It’s perfectly normal to feel sorry for yourself and experience internal injustice when you’ve been hurt, publicly yelled at, or unfairly criticized. However, there are times when a person becomes so immersed in this state that they start living in the role of a victim. Today, we will explore the dangers of such a life strategy and how to stop feeling sorry for yourself all the time.
Why feeling sorry for yourself is harmful?
Feeling sorry for yourself means being able to show sympathy to yourself during moments of intense stress, serious troubles, and sorrow. It is a very important and useful skill, as long as it doesn’t cross the line of reason.
Experts identify two types of self-pity: productive and unhealthy. The first arises situationally, for example, due to illness, dismissal, the loss of a loved one, and so on. After the difficult phase passes, a person realizes that life doesn’t end there, and the state normalizes. In the second case, self-pity becomes a permanent phenomenon, poisoning both the life of the self-pitier and their surroundings.
Unhealthy self-pity is an unproductive stress coping strategy. It doesn’t help solve problems but only exacerbates existing ones and creates new ones. This state can be considered a bad habit that is dangerous for many reasons. Let’s consider them.
The person instills a sense of helplessness in themselves
They believe that someone else controls and manipulates everything. This strategy leads to the person ceasing to be proactive, going with the flow, and making no attempts to improve their life. They get stuck in their comfort zone and stop growing.
There is a risk of losing social connections
Very often, a person who pities themselves benefits from such behavior. They complain to others about their fate in the hope of receiving sympathy, support, and assistance. However, this approach only works for a short time.
People may sympathize if they see that someone is genuinely going through a tough time and there are valid reasons for it. However, when they witness constant complaints that have become a way of life, those around them stop empathizing and begin to avoid the complainer.
Few people enjoy interacting with someone who constantly talks about their misfortunes, problems, blames their bad luck, and pities themselves.
Self-pity can become a source of aggression, directed towards oneself and others.
Often, this feeling is accompanied by unrealistic demands placed on others. The complainer always feels like they are not receiving enough attention, support, and assistance that they believe they deserve.
Since openly displaying hostility and irritation is unlikely to lead to the desired outcome, the person suppresses negative feelings and directs them inward, towards themselves. Both of these behaviors do not contribute to healthy relationships with people or overall well-being.
Feeling sorry for oneself contributes to the development of a victim mentality.
This is a painful reaction to external irritants. It triggers the synthesis of acetylcholine – a hormone of weakness that negatively affects the nervous system and blood pressure. Over time, this can lead to unfounded fears, chronic suppression, depression, and other problems.
It provokes a weakened immune system.
This occurs because self-pity is accompanied by constant stress. Such individuals are more prone to getting sick during seasonal epidemics, have a harder time recovering even from mild colds, experience longer recovery periods, and are more likely to face complications.
According to psychiatrists, people who are self-absorbed become indifferent to those around them. They become callous, accumulating tension within themselves, which can eventually manifest as clinical depression requiring medical assistance.
Causes of self-pity
Several main reasons contribute to the emergence of temporary or chronic complaining habits:
Difficult situation. The most justified reason for self-pity is caused by challenging life circumstances: divorce, job loss, serious health problems, and so on. A person understands that they cannot change the situation and temporarily falls into a state of apathy and powerlessness.
Neuroticism. In psychology, there is a concept called neuroticism. It is a personality trait characterized by emotional instability. Such a person is prone to more frequent emotional experiences, anxieties, and is more likely to experience worry, jealousy, sadness, guilt, and anger compared to others. It is important to differentiate neuroticism from neurosis – a nervous mental disorder. Neurotic symptoms, unlike neurosis, can be observed in healthy individuals as well.
Attempting to compensate for attention deficit. A child who cries and complains to their parents about a scraped knee inevitably receives care, sympathy, and attention. For an adult, complaining is also a quick and accessible way to gain the same support from those around them. It automatically puts them in the center of others’ attention, makes them feel significant, special, and boosts their ego.
