Food for Thought
Self-Pity and Self-Compassion

Self-pity is a phrase that evokes shame in most women. We are never supposed to feel sorry for ourselves, regardless of how difficult or sad, our situation may be. Self-pity connotes a failure of character, the judgment that somehow, we should be able to maintain a positive attitude and a sense of gratitude and grace through even the most painful circumstances of our lives. But is that expectation realistic? Or even human?

We all experience self-pity when we are going through very painful life situations and circumstances. The difference between individual women is not whether we experience self-pity but how long we remain in that state of feeling powerless, hopeless, and sorry for ourselves. The difference is whether we have the tools to bring ourselves into a more balanced, less hopeless emotional state and begin to move forward. The movement we seek is from self-pity to self-compassion.

Self-compassion allows us to experience empathy toward ourselves without falling into a powerless, victim role. Self-compassion is a gentle, kind, non-judgmental state of consciousness in which we acknowledge to ourselves the difficulty of our situation and the genuine pain we are experiencing, but without judgment or shame. We also gently and persistently urge ourselves to move out of the fear that our pain is permanent and we will never feel better. We encourage ourselves to begin the process of acceptance and re-forming our lives and identities to adapt and work with our circumstances from a place of inner resilience and empowerment. Guiding ourselves out of self-pity and toward self-compassion inevitably improves the quality of our lives.

Questions to Consider:
1) Do you find yourself sometimes responding to difficult and painful circumstances in your life with self-pity? How often do you respond with self-compassion?
2) What is your experience of self-pity? How does it feel when you are in this state?
3) Are you able to move out of feelings of self-pity and the associated feelings of shame and disappointment, or do have trouble moving through and out of this painful emotional state?
4) Share an experience in which you moved out of self-pity and into self-compassion.
5) What tools have you found that help you transition from feeling sorry for yourself towards more adaptive and resilient ways of responding?

All rights reserved © 2020 Beth Firestein, Ph.D. Wise Women Group