Self-compassion – The ‘luxury’ you can’t afford

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Tragedy and misfortune strike people every day. We open the newspaper and read terrible things that happen to others. We ourselves are not immune to bad things happening in our lives. As bad as these things are, there is something even worse than the tragedy itself. It is self-pity.

You can see how this can happen. People plunge into a horrible experience and their energy is depleted and their defenses are down and it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-pity. They begin to reflect on their pains and difficulties, whether real or imagined, and begin to enjoy talking about them and sharing them with others.

Is self-pity a luxury?

Why do I call it a luxury? The dictionary tells us that a luxury is something we indulge in, it’s something we enjoy, it’s expensive, and it’s not necessary. Self-compassion fits that description perfectly.

Wallowing in self-pity, like all habits, is hard to break once you get used to it. We feel comfortable with it and find it hard to do without. We look for others with whom to pity and sympathize. But self-pity is unproductive. It makes us bitter, unforgiving, and resentful. Self-pity doesn’t bring people together, it divides them. When you throw a pity party, you’re the only guest.

Self-compassion and self-image

Self-compassion allows us to feel that we are victims. This is how we begin to define ourselves. Creates a distorted sense of security. It gives us an excuse not to try. Create in us an attitude of “What is it for?”. It’s been said that the great thing about self-pity is that if you can’t make others feel sorry for you, you can still feel sorry for yourself.

Self-pity and self-destruction

I have known people who have been in horrible marriages. Maybe your spouse had a drug or gambling problem or is an alcoholic. They have experienced untold suffering. We know that they have done so because of their constant complaining to others. They continually look for a shoulder to cry on. His life seems to always be full of drama.

Oddly enough, when that person finally ends the relationship, they are unhappy. They no longer have anything to complain about. No one feels sorry for them anymore. They don’t get the attention they once did. They no longer have a crutch to lean on and are expected to live a normal life like everyone else. This is a real hit.

Invariably, the hurt person goes out and marries someone just as bad or worse than their first spouse. They find another drug addict, wife beater, alcoholic, or gambler to marry so they can enjoy self-pity again.

It is natural that we sometimes feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve all done it before and it can actually help ease the pain of our trials. But when it becomes about us and we continue to spin and convince ourselves that we are victims and in the hands of some uncontrollable destiny, then it becomes detrimental to our well-being.

If we allow ourselves to dwell on our past hurts and wounds, we are more likely to use them to justify our indulging in other destructive habits, such as excessive eating or drinking. We seem to think, “You would do the same thing if it happened to you.”

Self pity is for losers

This may sound harsh, but there are some who are losers because they want to be losers. They may not even realize it, but it’s true. If things start to go well for them, they worry and worry. They feel that it cannot last. Then they begin to self-sabotage their success. Why? Because they have become so used to feeling a certain way that the new feelings are uncomfortable. Since they have come to the conclusion that a loser is what they are, then success is not in harmony with their self-image. They can’t stand that feeling.

It reminds me of a time when I needed to stop at my church to pick up some papers. I was in my dirty work clothes in the garden. I just needed to run, grab what I needed and go. As I entered the church I noticed another event was taking place and everyone was dressed in their Sunday best. I felt so out of place. I felt so uncomfortable. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could and get back to the dirty, grimy environment of my yard work. I think that’s why some people feel so uncomfortable when things start to go right in their lives. It is not compatible with the concept they have of themselves.

Overcome self-pity

The solution is to realize that your unhappiness is caused by your self-centeredness. When you are continually focused on yourself, you come at the price of excluding everyone else. This self-absorption is like a fence around you that keeps out those who might lend you a hand. You have to stop focusing on yourself and start seeing that there are people around you who also have trials and struggles in their lives and that you can be someone they can lean on. And as you open up and reach out to help others, they in turn can help you.

Another way to get out of self-pity is through forgiveness, that is, forgiving others. As you begin to forgive others for the perceived hurts and mistakes they have made towards you, you can begin to heal and let go of hurt and self-pity. Is this easy? Not even remotely. Necessary? Absolutely.

Helen Keller said,

Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we give in to it, we can never do anything good in the world.

Let’s rise above self-pity and use our efforts and energies for more satisfying and positive projects.


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