Complaining as an excuse to relax. By receiving sympathy for themselves, people become less demanding, loosen their self-control, and indulge in weaknesses. For example, during such times, they may drink excessively or overeat fast food, justifying such behavior with thoughts that it compensates for the emotional damage and they deserve it today.
According to the well-known Russian psychologist Mikhail Labkovsky, it is perfectly normal to feel annoyance in moments when a person experiences humiliation, insult, physical pain, or unfair punishment. However, emotionally mature individuals mentally criticize the offender, draw appropriate conclusions about them, and let go of the situation. In contrast, an insecure individual will repeatedly dwell on unpleasant circumstances and pity themselves.
Ways to stop complaining and start taking action
Acknowledging the problem is already halfway towards solving it. Let’s see what to do next to stop self-pity and start living a full life.
Reflect on the reasons
Think about what causes your self-pity. Psychologists often recommend clients to divide all the reasons into two groups.
The first group is associated with sadness about one’s own imperfections. Such a person considers themselves not good, beautiful, smart, needed, or successful enough. They compare themselves to others and constantly reinforce their doubts.
In this case, it is very important to work on self-esteem, self-respect, and self-confidence. In our blog, there are many publications on this topic that can help replace self-pity with self-love and other more productive emotions.
The second reason is caused by sadness about the imperfections of the world. Such a person constantly complains about circumstances and shifts responsibility onto everyone: family members, colleagues, neighbors, utility workers, the government, the state of affairs in the country, and so on.
They always see themselves as victims of circumstances, and in these conditions, they constantly pity themselves. They have many complaints about others: not showing enough love, not giving enough attention, not appreciating them, obstructing their progress, not creating favorable conditions, and so on.
It is important to realize one’s own maturity, learn to take responsibility, follow through with what is started, make decisions, honor agreements, keep promises to oneself, and stop constantly justifying oneself.
Identify the benefits
A human being is a creature who never does anything without some form of benefit. Even if this benefit is not consciously realized, it still exists.
For example, consider this case: a 30-year-old man lives with his parents and constantly complains to his friends that they control him, criticize him, and don’t let him live peacefully, and so on. When asked why he doesn’t move out, he comes up with a dozen different excuses, such as being the only child, his parents would be lonely without him, and so on.
In reality, it is not about strong family bonds but about “convenient pity.” Living with his parents is convenient for him for many reasons. For example, there is no need to step out of the comfort zone, make an effort to maintain an apartment, take care of household chores, groceries, and many other things. Moreover, why change anything and burden oneself with additional responsibilities when one can simply continue complaining and eliciting sympathy from others? Plus, the topic always remains relevant for conversations.
This phenomenon is called secondary gain. It is a conditional benefit that we derive from an unpleasant situation. Sometimes we don’t even realize it or admit it.
Another example: a girl pities and scolds herself for a lack of talent, quick-wittedness, and sufficient intelligence. Her unconscious benefit lies in not exerting effort in studies, not participating in competitions and olympiads, not striving for a good university, protecting herself from failures, and doing what she likes, what is easier and cheaper.
A woman living with an alcoholic also has a secondary gain. She proudly carries her “sacrificial cross” to the imaginary applause and admiration of neighbors, relatives, and other spectators. Everyone pities her, sympathizes with her, and considers her a heroine.
What secondary gain do you derive from your self-pity? Think about it.
Replace self-pity with other emotions
Self-pity forces the focus of attention on misfortunes and the inability to cope with problems. Once you replace this feeling with kindness and compassion, the focus will immediately shift in the right direction. Unlike self-pity, compassion implies self-care, acceptance, an attitude towards oneself without judgment and criticism, and recognition of weaknesses and negative emotions.
Having a kind attitude towards oneself contributes to increased life satisfaction, positively affects relationships with others, and helps to cope with stress more effectively.
I suggest remembering this psychological practice, which is a combination of meditation and visualization:
Find a peaceful place, get into a comfortable position, and close your eyes.
Relax your body, take a few slow, deep breaths, focusing your attention on your breath.
Mentally wish yourself well. Thank yourself for all your successes and mistakes. Say that you forgive yourself and love yourself just the way you are.
