an alternative to self-pity.

May 10, 2009

Self-pity is sneaky and often invisible.  We often engage in it without a full awareness.male-in-self-pity-while-drinking-at-a-bar

Self-pity has snuck its way into my thinking and often expresses itself when I say or think…

  • This isn’t fair.
  • Why me?
  • You don’t understand.
  • He can’t speak to me that way.
  • I’ll show him.
  • Or the ultimate sneaky maneuvers of self-pity… exaggeration, sarcasm, and overstatement:
    • All I do is pay taxes
    • She never listens to me
    • My boss is a complete idiot
    • I am the only one who does any work around here
    • Nobody returns my calls

I am not saying that every time I say or think these things I am expressing self-pity.  I am saying that whenever I do say or think these things, it is a warning sign for me to check my heart for self pity.

Think about the times we are sarcastic, overstating or exaggerating.  Do we not often in doing so, point in the direction of self pity?  I believe we often, if not usually, do.

I post this because I have been falling into this trap lately.  I am under a lot of stress with some work issues and I find when in this kind of a circumstance, self-pity tries to sneak in.

By posting it, I am getting it out there.  Shining light on it. 

Fortunately, self-pity is like a mushroom.  Rooted in bullshit and growing in the dark.  So shining light on it usually kills it.

I find a good alternative to self pity and any of its representative statements is to just say, “this hurts”.  By doing so, we are not letting self pity take a legitimate hurt and amplify it into some elaborate creation.

If we just acknowledge the pain, we can then seek help to deal with the pain on a meaningful level.  By exaggerating or making other unrealistic statements, we are contorting manageable pain into unmanageable self-pity.

So I prefer to just leave things at “this hurts”, and then seek help in determining why and what to do next.






  1. That’s a good point… I find it’s easy to get stuck in self-pity and feel sorry for myself for being an alcoholic, which doesn’t accomplish anything!

  2. Man, did this post ever speak to me! If I had a nickel for every time self-pity has taken over, I’d be a very rich dude. And I still self-pity.

    You’re on the mark, as always!

  3. I love your posts Chaz, philosophical yet rooted in first hand experience.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Its so easy to be self pitying, but self pity doesn’t achieve change does it?

    You might be interested in my recent thoughts on failure…http://verymaladjusted.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/we-can-learn-from-failure/

    I’d be interested to get your views


    Lores 🙂

  4. Hi Lores…. will definitely pop by and read your post.

    Great hearing from you as always.



  5. Alone here
    Alone there
    Nothing more

  6. This is good, with a great diagnosis of the self-pity type of statements. The crazy thing about self-pity is that it has an evil twin–Pride. Both are rooted in the exact same place–ME. They seem like the exact opposite, but they actually both come from the same place. When we focus on ourselves and our circumstances, we move toward one of these poles. Satan just uses a person with bad circumstances to push them into self-pity, and he uses a person with good circumstances to push them into pride. So either way, we must turn the focus off ourselves, and put it where it belongs. (That sounds much easier than it actually is sometimes, but it can be done.)

    • Agreed Alan….

      Self pity is so often intricately woven into our thinking. We cant spot it. It is part of our culture.

  7. Right on. I agree, esp the end – about being in pain / scared / overwhelmed. Self-pity is the inner child expressing how it was at home – she felt hopeless & was powerless. Thank God we have options today.
    But since no one felt sorry for me as a kid, she’s allowed some now, & then I hold her, comfort her, let her know she’s not alone. I, the adult, hold on to her with one hand & HP with the other.

    • Donna…. isnt self-pity such a insidious thing? It disguises itself so well, then infiltrates our entire thinking process.

      Referring to our discussion about strongholds, to me, self-pity is one of the most powerful in my own past and I often see it in other.

      Yet I can see how it is so critically important to recognize our pain and damage like you mention about how our inner-child projects these feeling. Feelings that are very real and genuine. But they get contorted, embellished, and dramatatized by our unrecovered side (bad parent?). And thereby keep us stuck.

      My point in this post is that I discovered that keeping it simple and just basically saying, “ouch”, or “this hurts”, helps me keep my foot off the slippery slope of drama and contorsion so the pain doesn’t morph to self pity.

      Perhaps one might describe it in inner-child perspective as listening to our good parent who helps us deal with our pain, versus our bad parent who adds drama to it for us and thereby keeps us dependent on them. I would say my internal bad parent suffers from “Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP)” and would be happy to keep me sick.



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