Listen to the article (10:39 minutes)
Last week, I wrote about Pity Parties (extreme self-pity). If you haven’t read it, you can do so here.
This week, I promised to talk about how to overcome unhealthy levels of self-pity as well as how to deal with others who hold regular pity parties.
However, as I began to write, I decided it would be better to separate the two so as not to make the article overly long. Therefore, next week, I will discuss the latter. (If you haven’t subscribed to get my weekly articles straight to your email inbox, click the button at the top of the page.)
Before I get into the content of this week’s article, I want to clarify something from last week. I did think that I had clearly described the difference between unhealthy self-pities/severe self-pity and generally feeling sad, upset, and angry about a particular situation.
However, some readers were offended (I knew that would happen, which is why I hesitated to write on this topic!). They felt that I was attacking people when they were down.
That was not, nor would it ever be, my intention. So, for clarification, here’s a recap of what I mean by a Pity Party/severe self-pity.
What is a Pity Party
A pity party is a term used to describe a situation where someone indulges in self-pity or feelings of victimisation. It’s a metaphorical event where someone feels sorry for themselves and dwell on their problems without taking action to solve them.
People may throw a pity party for various reasons, such as feeling overwhelmed by challenges, experiencing rejection or failure, or dealing with personal loss.
It’s a common human experience to feel down and discouraged at times, but when this feeling becomes chronic or prolonged, it can lead to a negative spiral of self-doubt and hopelessness.
When someone throws a pity party, they may engage in negative self-talk and ruminate on their problems. They may isolate themselves from others or seek out sympathy. Pity parties can be emotionally draining for the person experiencing them and those around them.
While it’s normal to feel sad or upset from time to time, wallowing in self-pity is not a healthy or productive way to deal with difficult situations. It can lead to a sense of helplessness and even worsen the problem. Instead, it’s important to take action to address the problem and find positive solutions.
5 Useful Tools
N.B. Nothing will change unless you do. The quote that I use frequently that sums this up is:
Always do what you’ve always done, always get what you’ve always got.
Following are some of my favourite tools for overcoming not only self-pity but for helping you deal with almost any difficult situation.
1. Acknowledge Your Emotions (Journalling)
It’s OK to feel sad, angry, or frustrated. Acknowledge these emotions and allow yourself to feel them.
Things often feel much bigger when they are stuck in our heads, and we often can neither see the bigger picture nor extricate ourselves from the problem.
Journalling (writing down your thoughts and emotions) is clinically proven to have beneficial effects. It helps you to process things in a way that simply isn’t possible without talking aloud or physically writing (not typing).
Here are some good journal prompts for acknowledging your emotions:
- What is happening?
- What thoughts am I having?
- What emotions am I experiencing?
- When have I come across a similar situation previously? (It’s highly likely that you will have gone through something comparable in the past)
- How did the previous situation conclude/resolve?
2. Reframe Your Thinking
As I’ve written about previously, our brains are designed to seek out potential threats (it’s what’s kept humans alive as a species for so long).
However, if you’re continually in a negative ‘state,’ your brain will be on constant high alert. Research shows we can perceive neutral, non-threatening events and situations (even neutral faces!) as potential threats when we’re in survival mode.
Use reframing to analyse your negative thoughts and actively choose more positive ones. To do that, instead of focusing on everything that’s wrong, focus on what’s going well in your life. It’s another great journal prompt.
- Consider all the different ways you could view the problem.
- Get curious about your motivations, and if other people are involved, think about what’s happening with them, too. Remember to include and reflect on the potential subconscious gain you may be getting from your current behaviour, as I outlined in the previous article.
Incidentally, I am definitely not advocating ‘positive thinking’ here, as that rarely works. Your negative subconscious brain will not easily take onboard a new positive way of thinking without evidence.
3. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!
Playing the blame game or feeling sorry for yourself rarely pays dividends. Taking responsibility, however, empowers you to be able to make changes necessary to resolve things and hopefully avoid it happening again in the future.
I know how tough it can be to realise that you’ve likely contributed to your problems and that you’re probably the only one who can resolve them.
In addition, it’s important to note that…
We tend to attract the same type of negative people and situations repeatedly until we learn the lesson they are sent to teach us.
4. Create a Plan/Take Action
When you’re in a negative state, the emotional part of the brain (the amygdala) takes over. Therefore, it’s critical to get the critical thinking, problem-solving part (the pre-frontal cortex) back online.
To do this, again, sit down with a piece of paper (not your phone!) or your journal:
- Write down all the actions you could take to solve the problem. Let them flow – no matter how outlandish or impossible they may seem. Avoid editing at this point.
- Once you have your list, go back and decide on one action you’re committed to taking – it doesn’t have to be a big one. Take that action immediately, which communicates to your subconscious that you’re serious about finding a solution.
- If that action doesn’t work, try another and so on. You may find that just the process of thinking differently and taking action powerfully propels you forward and gets you out of learnt helplessness.
5. Share with Someone You Trust
Ask a friend, colleague, or family member for their opinion and guidance. However, please be careful with this one. Before you share or even overshare, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I seeking validation that I’m in the right (even when I know, deep down, that I may be wrong)?
- Do I just want attention and to be seen, heard, and acknowledged?
- Do I want someone to make me feel better, but I do not intend to do anything about my situation?
- If they give me advice, am I willing to consider taking it?
- Will this person keep my confidence?
Also, be aware that your negativity WILL impact the other person. So if you are going to speak to someone else, be mindful of what’s going on in their life. Often people will share without a second thought about what the other person may be going through.
If you genuinely wish to seek advice and guidance from others, remember that they will typically view your problem through their lens. Therefore, their thoughts and recommendations may not be suitable for you.
Will the tools above stop bad things from happening? Heck no! However, they allow you to use the critical thinking part of your brain to find solutions rather than being hijacked by your emotions.
Lastly, this is a tough one, but it’s true…
NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE YOU! Be the hero of your own story.
Next week, I’ll write more about how to deal with Mood Hoovers and Energy Vampires (i.e. people who practise extreme self-pity).
If you think this article would be helpful to others, please forward, like, comment and share. It takes seconds and assists me in getting this free content in front of more people. Plus, you never know who you may be helping with that small act of kindness!
If you’ve never considered coaching or would like to hear more about my unique approach, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary 15-minute discovery call.
Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to receive my weekly newsletter, which contains my latest articles, news and special offers, click here. As a thank you, you’ll receive FREE access to my 30-page mini-course on ‘How to Hack Your Happy Hormones.
As always, thank you for your continued support.
(Disclaimer – The information in this article is meant for entertainment purposes only and is in no way meant as a replacement for professional medical or psychological support. Please seek the appropriate advice from a healthcare professional should you feel it necessary.)