Reader mailbag – Attitudes Towards Self Pity

Reader mailbag – Attitudes Towards Self Pity

Reader mailbag

An anonymous reader comments about self pity:

“Ahh, you will help others so that you feel better, that is so selfish.
I will continue to pity myself, and I won’t help no one.”

I thought it was worthwhile to talk about this comment in a post because there is such a learning opportunity with this one (in my opinion).

The reason that this is such a big opportunity for learning is because I used to have this exact same idea regarding my own self pity, and it was so destructive and so unhelpful.

The idea being expressed in that comment is that it is more noble to suffer with your own self pity than it is to reach out to others and try to help them in order to feel better about yourself. The person is arguing that it is selfish to help others if our only motive is to feel better about ourselves.

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How damaging and limiting of a belief system is that? I would argue that it is not healthy to pride ourselves on feeling miserable. I know this because I have been stuck in that frame of mind and I know for a fact that it will get you nowhere.

Flip your thinking around

I would strongly encourage anyone who is stuck in self-pity to flip their thinking around completely, especially if they view their sadness as being somehow “noble.” There is nothing great or wondrous about being stuck in self-pity and it does nothing to serve your fellow man. Being stuck in self-pity mode gives us permission to sit back and do nothing. This is very unproductive, both for us and for those around us.

Instead of proclaiming it to be selfish to help others, this type of thinking needs to be completely reversed. Flip it around completely and actually focus on helping someone else. Seriously, try it. Find a struggling alcoholic at an AA meeting and talk to them for while. Do something nice for the little old lady across the street. Or whatever. Just get off your couch and go get involved with something, chair a meeting, find a way to connect with others in recovery….you get the idea. Even if your motives are not pure (i.e., you are trying to overcome your own self-pity) the actions you take will still work! Helping others is still effective….both for them and for you.

Think about it: even if you reach out to others who are in need with the idea that you will benefit from it, there really is no harm done as long as you are genuinely helping them. Focus on helping someone and you will find that you will “lose yourself” in the act of helping. This is what makes it such a therapeutic technique when it comes to overcoming self-pity. It doesn’t matter what your motives are or what you are trying to ultimately accomplish–if you are genuinely helping others then you will benefit immensely from it.

There are 4 possibilities for any interaction: win/win, win/lose, lose/win, and lose/lose. The idea behind the original comment and the destructive self-pity mode is always lose/lose. You lose because you sit on the couch and are miserable and depressed, and other people lose because you do nothing to grow as a person and reach out and connect and help others in any way whatsoever.

But if you take some action and refuse to give in to “self-pity mode,” then others will benefit from your empowering actions and the positive changes you make in your own life. This is the win/win.

Even if all you do is find a way to overcome self-pity on your own, without even purposefully helping others, you will still be doing the world a great service by doing so. By overcoming your self-pity, you will do better work, have more motivation to do creative and constructive things, and generally be more positive in all of your day-to-day interactions.

So please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that self-pity is somehow worthwhile, noble, or righteous. It is none of those things and you owe it to yourself and to others to rise above it and start creating a positive new life in recovery.

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