How To Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself

By Sarah Fader |Updated October 7, 2022

“Why do these things always happen to me?!”

“What did I do to deserve this?”

“I have the worst luck!!!”

All of us have said these things at one time or another because everyone has had a moment where we’ve felt just a little bit sorry for ourselves. Whether it’s because of something small— like feeling chronically unlucky or feeling that things never go our way— or something big, like a devastating loss, we’ve all indulged in a moment of self-pity.

And, to an extent, feeling sorry for yourself can be healthy. It’s okay to let yourself feel what you’re feeling and to be honest with yourself about your emotions. In fact, when you’re honest with yourself and give yourself the space to cycle through your emotions, you actually give yourself the freedom to grow and become more emotionally healthy! So, to this extent, feeling sorry for yourself can sometimes be a helpful and healthy part of your emotional regulation process.

But if you find yourself regularly indulging in excessive amounts of self-pity and these feelings are affecting your worldview and your state of mind, then you might be feeling sorry for yourself a bit too often. This becomes problematic when your self- pity affects your mental health and has a generally unhealthy impact on your life. So, in this article, we’ll take a closer look at problematic self-pity and how you can stop feeling sorry for yourself.

The Line Between Self-Pity And Depression

Stop Playing Your Tiny Violin. There's No Need to Feel Sorry For Yourself

The first and most important step is to ascertain the reason for your self-pity. This step is crucial because it can help you to identify your feelings and the underlying motivation that drives them. Here’s why that matters so much: at some point, everyone has had the displeasure of meeting someone who only focuses on the bad things about life. Some people seem to feel relentlessly sorry for themselves, no matter what good things happen in their lives. Even when the things that upset them seem extremely petty, some intensely pessimistic people can give the impression that they almost enjoy complaining about everything and this can make it very difficult to interact with them.

It’s important to keep that in mind because people who fall into that unnecessarily negative and toxic category exemplify one extreme aspect of self-pity, but the same is not necessarily true of everyone who feels sorry for themselves. And that’s exactly why we need to begin by assessing the reason why you feel sorry for yourself. Are you feeling generally pessimistic about life? Do you feel as though nothing ever goes your way? Have you reached a point where you almost take pleasure in feeling angry about everything? If these things are true for you, then that’s important because it will impact the steps you take if you want to feel better and healthier in the future.

By contrast, other people who feel sorry for themselves might not be intentionally pessimistic and they might not take pleasure in complaining about every aspect of their lives. In some cases, what looks like “feeling sorry for yourself” may actually be clinical depression. So, it’s important to establish the difference between a generally pessimistic worldview and the symptoms of depression. To get a clearer picture of the difference, let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario involving the emotional experiences of two different people.

For example, let’s imagine a woman named Sue who experiences a traumatic upheaval in her personal life, such as a divorce. Sue feels deeply hurt and angry about the divorce but she never attempts to seek therapy, work through her feelings, or make any improvements in her life. Instead, she spends the next 20 years feeling angry about the way her life turned out and taking that anger out on everyone and anything. As a result, nothing ever brings her lasting joy or peace, and she struggles to connect with others who are put off by her bitterness and constant complaints.

By contrast, Mary doesn’t outwardly complain or let others know that she’s sad, but inside, she feels unhappy all the time. Nothing particularly bad or traumatic has happened to her, so she doesn’t even know why she feels so sad, and this just makes Mary feel worse. Even when she wants to be happy or enjoy aspects of her life that used to bring her pleasure, Mary finds that she can’t quite get there and she feels disappointed and disillusioned as a result. She feels worse whenever she encounters people who appear to be effortlessly happy because other people’s happiness makes Mary wonder why she can’t seem to be happy herself. As a result, Mary spends a lot of time feeling sorry for herself, even if she never expresses these feelings to others.

As you can see from these examples, both Sue and Mary are feeling sad and sorry for themselves, but for very different reasons. They are also coping with their feelings in very different ways. So, as you explore your feelings and the root causes that drive them, it’s important to determine whether you most identify with someone like Sue or someone like Mary, as this will determine your next steps. Sue’s symptoms suggest that she is struggling with unhealed trauma and that she is coping with that trauma in an emotionally unhealthy way. By contrast, Mary is exhibiting symptoms of clinical depression.

