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

When AL’s mother wheeled him into the therapist’s office, AL stared silently at the floor. His mother began by saying, “We’re having such a hard time since this terrible accident. It’s really ruined our lives and caused a lot of emotional problems for AL. He’s just not the same little boy.”

To his mother’s surprise, the therapist didn’t respond with sympathy. Instead she enthusiastically said, “Boy, have I been looking forward to meeting you, AL! I’ve never met a kid who could beat a school bus! You have to tell me, how did you manage to get into a fight with a school bus and win?”



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. Can you relate to any of the points below?

o   You tend to think your problems are worse than anyone else’s.

o   If it weren’t for bad luck, you’re pretty sure you’d have none at all.

o   Problems seem to add up for you at a much faster rate than anyone else.

o   You’re fairly certain that no one else truly understands how hard your life really is.

o   You sometimes choose to withdraw from leisure activities and social engagements so you can stay home and think about your problems.

o   You’re more likely to tell people what went wrong during your day rather than what went well.

o   You often complain about things not being fair.

o   You struggle to find anything to be grateful for sometimes.

o   You think that other people are blessed with easier lives.

o   You sometimes wonder if the world is out to get you.



It’s so easy to fall into the self-pity trap. Feeling sorry for yourself can buy time. It justifies why you shouldn’t do anything to improve.

            Why we do it:

                        A defense mechanism

You can delay any circumstances that will bring you face-to-face with your real fears

To avoid taking any responsibility for your actions

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.

As a way to gain attention, play the “Poor Me” card

Due to a fear rejection

Misery loves company, bragging right

An act of defiance, we deserve better



Feeling sorry for yourself is self-destructive. It leads to new problems and can have serious consequences.

o   Indulging in self-pity hinders living a full life in the following ways:

§  It’s a waste of time.

·         Requires a lot of mental energy

·         Won’t move you any closer to a solution

§  It leads to more negative emotions.

·         Can ignite a flurry of other negative emotions

o   Anger

o   Resentment

o   Loneliness

o   Feelings that fuel more negative thoughts

§  It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

·         Feelings of self-pity can lead to living a pitiful life

§  It prevents you from dealing with other emotions.

·         Self-pity gets in the way of dealing with:

o   Grief,

o   Sadness,

o   Anger,

o   And other emotions.

·         It can stall your progress from healing

§  It causes you to overlook the good in your life.

§  It interferes with relationships.

·         A victim mentality is not an attractive characteristic.



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

            View Yourself as a survivor rather than a victim!


Make a conscious choice to celebrate life’s gifts and refuse to behave in a pitiful manner.

Make a conscious effort to do something contrary to how you feel.

            Here are some examples:

                        Volunteer to help a worthy cause.

It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re serving people

                                                Perform a random act of kindness.

                                                Do something active.


Sign up for a class

Read a book

Learn a new hobby

If you never take a step in the right direction, you’ll stay right where you are.




Witnessing 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. 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 experienced the exact same event.

            However, their perception of the event was completely different.

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.

Reframing the way you look at a situation isn’t always easy.

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 play

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


                                    What evidence do I have that I can get through this?

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

            Review your skills

Support systems

Past experiences


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

§  I can’t handle one more problem

§  Good things always happen to everyone else

§  Bad things always happen to me

§  My life just gets worse all the time

§  No one else has to deal with this stuff

§  I just can’t catch a break

Create a list of good things that have happened to you.

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.



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

            Anyone can learn to become more grateful by developing new habits.

                        Acknowledge other people’s kindness and generosity.

Affirm the good in the world and you will begin to appreciate what you have.

Look for those little things in life that you can so easily take for granted.

Here are a few simple habits that can help you focus on what you have to be grateful for:

            Keep a gratitude journal.

Each day write down at least one thing you’re grateful for.

                                                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


                                                Ask others what they’re grateful for.

                                                Teach others to be grateful.



Simply acknowledging a few things you feel grateful for each day is a powerful way to create change.

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:

            People who feel gratitude don’t get sick as often as others.

            Gratitude leads to more positive emotions.

            Gratitude improves social lives.



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.


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



            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