March 8, 2024

11 Psychological Tricks To Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself

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Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.... so here's how to stop feeling sorry for yourself using these 11 powerful tips.

We all experience pain and sorrow in life. And although sadness is a normal, healthy emotion, dwelling on your sorrow and misfortune is self-destructive. Do you respond positively to any of the points below?

  1. You tend to think your problems are worse than anyone else’s. 
  2. If it weren’t for bad luck, you’re pretty sure you’d have none at all.
  3. Problems seem to add up for you at a much faster rate than anyone else.
  4. You’re fairly certain that no one else truly understands how hard your life really is.
  5. You sometimes choose to withdraw from leisure activities and social engagements so you can stay home and think about your problems.
  6. You’re more likely to tell people what went wrong during your day rather than what went well.
  7. You often complain about things not being fair.
  8. You struggle to find anything to be grateful for sometimes.
  9. You think that other people are blessed with easier lives.
  10. You sometimes wonder if the world is out to get you.

Can you see yourself in some of the examples above? Self-pity can consume you until it eventually changes your thoughts and behaviors.

But you can choose to take control of your emotions. Even when you can’t alter your circumstances, you can alter your attitude.

#1. Why You Feel Sorry For Yourself.

If self-pity is so destructive, why do we do it in the first place? And why is it sometimes so easy and even comforting to indulge in a pity party?

As long as you feel sorry for yourself, you can delay any circumstances that will bring you face-to-face with your real fears, and you can avoid taking any responsibility for your actions.

Feeling sorry for yourself can buy time.

Instead of taking action or moving forward, exaggerating how bad your situation is justifies why you shouldn’t do anything to improve it.

People often use self-pity as a way to gain attention.

Playing the “poor me” card may result in some kind and gentle words from others—at least initially.

For people who fear rejection, self-pity can be an indirect way of gaining help by sharing a woe-is-me tale in hopes it will attract some assistance.

Unfortunately, misery loves company, and sometimes self-pity becomes a bragging right.

A conversation can turn into a contest, with the person who has experienced the most trauma earning the badge of victory. Self-pity can also provide a reason to avoid responsibility.

Telling your boss how bad your life is may stem from hopes that less will be expected from you.

Sometimes self-pity becomes an act of defiance. It’s almost as if we assume that something will change if we dig in our heels and remind the universe that we deserve better.

But that’s not how the world works. There isn’t a higher being —or a human being for that matter—who will swoop in and make sure we’re all dealt a fair hand in life.

#2. The Problem With Feeling Sorry For Yourself.

Feeling sorry for yourself is self-destructive. It leads to new problems and can have serious consequences. Indulging in self-pity hinders living a full life in the following ways:

  1. It’s a waste of time. Feeling sorry for yourself requires a lot of mental energy and does nothing to change the situation. Even when you can’t fix the problem, you can make choices to cope with life’s obstacles in a positive way. Feeling sorry for yourself won’t move you any closer to a solution.
  2. It leads to more negative emotions. Once you allow it to take hold, self-pity will ignite a flurry of other negative emotions. It can lead to anger, resentment, loneliness, and other feelings that fuel more negative thoughts.
  3. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Feelings of self-pity can lead to living a pitiful life. When you feel sorry for yourself, it’s unlikely you’ll perform at your best. As a result, you may experience more problems and increased failures, which will breed more feelings of self-pity.
  4. It prevents you from dealing with other emotions. Self-pity gets in the way of dealing with grief, sadness, anger, and other emotions. It can stall your progress from healing and moving forward because self-pity keeps the focus on why things should be different rather than accepting the situation for what it is.
  5. It causes you to overlook the good in your life. If five good things and one bad thing happen in a day, self-pity will cause you to focus only on the negative. When you feel sorry for yourself, you’ll miss out on the positive aspects of life.
  6. It interferes with relationships. A victim mentality is not an attractive characteristic. Complaining about how bad your life is will likely wear on people rather quickly. No one ever says, “What I really like about her is the fact that she always feels sorry for herself.”

#3. Behave in a Manner That Makes it Hard to Feel Sorry For Yourself.

Remember the three-pronged approach to achieving mental strength?

