We’ve all had our moments, after a bad day (or a bad year) when we dip into self-pity and feel sorry for ourselves…
Poor me, no one understands.
Poor me, no one else has had such a hard row to hoe.
Poor me, my life is so hard.
Usually, hot on the heels of the pity party, is that nasty old party crasher Self Loathing, who shows up growling,
Look at you – you’re so pathetic.
What’s wrong with you?! Other people have a harder time and they can deal with it.
No wonder no one loves you, you’re brutal.
That’s one hell of a one two punch to punish yourself with. First you feel badly for yourself, and then you beat yourself up for feeling so badly. With that kind of self-talk you’d have no need for an enemy. These evil twins, Self-pity and Self-loathing, can be found side by side, one another’s trusty sidekick, the naughty, foul, evil twins that reinforce each other’s bad behavior and spur each other on.
There’s a world of difference between self-pity and having compassion for yourself. The former will keep you stuck, rolling around in your own sorrow and bad breaks, feeling like a victim. The latter will both feel gentle and lead you out of that stuck place. Circling back to my first three examples, this is how compassion sounds:
It’s a really lonely when I feel like no one understands me. I’m going to do something about that.
I’ve had a hard row to hoe, I’m sure other people have too, I’m going to learn from them.
Sometimes life can be so hard, I’m going to work on bringing some grace and ease into my life.
You can feel absolutely alone and lonely in a room full of people, or with 537+ Facebook friends and social media followers. The numbers are completely and utterly meaningless. It doesn’t automatically banish the feeling of being alone, the feeling that no one ‘gets’ you. We all want connection, it’s a nice antidote to the pity party. I learned from the very wise (and incredibly fun) Vasavi Kumar that not every single connection needs to be deep and meaningful. Maybe you have a friend or acquaintance that you meet for coffee or a cocktail and just chat for the pure enjoyment of someone else’s company. Want to feel understood? The quickest route (and maybe most counterintuitive) is to help the other person feel understood first. Get out of your me-me-me way and ask someone else what they’re up to and how they’ve been doing. Remember that being understood and feeling connected is a two way street. You’ve got to give to get. You will need to give before you get.
You’ve had a hard row to hoe? So have loads of others. And here’s a way to use that to your advantage: rather than beating yourself up and reminding yourself that other people have it far worse, use them as inspiration. Other people have it far worse AND they rise, they survive. They have overcome their suffering and worked hard to develop the capacity to experience joy and notice beauty. One of my favourite examples is Billy Connelly. Right here he outlines a horrific childhood, rife with abuse. He also demonstrates immense resilience by getting on with it. Not in a “suck it up and get on with it” kind of way, but in a “I’m going to open up about this, seek some help, and get on with it” kind of way. Resilience is the magic ingredient.
Yes, sometimes life can be hard. And sometimes it may feel like there is an onslaught of non-stop blows. But we all have a choice to make: to collapse under the weight and throw a pity party, or have a good cry, take a deep breath, find the compassion, and look for mentors and models further along the road to guide us. When you’re ready to get on with it, you’ll make the choice to move forward and close the door to the pity party behind you.