Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt sorry for yourself.
Unless you are some sort of sociopath or robot, you’ve been down on yourself before. Hell, you’ve probably already been down on your self at least once today.
Feelings of self-pity are prevalent.
You live in a world where there are more than enough reasons to feel sorry for yourself:
Some self-help writers would tell you to just “believe in yourself!” or “have a positive attitude!”
And, as corny as that sounds, they’re actually right.
The best and most optimal way to overcome feelings of self-pity is to simply not pity yourself. As pervasive and permanent as our emotions seem, you can change them in an instant.
Anytime you make a decision to change your life, the decision is made right then and there, regardless of how long you took to bring yourself to make it.
That being said, almost no one has the ability to just change their mind immediately. I don’t.
So instead of trying to tell you to snap out of it, let’s meet you where you’re at and talk about why you feel self-pity.
There’s this movement going on in society that tries to tell you to feel good no matter what your circumstances are.
Unhealthy, broke, crappy job? No worries. Just accept yourself as you are.
I have an entire chapter about this in my new book. If this strategy of using self-care regardless of what your life looked like actually worked, I’d be all for it, but it doesn’t.
Usually, the number one reason you feel self-pity?
Your life objectively sucks.
Sometimes I come across as superficial and driven by ambition and desire, which is true. But I try to take the most pragmatic approach possible when it comes to self-improvement.
To me, it makes the most sense to try to improve your life from the outside in as opposed to the inside out. It’s more efficient.
I got out of shape a while ago and wasn’t feeling good about it. Instead of trying to accept myself, I just got in great shape and I felt good again. I hated being broke and it stressed me out, so I started making money.
The thing is? The self-care folks are right. You don’t need to accomplish anything to feel good in the moment. But I always advise people to go see for themselves.
Getting what you want and finding out it’s not what you thought it’d be can lead to searching for real peace. But if you never get the things and have to wonder “what if” it’ll drive you nuts and that self-pity loop will continue.
Also, notice the fact that the rich and famous celebrities who tell you money isn’t everything…never give up their money. Lesson in there.
Honor where your feelings are coming from and try to fix your life. Once you do, you’ll understand there was nothing to fix in the first place, but you’ll never truly understand that until you either get what you want or become a Buddhist monk. And I’d venture to say the former is much easier than the latter.
On top of trying to fix your life by using self-pity as fuel, you also have to understand the source it comes from.
Have you ever had a friend who always says they hate drama, but their behavior shows they love drama?
On the surface, in our logical and rational mind, we think we don’t want to have these negative emotions, but at a subconscious level, we love them.
This was a revelation when I understood and embraced it.
You actually don’t want to change, don’t want success, and don’t want to improve at all. You’d rather be a martyr, complain, and blame other people for your problems.
A few reasons:
And the granddaddy of them all. If you wallow in self-pity, you get to fit in with everyone else.
What do I mean?
Go to happy hour with your friends who are all complaining and gossiping. Stop the conversation dead in its tracks and say:
“You know what guys? Maybe we should take more responsibility for our lives. We’re all here drinking right now when we could be working to improve ourselves and get out of the situations we don’t want.”
They’ll hate you. In fact, they probably won’t invite you again.
Not only do we bond over self-pity, but you can experience negative consequences for not being a part of the self-pity club.
If you look at everything in life through the lens of social approval or disapproval and the lizard brain the equates either with life or death survival in the tribe, everything makes sense.
If you stop feeling sorry for yourself or use self-pity to your advantage as motivation, you’re no longer a part of the tribe.
It’ll be harder to relate to people. You’ll hear them wallowing and having “normie talk.” It will annoy you and you’ll feel like a total outsider at times. But, unless you make the tough decision to travel this path, you’ll stay stuck.
Sometimes I do long to be like other people. I see the benefits of having a job I hate, but being able to fit in and not having the stress of trying to change. A normal life is pretty awesome in many ways. Honestly, it’s advisable for the vast majority of people — the whole ‘live your dream’ thing is exactly as hard as it looks and that may or may not be worth it for you….only you know.
Everything has a tradeoff. If you want to escape the trap of self-pity, you might find yourself doing it alone. I have no moral of the story other than you’ll have to be okay with that.
Ok, let’s say you’re in, what do you do next?
The process I used was pretty simple.
I legitimately had an isolated moment where I decided my life was no longer going to be the same. I yelled it out loud. From that point on, I started brainwashing myself with self-improvement.
If you have no idea what to do or what move to make next, start with learning. The one self-help cliche that’s true? Books can change your life. Read a ton of them.
Then, use the inspiration from self-improvement and channel it into the things you want to accomplish:
Whatever it may be.
On the one hand, you’ll use those initial feelings of self-pity as motivation, but then you’ll have to also focus on not beating yourself up too much while you’re trying to change.
Change is a slow process and it’s hardest at the beginning.
I have no deep psychological analysis or step by step blueprint, really. But if you can put in a good six months solid of real self-improvement, you have a fighting chance.
Areas of your life will improve, and you’ll gradually feel less and less sorry for yourself. Previously, you were using self-pity to fill an emotional void. As you progress in self-improvement, you use your accomplishments and small successes to fill the void.
At some point, from what I’ve heard, you come to understand there’s no void to fill.
I’ll tell you when I get there.
A recent piece of feedback I’ve gotten over and over again is that I’m too driven. Like part of it is coming from a bad place — a place of lack, of needing validation, of not feeling like I’m good enough.
This is one hundred percent true. I love being inspirational, but I’m also deeply driven by pain. There’s darkness in me. I harness and channel it instead of letting it destroy me. That being said, it’s still there.
A chip on your shoulder does work. Using dissatisfaction does work. But you can easily fall into an ambition trap, too.
I wish I had a perfect answer to give you.
Instead, I’m going to give you the statements I try to tell myself:
If I sound contradictory to you, it’s because the great truths of life are all paradoxes.
Sometimes you need to push yourself, especially at the beginning when you’re feeling now. Sometimes, you need to let things come to you and pushing moves you further away.
There’s a time and place to focus far into the future and a time to stay totally present.
I’m not infallible. The things I share are to help you move forward on your journey. You’ll go through arcs like me where you thought you knew the truth, only to discover you have a lot more to learn.
And there is no endpoint to this. No one dies having figured out life.
But, still, try to figure it out anyway.