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Moving From Self Pity to Acceptance

Updated on October 6, 2015
HealthbyMartha profile image

I'm a Certified Health Coach who wants to help you create the best balance of spiritual, physical and mental health that is possible.

Be True to how you Feel

I know that telling people to go ahead and have a Pity Party is probably counter intuitive. It certainly goes against most of what I write about, or how I have come to believe. But, I don't actually want to recommend that you go on a binge of self pity, but rather that if you are feeling sorry for your circumstances, that it might be more productive to embrace that, than to keep pushing it away.

About ten years ago I was working with a therapist. She was a lovely woman, about ten years my senior and she worked with me over the span of about 8 years. We built a relationship of trust as these situations require and I came to really appreciate her.

One day she and I were talking on the phone in between my appointments with her. She had been very ill with pneumonia and we had to do some rescheduling of my appointments. In the course of our conversation she said to me that she had learned it was very empowering to simply utter the words "I feel sorry for myself". She admitted that the pneumonia had left her very weak and that had left her feeling depressed. She was working very hard at not owning that feeling of self pity and continued to do her best to express her positive feelings in spite of how negatively she was feeling.

She told me that when she simply gave up on trying to do "the right thing" and uttered aloud "I feel sorry for myself", that she began to feel a shift.

Let's explore how this shift might be made possible in your life too.

Let it Out!

I recall when my therapist shared with me her experience of indulging her self pity in order to move forward I was skeptical. I mean, it kind of flew in the face of everything I had learned and practiced in regard to improved personal mental health to have a pity party! I just felt a bit taken aback.

But, upon closer inspection and a bit of time spent being thoughtful, I came to realize the enormous potential in simply being honest about how I was feeling. While I do firmly believe in keeping a positive spin going and to emphasize what's good over what's going on that is not so good, I have also come to see the magic that happens when we simply allow our true feelings to be felt and then expressed.

She had told me that initially it felt awkward and wrong to say "I feel sorry for myself". But, once she uttered those words, she felt a wave of compassion and empathy coming from herself and it was so healing as to shift her away from self pity into self love and acceptance.

First she simply allowed the feelings to be expressed. But, once they had been felt and spoken, the shift began to occur. Instead of feeling isolated and alone with her illness and her frustration in being laid so low, she now also felt a warmth of loving concern. This allowed her to look at her illness and the resulting sadness it had left her with from a more objective point of view.

Eventually she could accept that yes, she felt sorry for her troubles, but she also now felt loved and able to move forward.

When we ignore our feelings and just stuff them down we are doing ourselves a huge disservice! The feelings won't magically go away; they won't suddenly transform into feelings of happiness and acceptance just because we refuse to acknowledge them! Actually, they will grow larger and more cumbersome until we eventually face the truth and deal with them.

But, when we accept that we are feeling broken and down; that we have lost our zest and zeal and we simply feel sorry for ourselves, we can now break free from that and move forward into acceptance.

It's my Party and I can cry if I Want to

I have practiced this technique of accepting self pity in order to move on. It has been very effective for me and hopefully you can make this a practice in your own life.

There have been many times in life that I've had the occasion to feel sorry for myself. And, I suspect that most of us would say the same thing. The trick is to go there, but not stay there! Go ahead and feel the angst and do what you can to express it so that you can let it go.

I recall once being incredibly upset and feeling out of control. I didn't even know where to begin to deal with my emotions but I knew I had to do something. I put on a CD and played this very loud, aggressive punk song and I just danced as hard as I could until I was exhausted. It didn't make the situation I was in any different, but it dissipated this incredibly ugly energy and when it was spent I found it easier to face the emotions that were left behind.

Maybe you are somebody who refuses to cry or be upset? Or maybe you are somebody who only cries when they are very angry or upset? In either case, crying can be very effective in relieving emotional tension. I know that it is not exactly socially acceptable to burst into tears as an adult, but you are certainly allowed this option in the privacy of your own home.

I can tell you first hand that just uttering the words "I feel sorry for myself" can be incredibly healing and transformative! For me, I believe it's hearing the compassion in those words. We are to love others as we love ourselves. And, to love ourselves is to have compassion and empathy for ourselves. When we do this, we are allowing the feelings to stand as they are without justification or apology. We have simply stated that we are feeling miserable and sorry and by doing so, we are now able to feel some loving support.

There is nothing like a bit of compassion and empathy to move even the saddest and most broken of hearts from despair into hopefulness.

Today's Despair can be Tomorrow's Hope

None of us is immune to feeling sad. We all have days that no matter what we do, we will experience sadness and sometimes even despair. Recognizing that this is temporary is helpful in getting through the bad times and on to the good times.

But, on the road to happiness, it is OK to take a little pit stop of indulgence in feeling your sadness. The trick is to go there, but not unpack and get comfortable! Allow yourself to feel your sadness, disappointment or grief. Journal it, share it with a trusted friend or therapist; blog about it; write a song; paint a picture. Use those feelings and do something with them! They are fleeting and they will dissipate from sadness into something constructive with time.

I have come to realize that by determinedly rejecting any ownership of sadness in one's life doesn't make the sadness any less real; it just adds a layer of shame to cope with. Instead, accept that you are human and you have every right in the world to feel sorry for yourself! Feel it, express it and let it go. You will find it much easier to regain a sense of calm and peace if you allow those feelings to exist as what they are; feelings. Not facts, not right or wrong....just your feelings.

We would not recognize joy were it not for sadness; or warmth in the absence of cold. So, let your sadness be "OK" and it will move on and you will again find your smile.


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    • HealthbyMartha profile image

      Martha Montour 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Jody for reading and sharing your thoughts. I know it can feel indulgent to give oneself permission to feel sad or down. But, my experience has been that this is very liberating and frees me to then get out of the funk and find a more productive place to dwell.

    • profile image

      Jody 2 years ago

      My philosphy has always been, it could be worse. I have never given myself permission to say to myself, no this is not good, it's ok to feel bad for myself. Tough thing for me to be able to do. Great blog, fuel for thought.

    • HealthbyMartha profile image

      Martha Montour 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you for reading and commenting, as always Dr Rangan!

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Really a nice hub. Yes, acceptance of what you are emotionally feeling will make your consider the situation objectively and you can decide what to do about it. Dancing, going on a long walk or doing some physical activity will dissipate emotional tension created by a particular situation, so that one can view it dispassionately.

      So, the mere acceptance of the facts of a situation will empower a person to take a positive action instead of indulging in self-pity.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • HealthbyMartha profile image

      Martha Montour 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Carolyn for reading and for all that you shared! I have been through the loss of a spouse and then major life upheavals, and it's sometimes best to just "own" where we are at and feel it, then find the will to press forward yet again. I sure hope life is going better for you these days.

    • Carolyn M Fields profile image

      Carolyn Fields 2 years ago from South Dakota, USA

      Excellent point. If you are feeling depressed, you can't just "will it" away, without first exploring why. For myself, I was depressed after my husband died. I got through it, and improved for a while. Then life hit me with a couple more deaths, a relocation, and major employment change, a surgery, and a drastic change in my family life. Before I could "move forward," I first had to give myself "permission" to be feeling bad. Looking at everything that had taken place, any reasonable person would be feeling depression. Once I "owned" that, I was able to plot a course towards feeling better. Journaling helps. Thank you for this hub. I appreciate the confirmation.