To alleviate feelings of self-pity, you need to change your pitiful behavior and forbid yourself from indulging in pitiful thoughts and exchange self-pity with gratitude.

Our choice to spend the day doing something enjoyable isn’t about ignoring our grief or masking our sadness.

It’s about making a conscious choice to celebrate life’s gifts and refusing to behave in a pitiful manner.

Instead of pitying ourselves for what we lost, we choose to feel grateful for what we had.

When you notice self-pity creeping into your life, make a conscious effort to do something contrary to how you feel.

You don’t have to jump out of a plane to ward off feelings of self-pity. Sometimes, small behavioral changes can make a big difference. Here are some examples:

  1. Volunteer to help a worthy cause. It will take your mind off your problems and you can feel good that you’ve helped support someone else. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re serving hungry people in a soup kitchen or spending time with elderly residents in a nursing home. 
  2. Perform a random act of kindness. Whether you mow the neighbor’s lawn or donate pet food to a local animal shelter, doing a good deed can help bring more meaning to your day. 
  3. Do something active. Physical or mental activity will help you focus on something other than your misfortune. Exercise, sign up for a class, read a book, or learn a new hobby, and your behavior change can help shift your attitude.

The key to changing your feelings is finding which behaviors will extinguish your feelings of self-pity. Sometimes it’s a process of trial and error because the same behavioral change won’t work for everyone.

If what you’re doing now isn’t working, try something new. If you never take a step in the right direction, you’ll stay right where you are.

#4. Replace Thoughts That Encourage Self-Pity.

I once witnessed a fender bender in a grocery store parking lot. Two cars were backing up at the same time and their rear bumpers collided.

The collision appeared to cause only minor damage to each vehicle. I watched as one driver jumped out of his vehicle and said, “Just what I needed. Why do these things always happen to me? As if I didn’t already have enough to deal with today!”

Meanwhile, the other driver stepped out of his vehicle shaking his head. In a very calm voice he said, “Wow, we’re so lucky that no one got hurt.

What a great day it is when you can get into an accident and walk away from it without a single injury.” Both men experienced the exact same event.

However, their perception of the event was completely different.

One man viewed himself as a victim of horrible circumstance while the other man viewed the event as good fortune. Their reaction was all about their differences in perception. You can view the events that happen in your life in many different ways.

If you choose to view circumstances in a way that says, “I deserve better,” you’ll feel self-pity often.

If you choose to look for the silver lining, even in a bad situation, you’ll experience joy and happiness much more often.

Almost every situation has a silver lining. Ask any kid what the best part about having divorced parents is and most of them will say, “I get more presents at Christmas!”

Obviously, there isn’t much good that arises from divorce, but getting twice as many presents is one small aspect of divorce that some kids rather enjoy. 

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#5. Reframing the way you look at a situation.

Reframing the way you look at a situation isn’t always easy, especially when you’re feeling like the host of your own pity party.

Asking yourself the following questions can help change your negative thoughts into more realistic thoughts:

What’s another way I could view my situation? This is where the “glass half empty or glass half full” thinking comes in.

If you’re looking at it from the glass-half-empty angle, take a moment to think about how someone looking from a glass-half-full perspective might view the same situation.

What advice would I give to a loved one who had this problem?

Often, we’re better at handing out words of encouragement to other people rather than to ourselves. It’s unlikely you’d say to someone else, “You’ve got the worst life ever. Nothing ever goes right.”

Instead, you’d hopefully offer some kind words of assistance such as, “You’ll figure out what to do, and you’ll make it through this. I know you will.” Take your own words of wisdom and apply them to your situation.

What evidence do I have that I can get through this? Feeling sorry for ourselves often stems from a lack of confidence in our ability to handle problems. We tend to think that we’ll never get through something. 

Remind yourself of times when you’ve solved problems and coped with tragedy in the past.

Reviewing your skills, support systems, and past experiences can give you an extra boost of confidence that will help you stop feeling sorry for yourself.

The more you indulge in thoughts that willfully delude yourself about your situation, the worse you’ll feel.

Common thoughts that lead to feelings of self-pity include things such as:

  1. I can’t handle one more problem. 
  2. Good things always happen to everyone else.
  3. Bad things always happen to me.
  4. My life just gets worse all the time.
  5. No one else has to deal with this stuff.
  6. I just can’t catch a break.

