Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality. – John Gardner


Self-pity. Or, just plain feeling sorry for yourself is a lot more dangerous than you think. Self-pity is a soldier of death. The more you are touched by self-pity, the more you will be imprisoned in an alternative reality living out your life stuck in pain and suffering over and over and over again.


Terrible things happen to all of us. Throughout your life you will face many challenges and hardships. When you do, you will come face to face with self-pity. Don’t get me wrong. It is O.K. to feel sadness and pain. However, dwelling on it will only invite self-pity in your life.


Take a look at some of the common statements of those under the influence of self-pity:


  • You tend to think your problems are worse than others.
  • If it weren’t for bad luck, you are pretty sure you would have no luck at all.
  • You’re certain that no one else truly understands how hard your life is.
  • You’re more likely to tell people what went wrong then what went right.
  • You often complain about things being unfair.


As you read over those statements, did you notice yourself in any?


Self-pity can be addictive as John Gardner states in his quote above. Addictive? How? Self-pity understands that as long as you feel sorry for yourself you can delay any circumstances to face your fears, and you can avoid taking accountability (responsibility) for your life. Self-pity convinces you that you can buy some time by exaggerating what happened thus convincing you to delay taking any action to improve your life. Basically, self-pity alters your perception of what happened and thus imprisons you in a state of mind where no solutions are possible! You will be forever stuck in a self-defeating pity party.


How can you break free from the grips of self-pity? All you have control over in any situation is your response! Thus, it is your responses or choices that will get you out!


If you would like to break free from self-pity, here is a list of things to do:

  • Challenge the exaggeration by giving yourself a reality check.
  • Replace negative thinking with more realistic thinking
  • HERE IS THE KEY!!! Actively problem solve and continue to work on improving the situation.
  • Practice feeling grateful.
  • Always remember, no matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how fall you fall, you are never out of the fight!


The following is a list of responses that will only keep self-pity in your life and even make it more powerful. So, please don’t do these things too often:

  • Believe that your life is worse off than most people.
  • Continue to feed the exaggeration of your situation and feeling negative
  • HERE IS THE PROBLEM!! You continue to remain PASSIVE, FOCUSING on your HOW YOU FEEL, rather than on WHAT YOU CAN DO!
  • Declining to participate in activities that will actually help you feel better.
  • Staying focused on what you don’t have instead of what you do have.



Breaking free from the influence of self-pity can sometimes be quite the challenge. However, it is worth the fight. As I stated earlier, terrible things happen to all of us. Those hardships do not have to define us in a negative way going forward. We can instead choose to rise above the hardship and become stronger, wiser, and more resilient!




Chris Swenson is a licensed Couple and Family Therapist currently helping people develop resilience at his private practice counseling office in Sterling, CO (Rhino Wellness Center). To contact Chris, you can call 970-522-0796 or schedule an appointment online at



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