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The Cure for Self-Pity

Embrace your journey, so every step adds to your strength and resilience.

Лера_K/ Pixabay
Source: Лера_K/ Pixabay

Social media bombards us with images of people with seemingly perfect lives.

Do you believe that someone who loses 25 pounds is going to have sustainable joy, just because they lost weight? Yes, that individual may feel better after losing weight, but this won’t stop their emotional struggles unless there is also a new sense of self-acceptance.

Feeling Bad About Ourselves Can Be Addictive

Trashing yourself is highly addictive, but like most addictions, it can be overcome. When the going gets tough, it is easy to turn down the self-pity highway and punch the gas.

Surely when we overly focus on our unmet desires, compare ourselves or circumstances unfavorably to others, or repeatedly ask "Why me?" then we just sink deeper and deeper into despair and self-pity. The land of self-pity is barren with an emotionally gloomy and doom landscape.

Moving away from the media, we all know that real life also holds challenges for all of us. We face obstacles and setbacks. Some of us indeed have less stress and/or an easier time letting go of concerns than others. That said, I have seen few people who actually have charmed lives.

Freeing Yourself From Self-Pity

As a psychologist in practice over 33 years, I have often been asked, "Don't you get burned out listening to people's problems all day?" I will tell you that I have seldom felt burned out hearing the struggles of others.

The reality is that my clients usually inspire me, big time. This is because they dare to face their emotional demons and the willingness to make positive changes in their lives.

While staying miserable can feel tempting, the fact is that doing things to better ourselves feels better. Maybe not so much in the moment, but over the long term it really does pay to get off the misery highway. Making misery your drug of choice just makes you move toward more misery.

The way out of self-pity is to get inspired by those who break free of it. The more you open yourself up to feeling the collective energy of those people who keep going in the face of challenges and adversity, the more you will be able to do so as well.

If These People Can Break Free, So Can You

Most people who choose to see me for counseling want to get to a better place. Right off the bat, I admire their commitment and positive energy to get past stewing and get into the doing. Some examples include:

  • The terminally ill client who finds new joy in making crafts.
  • The divorced man wants to learn from the mistakes in his marriage and move on.
  • The boy with ADHD and depression lives in shame and wants to feel "normal."
  • The incest survivor who chooses to work through her painful traumas of the past.
  • The father wants a better connection with his child.
  • The girl realizes that being better at managing her emotions will help her have more friends and get along better at home.
  • The couple realizes that expecting one another to change just is not happening and are now willing to work on accepting and loving each other as real, authentic human beings.
  • The teenage girl who now wants to stop cutting and abusing drugs.

Final Thoughts

These examples and far too many more to mention here have been, and continue to be, wonderful reminders for me to get out of self-pity, be grateful for what I have, set goals, and keep moving forward. No doubt about it, if we let it, misery can always take us to a place of finding even more misery with others who are miserable.

The exciting news, though, is that if you look with awareness, there are angels of inspiration all around to help you climb up and off that slippery slope of misery.

Nursing homes, children’s hospitals, community fundraisers for those with disabilities or tragic circumstances, and even an "inspiring stories" Google or YouTube search, are great places to unshackle yourself from the trap of self-pity.

More from Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D.
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