckons!

Key Points

  • Nobody wants to associate with failure.
  • Everyone wants to associate with success.
  • Always be seen as an optimist, not a pessimist.
Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is a leading international Business Stress Consultant and currently serves as the Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK (ISMAUK). On their behalf, she founded Stress Awareness Day ... (Read More)

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