Transforming Self Pity To Make It Constructive

Depression And Self Pity - HSP Health Blog
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Self pity is a natural part of our emotional lives.

Most of us do not welcome it.

Many times we feel ashamed of it.

In a culture that demands positivity, we can be put down for it.

Since it is unwelcome, it can make us feel alone.

Self Pity Is More Than A Burden

All emotions, including self pity are information. They are our responses to circumstances in our lives.

Self pity is a feeling that anyone can have at any time. It often occurs when we notice that our circumstances are difficult and not to our liking. It can occur when we compare ourselves with others and feel hard done by. Sometimes it can be related to jealousy.

A comparison is, however, a temporary event, and any feelings of self pity that may result are fleeting and can point to a potential change we need to make.

The real concern is when self pity becomes entrenched or even a permanent part of an individual’s life.

Conditions That Give Rise To Self Pity

Entrenched self pity occurs when we experience extreme loss, unfairness and/or rejection.

Let’s say you just experienced a serious loss. Let’s also say that the people in your life are dismissive of your pain.

Your grieving process is then thwarted and directed inside.

What often happens is that what was initially sorrow becomes lodged inside us. Feelings of sadness are released through compassion, kindness and validation from others. When our sad and hurt feelings are invalidated or rejected, they can get buried inside.

We may start to feel anger at the callousness of our family or peers. Since no one is listening, though, our sorrow and anger have no place to go. Then our loss acquires an additional burden, an additional injury. That injury now adds another layer of pain to our grieving or recovery process and makes it all the harder.

Over time the unresolved grief and hurt often solidify, turn into bitterness and  display as self pity.

Additional Contributions To Self Pity

Self pity also becomes solidified when needs are unaddressed over time – generally long periods of time.

Human beings are naturally creative and problem solving creatures. When our ability to solve our problems is taken away from us or we are not allowed our developmental path, we may sink into self pity. It is a natural reaction to long term feelings of frustration and helplessness.

None of us likes to feel helpless. It can seem like an affront to our natural problem solving abilities and even the goodness inside us.

When we feel that our goodness is not desired the door to positive living can close for us and we can be left with a deep and abiding sadness. Many forms of discrimination have this effect.

So What Can We Do About Self Pity

Self pity does not have to be a permanent state. If you have been through a difficult time or situation, however,that may seem easier said than done.

Here are some important strategies that can be used to relieve and eventually eliminate the painful emotion:

  • recognize your need to grieve as legitimate and create a grieving ritual for yourself. Writing in a journal every day can help you release sad feelings and free you for the day while acknowledging and doing justice to your real pain.
  • body healing techniques are very important for people who have suffered serious harm. Massage including self massage, reiki and other forms of energy and body healing can bring healing energy into your body and help you re-experience joy. They can lift stagnant energy out of your body so that you can heal over time.
  • a long term meditation practice will help you heal and detach from painful feelings and provide some inner space for inviting new and better experiences into your life.
  • sometimes a therapy group of people who are in the healing process can be very helpful because it provides the validation you may have missed.
  • extreme self care helps as well. The more you take care of yourself, the more you validate your own life, and give yourself what was not given in the past.
  • surround yourself with supportive people who value you. People who put you done and are contemptuous make terrible friends. You deserve better.

Serious situations that create self pity require a long term care plan.

A setback of serious injury is not a commentary on your value or your person.

You can heal, and make a new life even if it is a challenging task.

It is worth the effort because we are all precious, including those who suffer the difficult feelings of self pity.


  1. says

    I think this is a great start for a person to help his/herself deal with self pity. I wonder how one might go about helping another person, their child, with this problem. Thoughts?

    • says

      I think if another person is suffering, often they need some compassion and validation. We live in a positivity obsessed culture that treats sadness and other natural responses to life experiences as a problem. When we experience that we feel rejected.

      For a child it is particularly difficult to handle. I would provide the child with a lot of validation and acceptance of their feelings. It is OK to feel sad. Then I would try to create a healing practice. For example, let’s say a child lost a favorite pet. You could make a shrine to the pet. You could take time every day to honor the pet. Maybe write a story together about the pet or how the pet is still there in spirit. If the child is old enough, then a journal could be useful. Eventually you could look for new experiences that replace the loss would help once the child experiences enough acceptance to begin to want to participate more. If you treat it as a process, then I think you will have success.

      I hope this helps.

      All the best,

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