You can choose to catch your negative thoughts before they spiral out of control.

Though replacing overly negative thoughts with more realistic ones takes practice and hard work, it’s very effective in decreasing feelings of self-pity.

If you think, Bad things always happen to me, create a list of good things that have happened to you as well. 

Then, replace your original thought with something more realistic like, Some bad things happen to me, but plenty of good things happen to me as well.

This doesn’t mean you should turn something negative into an unrealistically positive affirmation.

Instead, strive to find a realistic way to look at your situation.

#6. Exchange Self-Pity For Gratitude.

Marla Runyan is a very accomplished woman. She has a master’s degree, she’s written a book, and she’s competed in the Olympics. She even became the first American woman to finish the 2002 New York Marathon with an astounding time of 2 hours, 27 minutes.

What makes Marla particularly extraordinary is that she’s accomplished all these feats despite the fact that she’s legally blind.

At age nine, Marla was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a form of macular degeneration that affects children. As her vision deteriorated, Marla discovered her love for running.

Over the years, Marla has proved herself to be one of the fastest runners in the world, even though she’s never actually been able to see the finish line.

Initially, Marla became an accomplished athlete in the Paralympics. She competed in 1992 and then again in 1996. Not only did she earn a total of five gold medals and one silver medal, she also set several world records.

But Marla didn’t stop there. In 1999, she entered the Pan American Games and she won the 1,500-meter race. In 2000, she became the first legally blind athlete to ever compete in the Olympics.

She was the first American to cross the finish line in the 1,500-meter race and she placed eighth overall.

Marla doesn’t see her blindness as a disability. In fact, she chooses to view it as a gift that allows her to become successful in both long-and short-distance races.

In discussing her blindness in her book, No Finish Line: My Life as I See It, Marla writes, “It not only has forced me to prove my competence but also pushed me to achieve.

It has given me gifts, such as will and commitment that I use every day.”

Marla doesn’t focus on what her vision loss took from her. Instead, she chooses to feel grateful for what her vision impairment actually gave her.

While feeling sorry for yourself is about thinking I deserve better, gratitude is about thinking I have more than I deserve.

Experiencing gratitude requires some extra effort, but it isn’t hard. Anyone can learn to become more grateful by developing new habits.

Start to acknowledge other people’s kindness and generosity. Affirm the good in the world and you will begin to appreciate what you have.

You don’t have to be rich, wildly successful, or have the perfect life to feel grateful.

A person who earns $34,000 a year may think he doesn’t have much money but he is actually among the richest 1 percent of people in the world.

If you’re reading this guide, it means you’re more fortunate than the nearly one billion people in the world who can’t read, many of whom will be stuck in a life of poverty.

Look for those little things in life that you can so easily take for granted and work toward increasing your feelings of gratitude.

#7. Simple gratitude habits that can help you to stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Keep a gratitude journal. Each day write down at least one thing you’re grateful for. It could include being grateful for simple pleasures, like having clean air to breathe or seeing the sun shine, or major blessings like your job or family. 

Say what you’re grateful for. If you aren’t likely to keep up with writing in a journal, make it a habit to say what you’re grateful for.

Find one of life’s gifts to be grateful for each morning when you wake up and each night before you go to sleep.

Say the words out loud, even if it’s just to yourself, because hearing the words of gratitude will increase your feelings of gratitude.

Change the channel when you’re experiencing self-pity. When you notice that you’re starting to feel sorry for yourself, shift your focus.

Don’t allow yourself to continue thinking that life isn’t fair or that life should be different.

Instead, sit down and list the people, circumstances, and experiences in life that you can be thankful for. If you keep a journal, refer to it and read it whenever self-pity begins to set in.

Ask others what they’re grateful for. Strike up conversations about gratitude to help you discover what other people feel thankful for. Hearing what others feel grateful for can remind you of more areas of your life that deserve gratitude.

Teach kids to be grateful. If you’re a parent, teaching your children to be grateful for what they have is one of the best ways to keep your own attitude in check.

Make it a habit each day to ask your children what they’re grateful for. Have everyone in the family write down what they’re feeling grateful for and place it in a gratitude jar or hang it on a bulletin board.

