The Dangers Of Self-Pity: Five Ways To Stop It

I read somewhere that this life is designed to break your heart. Although I don’t believe in it one hundred per cent, I do know that life is not always rosy. There will be days where life will kick you down and it’s only normal for us to feel sad or disappointed with ourselves. When that happens, it’s also easy to throw ourselves a self-pity party.


I am guilty of this too, but be warned! Self-pity can only go so far. When you stay in the party long enough, it could cause you to stay stagnant, become pessimistic, limit yourself, among many other harmful effects. Those are the last things we want to happen. So, the question is: How do we get out of this? Here are a few ways to break out of self-pity and stop it in its tracks:


1. Embrace it, but set a deadline.

Woman wallowing in self-pity and looking sad


When you’re sad, more often than not, people will tell you to stop being sad. Sometimes, even you are guilty of telling yourself to stop being so sad. Instead of telling yourself this, the right thing to do is to face your feelings head-on. One mistake we always make is to shy away from uncomfortable emotions. Yes, it is easier to ignore anything that makes you feel comfortable, but it will do you no good.


Instead, embrace the emotions and let yourself process them. Make a vow to yourself to sit through and process all those emotions, but set a deadline. Don’t let yourself linger and wallow in your sadness. I usually give myself two to three days to process all my feelings. This will not only allow me to embrace my feelings but also help me clear my head and plan my next step.


2. Be highly aware if you think things are going downhill.

Being aware of your feelings is a form of self-care. Once you are aware of your feelings, you will start noticing the changes in your behaviour. Are you on the verge of breaking down, or is this a frustration that will pass in a few minutes? When you recognize your feelings, it is easier to take charge and find ways to control them. 


Being attuned to your feelings takes a lot of hard work. It doesn’t just happen immediately. You will not only need to listen to yourself, but also find the will to dissect your emotions and not let them control your behaviour. Or even worse, your behaviour towards other people. Dwelling on negative thoughts will cause you to react negatively and if you leave them festering long enough, it might change who you are as a person.


3. Minimise your complaining.

It’s okay to complain, but try to only do it once in a while. Find ways to minimise your complaining. If you have a hard time stopping, there are various ways for you to curb this habit. One method is the rubber band/bracelet method: the challenge is to go 21 days without complaining. If you complain, move the rubber band/bracelet from one wrist to the other. This might not seem like much and might even seem pointless, but this is actually called metacognitive awareness training. You train your brain to be aware of your thoughts!

Not to mention, complaining can take up a lot of your energy. Whether you realise it or not, complaining can deteriorate your mental and physical health. In this article by Travis Bradberry, the author states that complaining releases a stress hormone called cortisol. He further emphasized that extra cortisol released by frequent complaining can actually impair your immune system. So, take care of your health by minimising your complaints and trying to take a breather when things get stressful.


4. Use the mistakes or failures as lessons.

Woman learning and growing in front of a laptop


Mistakes and failures are almost inevitable. We are humans, after all. Sometimes, the mistakes or little setbacks we encounter are out of our control. However, the one thing that is in our control is how we respond to it. Instead of asking “Why me?” or “Why did it go this way?”, change the narrative. Ask yourself:

    • “What is this trying to teach me?”
    • “What lessons can I get from this?”
    • “What can I do better after this?”


By changing your inner narrative, you are giving yourself the power to direct the course of the situation. This can also help you see things in a more positive light. Based on personal experience, admitting my mistakes and failures has led me to discover myself and improve myself more. Anything that will make you a better person is never a loss, but actually a gain.


5. Build your mental strength.

Like building your physical strength, your mental strength needs exercise too. It does not happen overnight or even in a year’s time, so give yourself some slack. Charles R. Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. To me, this is a good reminder. I repeat it often as my mantra and it has helped my brain and my emotional self to make better decisions, especially when I think life is not going my way or when people are not being so kind.


Woman doing yoga and meditation to stop self-pity


Another way to build mental strength is to create good lifestyle habits. For example, waking up five minutes earlier than you normally would. This is not only about changing your morning routine but it also makes you more disciplined. By being more disciplined, you are doing justice to yourself. By doing justice to yourself, you have immediately put yourself to a high standard. As you can see, it is a ripple effect! One good thing will lead to another, no matter how small it may seem.



It’s okay to have a self-pity party over the weekend. But if you make it a daily habit, then you are only signing yourself up for Doomsville! It also does not mean you can’t be sad or disappointed, those are still feelings and all feelings are valid. What matters is how you deal with it after. So, cry when you need to and console yourself, but always remember to get back up. Don’t let this destructive yet addicting habit consume you. You are better than that!


For further reading, read this article on 3 ways to pick yourself up when everything doesn’t seem to go your way.

An introvert by nature that can only be lured out when there is coffee. Chases deadline for a living while dreaming of her next getaway during her spare time or busy reading her to-be-read list that won’t stop growing.

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