After that, wish well to your loved ones, and then to all the people around you, even those with whom you have a cold or not-so-good relationship. Wish well to all people on this planet.
In addition, psychologists and coaches recommend keeping a gratitude journal. It’s a notebook where you will regularly write down who, what, and why you are grateful for. For example, you can make it a rule to write down 3-5 different expressions of gratitude every day. You can make it a mandatory morning ritual or write entries before bedtime.
According to research, just 10 weeks of such practice can significantly increase optimism, improve one’s opinion of their own life, and even alleviate symptoms of certain illnesses.
The next time thoughts of “poverty and unhappiness” start creeping into your mind, write down 5 things you are grateful for right now. Trust me, it will become easier.
Reevaluate your environment
No matter how hard you try to get rid of the habit of feeling sorry for yourself, if you interact daily with pessimists and complainers, it is unlikely that you will achieve significant success.
Take a close look at who is around you. What do you mostly talk about? What topics do you like to discuss? If among your loved ones there are those who can’t help but complain about their unfair fate, think about how you can reduce the frequency of your interaction with them. If they are people with whom you can completely stop communicating without any harm, do so.
And if they are your family or very close friends, suggest alternative topics for conversation. Show by your own example that it’s interesting to talk about something other than negativity. In a polite manner, make it clear that you would gladly discuss something more pleasant. If desired, any conversation can be directed in the direction you want, without offending anyone or losing anything significant.
Try to gravitate towards those who look at everything with a positive outlook. Infect yourself with their unfamiliar worldview, behavior, and thinking. Learn productive communication skills and lifestyles from them. Remember: the company you keep influences the person you become!
Remember that you can become anyone
Always remember that at any moment, you can become the person you want to be. Your past does not define you. Even if until this moment you have spent your whole life complaining about your fate and feeling sorry for yourself, right now you can make a firm decision to change and start taking steps towards your new identity.
Let’s consider a few more valuable recommendations that will help you get rid of the harmful habit of complaining and feeling sorry for yourself:
Develop critical thinking. If you often tell yourself that you are worthless, stupid, or that nobody loves you, get used to asking counter questions. Think about who said it, whether it’s true, or if you’re just exaggerating. Perhaps the reason behind such thoughts lies in your excessive anxiety. Read about how to stop getting nervous over trivial matters.
Help those who are worse off. Sometimes a person becomes so absorbed in their imagined grievances that they fail to notice other people’s concerns and problems. Look around you! There are many people who truly deserve sympathy. Volunteer, visit an orphanage or an animal shelter, join those who clean up forests from litter. By helping others, we always help ourselves and begin to feel more needed and useful.
Remember that no one owes you anything. The fewer expectations you have in this regard, the less you will be disappointed and suffer. In reality, as harsh and cynical as it may sound, people help each other solely because they want to. The reasons why they want to help may vary, but the fact remains. Get rid of illusions – life will become easier.
Spend less time on social media. When you look at perfectly photoshopped celebrities and their beautiful luxurious lives, it’s very difficult not to feel sorry for yourself. Here, critical thinking and awareness come to your aid, realizing that not everything displayed is genuine. It’s always helpful to remind yourself that the rich also cry, even the most beautiful ones cheat, even the most successful get dumped, and even the most famous have problems, complexes, and reasons to shed tears.
If you need help, ask for it. Often, chronic complainers don’t actually need real help. They just want someone to listen to them and pity them. Those who truly need specific assistance are not afraid to ask for it. Complaining to a friend that your husband doesn’t help around the house? Wouldn’t it be better to ask your husband for help instead? Feeling dissatisfied with life and getting tangled up in yourself – stop whining and seek help from a psychologist. Only real actions can bring about change. Complaints definitely won’t change anything.
Excessive and misplaced self-pity not only hinders personal growth but can also be the cause of many illnesses. To help yourself become more satisfied and conserve energy for something more productive, it is best to get rid of this harmful habit as soon as possible.
We have discussed the most effective ways that will allow you to stop feeling sorry for yourself and start taking action. I wish you an easy path in this direction and success.