Written by
Michael Wells


And How to Overcome It

Written by
Michael Wells


And How to Overcome It

Written by
Michael Wells

This article is part of the series 


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This series is under development and further articles will be added soon.

“How do I overcome self pity?”
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If someone else pities you, it’s because they imagine that they would not want to be in the situation you’re in. They imagine that they’d feel uncomfortable and unhappy, with all kinds of unpleasant emotions.

Their pity has nothing to do with you.

It has everything to do with how they think that they would feel, if they were in your situation. In essence it's a comparison, and judgement between what we see as ideal, and what we see as undesirable.

Why you feel conflicted

Our mind has that same ability to judge and to pity, and it can even experience that judgement towards ourselves.

We think of our mind as one voice, but in fact it’s several different voices all having a conversation with each other. They discuss what’s going on in our world. They discuss how they feel about other people. They discuss how they feel about our current situation, and about us, as a person.

Some people think of those voices as the parent ( rational mind ), and the child ( emotional mind ). Others think of them as the human mind, mammal mind, and reptile mind. Still others go for ego, superego, and id.

Whatever labels you use, the result is the same;

  • We are often confused. No… we are usually confused. Resolving these internal differences of perspective is a full-time job.
  • We can feel deeply conflicted about things- such as liking someone and hating them at the same time.
  • What we want, and how we feel about what we want, rarely align 100%. We want to be fit, but agonize over giving up pizza. We want relationship security, but we agonize over exclusive lifelong commitment.
  • We constantly seek to clarify our world, by dividing it into right and wrong, good and bad, yes and no. But since each of our brains has different perspectives and different goals, what's "best" is always a blurry negotiation.
  • In this negotiation, we tend to evaluate ( aka. judge ) everything. Other people... our situation... and ourselves.

Why you feel self-pity

When you feel pity towards yourself, it means that part of your mind is uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable with the situation you’re facing, the choices you’re making, the choices you're not making, or the environment you’re in.

Or, perhaps... all of the above.

It sees you as a victim- either of outside circumstances, or of your own natural weaknesses - fear, anger, confusion, laziness, lust.

In reality, being a victim is primarily a choice.

It comes from warped expectations of what we think we deserve in life, or how we think other people are supposed to treat us.

Or, it comes from a lack of self-responsibility.... an unwillingness to make hard choices, challenge ourselves, make sacrifices, and take the actions needed to build a better life.

It will benefit you to reflect on this as much as you can, and to try to honestly identify the source of your inner pain.

But at the end of the day, there are only two things that will improve your situation...

Making decisions, and taking action

All uncomfortable emotions demand action.

Just as your hand hurts when you touch a hot stove, your mind creates emotional pain sensations to drive you towards or away from things.

So you feel self-pity... what exactly is frustrating you?

  • Is it that your environment is bad for you, and for your future?
  • Is it the people around you, or the fact that you don’t have close people around you?
  • Is it a specific emotion like fear, or anger, that you're allowing to hold you back from what you really want in life?

The important thing is to figure out the action you need to take, and to take it.

Uncertainty & sacrifice

Generally speaking, the action you're going to take won't be easy. If it were, you would have done it long ago.

Often it means giving something up- security, comfort, friendship, a career, a familiar environment. But until you do you’ll be “stuck” and miserable, with one part of your mind trying very hard to point you to a better life.

Waiting is not an action

Before I go, I want to add an important point.

Consider a dog who has a drunk asshole as an owner. That owner occasionally gets drunk, and kicks them. For that dog, there is a conflict…

His reptile brain says “run away, or bite hard.” But his mammal brain says “you need this relationship, you need approval, you need security... just take the beating.”

Which is the “right” answer for that dog? Is it to fight, to take flight, or to freeze?

No one knows, because if your goal is a “best situation,” that answer only exists in the future. Will that owner sober up, and be the best owner ever? Or will the beatings continue for the rest of that dog’s life?

We won’t know until we get there.

And then it's too late.

There are two crucial lessons here.

#1 - Prediction has limited value

Guess at the future all you want, but don't base your life on a dice roll.

In this example, you might think this relationship could turn out great, but that does not involve sitting still and waiting to find out.

You also need to honestly consider the alternatives, and to prepare for them.

You need to take actions now, like having real discussions, and healthy confrontations, and driving them to therapy.

You need to have somewhere you can go, while they work out their issues, and you decide whether to keep investing in this relationship.

"I don't know" does not mean you should freeze. It means you need to make the best choice you can, with the best information you have.

#2 - Embrace all your options

That dog is disadvantaged because it has few options it can take.

As an adult human in that same situation, you have a far wider range of choices on how to deal with that toxic relationship.

You can have healthy confrontations. Pursue therapy for yourself, your family, or both of you. You can engage in deep and meaningful discussions. You can bring in a mediator, or call the police.

You can learn how to defend yourself effortlessly, without harming a drunk idiot. You can find new friends and family. You can start a new life, supporting yourself in a new environment.

For that dog- fight, flight, and freeze are narrow choices. For you, they are a huge spectrum of possibilities.

You have so many actions that you can take... you just have to pick the one you think is best, and take it.

Right now.

When you get good at that, that self-pity will be replaced by deep self-respect.

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This article is part of the series 


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First published on 
. Last updated on 
August 8, 2022

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