This will give your family a fun reminder to incorporate gratitude into your daily lives.

#8. Giving Up Self-Pity Will Make You Stronger. (Read This Story)

Jeremiah Denton served as a U.S. naval aviator during the Vietnam War. In 1965, his plane was shot down and he was forced to eject from his aircraft.

He was captured by the North Vietnamese and was taken as a prisoner of war. Commander Denton and the other officers maintained command over their fellow prisoners even as they were beaten, starved, and tortured on a daily basis.

Commander Denton was often placed in solitary confinement for urging other prisoners to resist the North Vietnamese attempts to gain information from them. But that didn’t stop Commander Denton.

He devised strategies to communicate with the other prisoners by using signs, tapping on walls, and coughing in sequence.

Ten months after his capture, he was chosen to participate in a televised interview that was used as propaganda.

While answering questions, he pretended as though the bright lights from the cameras were bothering his eyes as he began blinking T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code to secretly send the message that he and his fellow prisoners were being mistreated by their captors.

Throughout the interview, he continued to express his support for the U.S. government.

He was released in 1973 after seven years in captivity. When he stepped off the plane as a free man, he said, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances.

We are profoundly grateful to our commander in chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.”

After retiring from the military in 1977, he was elected to serve as senator for Alabama. Despite being placed in the worst circumstances imaginable, Jeremiah Denton didn’t waste time feeling sorry for himself.

Instead, he maintained his composure and focused on doing whatever he could to manage the situation. Even when he was released, he chose to feel grateful that he was able to serve his country, rather than pity himself for the time he’d lost.

Researchers studied the differences that occur when people focus on their burdens versus focusing on what they’re grateful for. Simply acknowledging a few things you feel grateful for each day is a powerful way to create change in your attitude and life.

In fact, gratitude not only impacts your psychological health, it can also affect your physical health. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found

  1. People who feel gratitude don’t get sick as often as others. They have better immune systems and report fewer aches and pains. They have lower blood pressure and they exercise more often than the general population. 
  2. They take better care of their health, sleep longer, and even report feeling more refreshed upon waking.
  3.  Gratitude leads to more positive emotions. People who feel grateful experience more happiness, joy, and pleasure on a daily basis. They even feel more awake and energetic. 
  4. Gratitude improves social lives. Grateful people are more willing to forgive others. They behave in a more outgoing fashion and feel less lonely and isolated.
  5. They are also more likely to help other people and to behave in a generous and compassionate manner.

#9. Troubleshooting And Common Traps on Self-Pity.

If you allow self-pity to take hold when you’re dealing with stress, you’ll put off working on a solution.

Watch out for red flags that you’re allowing yourself to feel self-pity and take a proactive approach to change your attitude at the first sign of feeling sorry for yourself.

#10. What's Helpful in Overcoming Self-Pity.

  1. Giving yourself a reality check so you don’t exaggerate how bad the situation really is.
  2. Replacing overly negative thoughts about your situation with more realistic thoughts.
  3. Choosing to actively problem-solve and work on improving your situation.
  4. Getting active and behaving in a way that makes you less likely to feel sorry for yourself, even when you don’t feel like it.
  5. Practicing gratitude every day

#11. What's Not Helpful in Overcoming Self-Pity.

  1. Allowing yourself to believe that your life is worse than most other people’s lives.
  2. Indulging in exaggeratedly negative thoughts about how difficult your life is.
  3. Remaining passive about the situation and focusing only on how you feel, rather than what you can do.
  4. Declining to participate in experiences and activities that could help you feel better.
  5. Staying focused on what you don’t have rather than what you do hav

I will stop here. I hope you loved reading this step-by-step guide on how to stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you loved it please do not forget to share and comment.

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Manish Yadav

My name is Manish Yadav and I’m the owner of the blog "Love Finds its Way". My advice does away with the manipulations and mind games recommended by magazines and the surface level advice of TV gurus… We’ll dive DEEP to you actionable steps you can use today. Over 900,000 men & women have transformed their lives, and I've been featured in Lifehack, Return of Kings, Menimprovement, Urban Dater, and so on...
...My only intention is to help you have all of achieve your dreams and desires and live a beautiful and prosperous life.
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