April 22, 2024

11 Powerful Ways To Stop Self-Pity And Conquer The Victim Mentality

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John Gardner

American novelist and essayist

Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.

Whether you’ve failed to close a big deal, or your mind is flooded by a looming deadline, throwing a pity party is not the ideal solution.

In fact, feeling sorry for yourself or feeling like a loser can become downright self-destructive. It makes fighting the problems even more difficult – if not impossible - and it gets you stuck.

Mentally strong people do not allow self-pity to sabotage their success. 

Instead, they use life’s inevitable hardships to find ways to stop self-pity and become strong and better. 

Here’s how mentally strong people avoid the self-pity trap and find ways to stop self-pity.

#1. Self Pity Party.

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?

  • You tend to think your problems are worse than anyone else’s. 
  • If it weren’t for bad luck, you’re pretty sure you’d have none at all.
  • Problems seem to add up for you at a much faster rate than anyone else.
  • You’re fairly certain that no one else truly understands how hard your life really is.
  • You sometimes choose to withdraw from leisure activities and social engagements so you can stay home and think about your problems.
  • You’re more likely to tell people what went wrong during your day rather than what went well.
  • You often complain about things not being fair.
  • You struggle to find anything to be grateful for sometimes.
  • You think that other people are blessed with easier lives.
  • 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 and master your emotions. Even when you can’t alter your circumstances, you can change your attitude.

#2. The Reason 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? 

It’s so easy to fall into the self-pity trap. 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 “victim” 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.

#3. 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”

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#4. Behave in a Way That Makes It Hard to Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself.

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:

  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.

#5. 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 feeling like 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.

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.

#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.

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#7. Ways To Stop Self-Pity By Looking at The Brighter Picture.

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 others and 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.

#8. Ways to Stop Feeling Like a Loser With These Gratitude Ideas.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. Change the channel when you’re experiencing self-pity. When you notice that you’re starting to feel sorry for yourself, shift your focus.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

#9. Common Self Pity Traps To Avoid.

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. Finding Ways To Stop Self-Pity - What's Helpful.

  • Giving yourself a reality check so you don’t exaggerate how bad the situation really is
  • Replacing overly negative thoughts about your situation with more realistic thoughts
  • Choosing to actively problem-solve and work on improving your situation
  • 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
  • Practicing gratitude every day

#11. What's Not Helpful.

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

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