How to Overcome Self-Pity

For those of you who have heard me speak, you’ve likely heard this quote: “You don’t have to live in Pity City.”

All of us have taken up residence in Pity City. Maybe you were rejected for a job you really wanted, or you feel overwhelmed because of challenging circumstances.

It’s important that your stay in Pity City does not become permanent because self-pity will:

  • sap your strength
  • keep you stuck in a cycle of excuse-making
  • steal your joy

Feeling sorry for yourself is unproductive

Why do people move into and stay in Pity City? Perhaps it feels like a way to protect their emotions. When you feel self-pity, you tend to blame other people or circumstances for how you feel.

This allows you to avoid taking responsibility for who you are and where you are. As a result, you don’t risk improving your life because you believe the end result will be negative. This is not about finding an excuse for failure; it is finding an excuse to give up.

Self-pity is when you’re trying to find an excuse to give up.

If we don’t risk or feel responsible for our lives, we mistakenly believe we will avoid anxiety and disappointment. Actually, not accepting responsibility creates more of the emotions you are trying to sidestep, because you’ll experience:

  • loss of self-respect
  • loss of respect from others
  • worry
  • discontent
  • low self-esteem

You don’t have to allow self-pity to demolish your dreams and keep you from achieving your highest potential. Here are a few ideas to help you move out of Pity City for good!

Don’t wallow in self pity — move on

Let go of the illusion of “fair”

Resist spending time trying to figure out if your struggles are fair, and focus instead on taking control of your mindset. Self-pity paralyzes you with this thought: “When life is fair, then I will be successful.”

How do you really know what fair is? We don’t know all the struggles that others deal with or the unfairness they face.

Mentally strong people don’t debate whether life is fair or unfair. They accept life as it is and move forward. I love this quote because it dispels the myth that life should be fair:

“There is no fair. Play the hand you were dealt to the best of your ability.”

-Naval Ravikant in Tim Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors

Look for ways to help others

When you are in a cycle of self-pity, you tend to be self-focused, thinking only about your reasons to be bitter and resentful. You can break this negative cycle by looking for opportunities to help others.

One of the quickest ways to lift yourself out of self-pity is to find ways to lift others up. When you begin to help people make their lives more positive, you stop focusing on your negativity. You see your life from a different perspective and can appreciate all the blessings you have. Helping others boosts your self-confidence and gratefulness.

Look for inspiration

Motion is driven by emotion, so if you’re feeling down, overwhelmed, or fearful, inspiration can serve as a catalyst for motivation. Be vigilant in looking for people and stories that inspire you.

Look at the facts

If you are feeling discouraged, ask yourself, “What is the reality?” Gather as much information about your circumstances. When we look at the facts we often see that we have over-generalized and over-dramatized our situation. This realization strengthens us and increases our courage.

Play to learn

All of us desire success; however, none of us are always victorious. How we interpret these setbacks determines our outlook. Commit today to view every situation as an opportunity for learning and personal growth. By doing this, you will begin to see how even problems can provide previously unseen possibilities. We choose whether to focus on the loss or the lesson.

Watch your mouth

Words can be more powerful than armies. During times of challenge, it is important to be cognizant of how we talk about our circumstances. It has been said that “language can corrupt thought.” Therefore, speaking negatively about a challenge the size of a molehill can quickly become a mountain.  An irony of life is that it can bring us difficult obstacles, and at the same time, amazing opportunities. These are both truths — What truth are you going to dwell on?

Choose grit over self-pity

Grit has two components: the ability to stick with your goals and the ability to hang in there when faced with adversity.

Self-pity is the opposite of grit. When you increase grit, you decrease self-pity. But how do you grow your grit?

One quality of being gritty is being hopeful. This is not the kind of hope where you sit back and wish everything were better. If your wish doesn’t come true, this can lead to self-pity. “I always have bad luck; the world is against me.”

Grit is believing things will get better because your efforts will make them better. It’s not just thinking about it; it’s doing something about it.

Does hope really matter to future success? Research has shown that people without hope give up easily, place blame, and avoid taking risks. Sounds a lot like self-pity to me.

Thousands of thoughts run through your head every day. What thoughts will you choose to focus on? The ones that keep you stuck and make you feel pitiful, or the ones that keep you moving forward and make you feel powerful?

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