Sometimes having a pity party is a lot easier than accepting responsibility and trying to make a conscious change in our lives.
While I like to give ourselves permission to feel negative every now and then, a pity party is when we become addicted to these toxic emotions, and this can greatly inhibit our self-esteem and personal growth.
Listen. I understand that people feel bad about themselves every now and then. That’s normal. We all go through times when we make mistakes, we embarrass ourselves, we don’t live up to our expectations, or disappoint others. And I truly believe that giving ourselves permission to feel negative emotions, every now and again, is a necessary element of emotional intelligence.
The problem with negative emotions is that we sometimes become addicted to them, like a drug. We become so conditioned and attached to our frustrations, our anger, our sadness, and our guilt, and we begin to depend on these feelings in order to feel alive.
Instead of recognizing our emotions as only passing expressions of our current situation in life, we begin to identify ourselves with these feelings. We can’t imagine a day going by without them. We wake up every morning and we begin to anticipate their arrival…and sure enough, they usually come.
In many ways, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We expect to feel like shit and those expectations cause us to act in ways that reinforce that fact. This is how many people get caught in having “pity parties.”
A pity party is an excessive and unproductive way of experiencing grief, in which you spend all your time feeling sorry for yourself and whining endlessly about how crappy your life is, without ever doing anything about it.
Often we have these pity parties all by ourselves. For weeks, months, or even years at a time we may come home from work or school, then run up to our room, lock ourselves in it, crash on our beds, curl up in a ball, munch on Doritos, and then try to sleep for the rest of the day. Maybe we don’t even go to school or work anymore.
Common symptoms of a “pity party” include:
- Persistent low self-esteem.
- Constant feelings of frustration, sadness, or anger toward life.
- Excessive negative self-talk (such as “I’m no good.” or “Nobody likes me.”) and complaining.
- Lots of ruminating on past events.
- Not motivated to go to school, work, or fulfill other obligations.
- Poor diet, excessive eating, and/or substance abuse.
- Indulging in too much TV, movies, music, or video games.
- Feeling lethargic and lazy for most of the day.
- Lots of day-time sleeping.
- No real plans, hopes, or dreams for the future.
- Identifying oneself as “the victim” in most situations.
- Indifference to others or wanting others to feel bad for you.
The most unhealthy thing about any pity party is that we do everything but actually confront our problems. Instead, we run away from responsibility by feeling sorry for how pathetic we are as human beings.
Perhaps even worse, we carry this attitude with us wherever we go and it begins to pollute our relationships. Our negative attitude and gloomy demeanor become an emotional contagion. This means that the people who are surrounded by you begin to pick up on your negative vibes and feel down themselves.
Most people don’t want to hang around others who make them feel like crap unless they themselves already feel like crap. Due to this, we begin to attract toxic individuals which only help to refuel our own toxicity. Our social circle becomes a feedback loop of toxic emotions – and the pity party continues to grow.
Cancel Your RSVP to the Pity Party
As you can tell by now, pity parties are a very unhealthy expression of emotion. They often grow like a cancer; and also like a cancer, they eat away at our lives. What we need to do is cut out the cancer as soon as possible before it grows into something that we can no longer manage.
There are many factors that can reinforce low self-esteem. They include (but aren’t limited to):
A. Our thoughts, beliefs, and views on ourselves and our world.
B. Our personal habits (taking lots of nap, playing too many video games).
C. Our relationships.
D. Our health (diet, exercise, hygiene, etc.)
E. Our job and career.
F. Our history.
G. Our genes.
We aren’t in control of everything that contributes to our self-esteem (clearly, we can’t change our genes and we can’t change the past), but we do have some control, and that is where there is room for growth.
Changing your thoughts and perspective
For starters, one way we can end the pity party is to begin to become more aware of the thoughts and beliefs that underlie our mood and behavior. Often when we notice some of the critical things we say about ourselves inside our heads, we find just how much of an effect these voices have on how we think and feel about reality. Once we become more aware, we can the begin to adjust these beliefs and self-talk so that they are more positive and optimistic.
One example is by reframing obstacles in our life as opportunities for growth and learning. For example, maybe you’re a guy who has never been on a date before but has been rejected hundreds of times by other girls. You may look back on this track record and believe that this means you’ll never have a girlfriend. But someone else can look back on this and try to see opportunities to learn from their mistakes and improve their approach to women.
Example of “failure as learning” refame:
- “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
Thomas A. Edison
By reframing failure in this way we often become more motivated to learn from and overcome these obstacles rather than seeing them as inhibitors to living the life we want.
The difference is obstacles and failures aren’t seen as road blocks on the path of personal development, but road signs that help guide our journey forward.
This kind of reframing is one of the key tools used in Confidence Course, which lays out a very clear formula for how we can patch up holes in our self-esteem and gain greater confidence in our lives.
Experiment with different habits
While we develop a belief system to enable greater self-esteem, we should also explore different habits that may improve our physical and mental well-being. Often thoughts ↔ action have an interconnected relationship. By changing our thoughts we can change our actions, but also by changing our actions we can change our thoughts.
Some key habits that can indirectly lead to greater self-esteem include:
- Eating more healthy.
- Exercising a few times every week.
- Working on your body posture.
- Going out to social get-togethers and expanding your social sphere.
- Engaging in creative hobbies: like writing, playing an instrument, or photography.
- Having a job where you feel you provide real value.
- Cutting down on detrimental habits like substance abuse or too much TV.
- Pursuing other meaningful hobbies and interests.
Try integrating one new habit into your routine and see if it leads to a boost in self-esteem.
Work on that habit until it becomes second-nature (like going to the gym a few times every week), and then shift your focus to another habit you want to learn. If you do this gradually, on a step-by-step basis, you can eventually replace most of your bad habits with more productive alternatives.
The best part is once you start making a single positive change, you start building momentum to continue evolving into the future. For example, when you first start going to the gym or learning how to play guitar, you begin to develop a stronger sense of self-esteem, and that self-esteem often spills over into other areas of your life.
- “When you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” – Anonymous
Of course, there’s always some resistance throughout any process of self-change, but the benefits of changing are often worth it.
Taking the initiative to make positive and productive changes in your life today is one of the best ways to avoid a pity party in the future. By the end of the day, you need to take more responsibility for where your life is heading and not just think your misery is something predetermined and outside of your control. Often you are not the victim unless you choose to be the victim.
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