A Coaching Power Tool By Eitan Israelski, Wellness Coach, ISRAEL
The Difference between Self Pity vs. Self-Kindness
What Is Self Pity?
Self-pity is an emotion in which one feels self-centered sorrow and pity toward the self in regards to one’s own internal and external experiences of suﬀering. Self-pity has also been defined as an emotion directed towards others with the goal of attracting attention, empathy, or help.
The feeling of self-pity typically arises when an individual attributes failures to external factors perceived as uncontrollable. Although the primary focus of self-pity is on the self and one’s own emotions, it has a strong interpersonal component as well. In addition to loneliness, subjects may also feel envy, blame, anger, and hostility directed towards others.
However, it is also very common for people suffering from self-pity to deflect criticism of themselves; they are usually incapable of self-reflection and blame their bad situation only on external factors, such as bad luck or other people’s supposed resentment.
Self-pity can make you feel like nothing ever goes your way, and so there’s no point in trying to solve your problems.
Many people experience some form of self-pity when life gets stressful. Self-pity is when you’re preoccupied with your own troubles. You feel sorry for yourself.
Sometimes, self-pity is confused for depression. When you’re living with depression, you may sometimes feel pity for yourself.
However, feeling self-pity in depression is often secondary to the symptoms of despair, disinterest, and emptiness that come with depression. You can also feel self-pity but not have depression. While it’s natural to feel a little self-pity at times, staying in this state of mind can prevent you from moving forward and being present.
Chronic feelings of self-pity may not always stem from an overwhelming amount of stress.
Sometimes, what you’re feeling presents as self-pity, but is really a need for validation.
A need for validation can mean — for good or bad — that you feel you deserve the outcome of events. When something negative happens, you can feel as though it’s because you did something to warrant the unpleasant result.
That negative self-validation can then be reinforced by sympathetic reactions from those around you, creating external validation.
“Self-pity is a form of external validation that something bad has happened to us or that our circumstance is out of our control,” says Rebecca Mores, a licensed psychotherapist in Beverly, Massachusetts.
“The validation happens when a person gets attention from others, reinforcing a way to get attention,” she explains.
The best way to snap out of self-pity is to have a strategy to interrupt it when you can feel it coming on, this requires self-awareness to recognize when you’re entering into a self-pity state and allows you to focus on a healthier state of mind.
Switching self-pity to self-kindness can start with your perspective. When you’re focused on self-pity, the problems of those around you can seem insignificant.
By reminding yourself that everyone struggles and has stress, you can help shift your perspective.
You’re not the only one who faces problems each day.
If other people can overcome, there’s a chance you can, too.
Self-pity becomes a negative thing because it maximizes the victim mentality, If you believe you hold the role of the victim, you are removing your power and personal responsibility.
Mindfulness is the practice of allowing thoughts to come and go, without getting stuck.
When you practice mindfulness, thoughts of self-pity can surface, but you let them pass rather than allow yourself to dwell on them.
Mindfulness lets you live in the moment and meet all thoughts with curiosity and openness. Mores states that lingering on self-pity keeps you stuck in the past, which is also harmful for your self-esteem moving forward. Someone who sits in a perspective of self-pity is unable to take the opportunity to choose happiness because they’re instead choosing to focus on all that has gone wrong.
Coupling mindfulness with gratitude can help encourage a sense of contentment — the opposite of what happens during self-pity.
Even small moments of enjoyment during the day, are positive experiences you can be grateful for. Gratitude may do more than just help you focus on the positive. Recent research suggests gratitude is directly tied to a positive sense of overall well-being.
Identifying the sources of your stress briefly and being solution-focused instead of problem-focused can help you overcome challenges in life.
Most of us are much more unkind so ourselves than to the people around us. We can be so unforgiving and pretty damn hard in that little inner dialogue that constantly runs through our head. The truth is, if we spoke to other people in the same way, well, I’m not sure how many friends we’d actually have.
You’ve probably heard the phrase that we can’t really love others until we love ourselves. Self-love, self-kindness, self-compassion – whatever you choose to call it – is a really important part of our wellbeing. And without it, it can be really difficult to build genuine, vulnerable and meaningful connection with ourselves, as well as with others.
What Is Self-Kindness?
I really like the definition of self-kindness from Kristen Neff PhD, : Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
Actually, she also extends this to a wider definition of self-compassion which covers the realisation that a sense of suffering and personal inadequacy is very much part of being human. This is something that connects us to, rather than isolates us from, other people.
There’s then a third element in Dr Neff’s definition, which is a mindfulness of self-critical thoughts. While it’s important to allow and acknowledge, rather than suppress, negative thoughts, it’s not helpful to get caught up in them and the stories we tell ourselves.
This is also an essential part of any mindfulness and meditation practice, and it’s why cultivating mindfulness is a key way to develop self-kindness.
Self-kindness and self-compassion helps us be more connected and happier human beings. But it’s also an important part of healing, of both the physical and emotional type.
One of the first stages is recognising, when self-critical thoughts are coming up for you. And this is where a touch of mindfulness comes in. Developing a greater sense of mindfulness helps you to be much more connected with your thinking and feeling. Repeating compassionate phrases (and repeating them again and again) Repeating something, negative or positive, gets wired into our brains.
Once you’ve mindfully started registering negative self-talk, the next stage is to start reframing some of the more pernicious thoughts with phrases that work for you.
Self-Pity vs. Self-Kindness
Being gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.
Self kindness does not require that we feel superior to others. Self kindness is not an evaluation of ourselves at all, but is an attitude we adopt toward our own failure and suﬀering.
Self kindness is a positive, proactive attitude toward oneself. It is not simply the absence of negative attitudes. It doesn’t promote narcissism or unhealthy comparisons with others. People who engage in self-pity generally feel disconnected from others while exaggerating their own problems. Self pity is when you’re preoccupied with your own troubles. You feel sorry for yourself. Self pity can make you feel like nothing ever goes your way, and so there is no point in trying to solve your problems. Self kindness directs us toward the universality of our condition and allows us to adopt an objective perspective toward our own suﬀering. People who are kind to themselves are more able to admit mistakes, change unproductive behaviour, and accept new challenges.
Self kindness in practice allows us to accept ourselves as we are. Most of us are already good at being kind to others. Self kindness turns this practice inward, so that we treat ourselves as kindly as we would treat a good friend.