The poison of self-pity


The poison of self-pity

Of all human emotions, perhaps the most useless and destructive is self-pity.

Self-pity is excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles. Unlike depression, self-pity is a choice. It keeps you stuck, prevents you from reaching your full potential, undermines your confidence and makes you feel helpless and dis-empowered.

How does it feel to be around a person that succumbs to self-pity?
  • Self-pity drives people away. It repels people rather than to attract compassion.
Do people sympathize with people who always self-pity?
  • NO
  • People reckon such a person seem to have enough sympathy from themselves already.
Does it have any benefits to self-pity?

It might help delay facing things we don’t want to meet, for example, grieving the loss of someone you loved. It can lower the expectations you have of yourself so that you don’t get disappointed. Avoidance to deal with problems takes the pressure off and comes with immediate feelings of relieve.

Can appearances can be deceiving when it comes to self-pity?

Yes, says Tina Gilbertson in her article in Psychology Today.

She explains that there are individuals who seemingly wallow in self-pity, who are, in fact, the most empty of people. This type of person denies themselves any affirmation and care because of years of emotional isolation and neglect. They are often the ”working donkey” in a family or household, and they are often too empty to give or expect anything.

Their complaining is an unconscious attempt to elicit in others that they desperately need but will not provide for themselves.” They have a hidden fear that they don’t matter. They take what they get and expect nothing more. Tina explains that if people around such a person lack pity, it confirms the fear that they don’t matter. The individual becomes caught up in a vicious circle. The only way out for such an individual is to voice what they feel and support them in love with care.

What are the symptoms of self-pity?

Depression – ”it feels good to feel bad.”

Envy & Jealousy – ”I want what you have.”

Anger – ”it erupts and gives a voice to self-pity  – I hate you.”

Bitterness – ”God is often the target – why did He let that happen?”

Low self-esteem – ”I am a victim of bullying”  or ” I crave others’ acceptance to feel better about myself. ”

Lack of humour – ” taking life seriously, you don’t laugh at yourself.”

Feelings of guilt – ”we become the victim, instead of we owing up to the wrong we did to others.”


How do I stop self-pitying

1. Allow yourself time to discover where these feelings and thoughts originate from and deal with them.

Allow yourself to feel emotions and be compassionate with yourself.

A useful tool to make emotional regulation is called “The Guesthouse Exercise.” This is done by looking at your inner being as a guesthouse with emotions as guests pitching up at your guesthouse. To regulate your emotions is to have each emotion coming to the reception desk to either check-in or ask it to move on.

The standard questions to ask are:
1) What is your name? (Name of emotion)
2) Where do you come from? (History of emotion)
3) Why are you here? (What does this emotion want to tell me?)

Let’s take, for example. You are feeling envious. Then you regulate this emotion as follows:
1) What is your name?
My name is Envy
2) Where do you come from?
I am here because I saw on Facebook that my friend is in a relationship with a beautiful girl, and I can’t keep a girl. I got so envious about that – that is where I came from.
3) Why are you here?
I am here because I am not coping well. I am jealous, and I can’t stand that he always gets a girl and not me. And I need to do something about it. That is the reason why I am acting out.

Now you can decide whether you want to give this guest/emotion a room / allow the emotion to become part of who you are,  or whether you are going to show him the way. Is this a pleasant emotion I want to live with, or will this emotion keep me back?
In the case of the last example, I decide not to give Envy a room, as it can be very destructive in my inner being and others. I have to tell this guest why I am not giving him a room to show it the way. “Envy, I can’t give you a room as you are too destructive. I now know why you are here and know what to do with the reason for your coming.”

2. Talk about your feelings.

Lifehack explains the question victims most often ask themselves is “Why?” “Why is this happening to me?” Decide to banish the word “Why” from your vocabulary and replace it with words like “What”, “How” and “When”. As you change the quality of your questions, you will notice how much more empowered you to feel regardless of others’ actions.


Not many people will want to be around you if you are constantly feeling down. If you feel isolated and have little or no support with no one to talk to, you may chat to a counsellor on the  LIVE CHAT for more guidance.

We care and we are here to listen.

3. Start living by setting small goals

Often people that wallow in self-pity have ”stopped living”. They feel so hopeless and helpless that they end up doing nothing. It is easy to let being a victim become your identity. To turn that around – start doing. You don’t have to be the best at what you are doing. Think of it as taking just one step forward.  Make your bed, clean your room, get out and engage with people. Don’t spend your days surfing the internet. There is a life out there – ”carpe diem” – seize the day!

Activities need not be big things – start small. Do what can be done in 5 minutes right away. It helps to lessen clutter in your mind if you start organizing your life. A sense of accomplishment is very motivating. It will drive you to continue the next day and the next.

The best advice is to plan your day the night before. Make a list of activities to do. Make sure you complete the list every day.

4. Pay it forward

Be careful not to isolate yourself. The best medicine to feel better about yourself and your circumstances is to get out there and help others.  Watch the movie ”Pay it forward”. It will help you notice others less fortunate. Get involved in your community.


Do you want to know if you are a self-pithier?

Do a Quiz on self-pity:   Self-pity Quiz


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