It’s the ‘one (wo)man show’, better known to frequent attendees as the pity party. Are you thinking this does not apply to you? Well guess again, we’ve all been there. Whether you were a kid or whether you reluctantly call yourself a frequent visitor, this is something we can all relate to. No one is perfect, and that’s fine. What sets us apart, from each other, is how we choose to respond and how long we linger before heading home.
Basking in the pity pool
It feels like cool water on a tropical summer day… good. Yet, just as that cooling sensation eventually wears off, so does the satisfaction that feeling sorry for yourself brings. Matter of fact, that pleasant sensation is short-lived. It quickly dawns on you that you are splashing around and making a scene in the water, without actually going anywhere.
Escaping the comfort
Comfort is definitely one of life’s double edged swords. To some degree, and in our own way, we all seek comfort in our lives. It has become synonymous with success, living a good life and being financially secure, such that you can live a ‘comfortable’ life. Yet, it is this same comfort that makes us complacent, lazy and convinces us that it is fine to settle for less than we can be or achieve.
“Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.”― Maya Angelou, ‘Gather Together in My Name’
Yes, of course, ‘woe is me’! It can be comfortable, so comfortable that it is not always easy to pick yourself off the couch after a long couch-potato-session. While not a crime, self-pity should be well-managed because of its addictive nature. It is a psychological state and a conscious decision that we make, each time we find ourselves in that head space. Now, where this gets harmful is when we linger. Stay too long, insist on being the last to leave the party, and you might find yourself going down a negative spiral.
Doing something about it
1. Count your blessings
Take some time to breath and appreciate what you have. A little self-reflection never hurt anybody. You might find that you have been approaching the situation from a one-dimensional perspective. Take some more time; you might find that there is a lot more to be grateful for than you initially thought! Remember that gratitude and pity cannot occupy the same state of mind. If you are filled with gratitude, there is no space left for pity. So it’s really up to you how you choose to feel.
2. Face your feelings head on
Don’t shy away from your feelings. You cannot run away from them, at least not forever. Whether you wish to deal with them or not, they are a part of you. No use in prolonging the inevitable and living with the preoccupation of unresolved feelings. If you put things off, whether it’s feelings or tasks, you will not actually feel free until they have been dealt with. What feels like temporary relief is soon replaced with guilt and unreasonable preoccupation.
3. Recognize negative behaviour
No one is perfect. We all have our moments and negative behaviour is a part of our lives, whether we care to admit that or not. It would be silly to suggest eliminating them all together. At the end of the day we are all human and mistakes will be made. Whether we slip up and fall back into old habits is not a problem in its self. Only when we start to spiral and do not catch ourselves, before we fall further, should we start to worry.
A good way to stay sharp is by practicing self-awareness. Take a mental step back to assess the situation and how you plan to approach it.
4. Lend a helping hand
Now, who has time to feel sorry for themselves when they are busy helping others? I know this one can be a bit of a delicate subject. It might trigger some internal conflict in some of you. Some might say that you are using others to make yourself feel better. While that is a way to view it, the TRUE spirit of a helping hand does not leave space for selfish intentions. By helping others you CAN help yourself. Rather than it being selfish, it is mutually beneficial. You can feel useful while the other person receives the help they needed and/or wanted.
5. Build your mental muscles
Dealing with yourself requires mental strength. How else do you expect to cope with someone that is around ALL THE TIME! You are your own best friend and worst enemy all wrapped in one.
Being good to yourself requires mental strength. The strength to choose to be your own personal cheerleader rather than a constant downer. While being critical of yourself is a healthy habit, it should not eat away at your own self worth. A healthy dose of self criticism is key to driving your self development. Just as you try to keep yourself physically healthy by staying ‘fit’, you should also consider your mental health. Ask yourself how do you stretch your mental muscles? How do you keep the balance between cheering yourself on, all the while being critical as well?
Self awareness is what it takes. Realizing that there is no shame in self pity as long as we do not let it cripple us.
When you find yourself at the next pity party, remember that you always have a choice to keep sulking around OR to choose gratitude and head out the door. There is no need to be the last one standing.
“Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have.”