What is Depression?

There are many common misconceptions about depression, so let’s take a closer look at the clinical definition of depression to learn more about this disorder and how it can impact your life. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America defines depression as a mental illness that affects 264 million people worldwide. The ADAA explains that depression is characterized by having at least five out of nine common symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • An overwhelming and pervasive sense of sadness that doesn’t go away
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicidal ideation

Even if you don’t make specific plans to take your life, people with severe depression may spend a lot of time thinking that they wish they were dead or even that they just don’t want to exist anymore. When these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, they meet the criteria for someone to be diagnosed with depression.

As you can see, the symptoms on this list are more significant than simply feeling like life isn’t going your way. Experiencing symptoms of clinical depression is very different from being pessimistic or complaining about small, petty things. So, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms on this list, it’s important for you to know that this is more than simply feeling sorry for yourself. Depression is a very real mental health condition that can have a profound impact on your quality of life. So, if you’re struggling with depression, you should know that you don’t have to feel that way forever. You deserve to find hope and healing and both of those things are always within reach!

And if we think back to our hypothetical examples about Sue and Mary, it’s also important to know that help is available for anyone who feels like Sue. If you experienced a traumatic event that changed your life and altered your worldview, it’s normal to feel pessimistic and angry as a result. But, for the sake of your mental and emotional health, you can’t stay angry forever! Sometimes we feel hopeless and it’s easy to convince ourselves that things will never get better; as a result, we can assume that there is no benefit to seeking help or attempting to change our circumstances.

But, as cliche as it sounds, the truth is that it’s never too late for a fresh start! It’s never too late to reach out for help or to develop new habits that will improve your mental health and quality of life. So, whether you’re struggling with depression, unresolved trauma, or a simple “glass half empty” outlook that could use a boost, the good news is that help is easily within reach! Let’s take a look at some of the resources that are available to you if you want to seek support.

Why Therapy is Helpful

Stop Playing Your Tiny Violin. There's No Need to Feel Sorry For Yourself

If you’re struggling with your mental health, the most important thing you should know is that you don’t have to do this on your own. Reaching out to your friends and family can be a wonderful step because they may be able to provide you with a trusted support network; their encouragement may elevate your mood and help you to feel stronger and more empowered in your recovery journey.

However, it’s also important to remember that your support network cannot take the place of a licensed mental health professional. And if you’re struggling with your mental health, you need the support of a therapist who can provide you with the tools you need to succeed in your battle with depression. There are a number of common misconceptions about therapy and people often allow their assumptions to influence their choices when it comes to mental health care.

But, no matter what you’ve heard, in reality, therapy is for everyone! If you were experiencing persistent pain in your arm that limited your mobility and affected your quality of life, most people wouldn’t think twice about going to a doctor for help. And the same should be true for mental health care. Sometimes, when people experience symptoms of depression, it’s easy to invalidate your own experience by telling yourself that you’re “just feeling sad” or that you should “get over it.” But if you spend the majority of time feeling sad or sorry for yourself— even when you want to be happy— you need to know that you can’t simply get rid of these symptoms on your own.

Persistent feelings of sadness that drag on for weeks are indicative of clinical depression, which is treatable with the support of therapy and/or medication. The strategy that works best for you will depend on your specific symptoms and the treatment plan that your therapist develops uniquely for you, but treatment plans for depression commonly include the use of antidepressants and therapeutic strategies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (which is commonly referred to by the abbreviation CBT) is considered the gold standard in therapeutic treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. So, how does CBT actually work in practice? The simplest definition is that CBT is a type of talk therapy. This form of therapy is designed to reduce depression and anxiety by reframing our thoughts and providing a positive alternative to the stories we tell ourselves.

For example, if you experience feelings of depression every day, you may often think, “I’m so sad” or “I hate my life” or “I’m never going to be happy.” These are common feelings that people with depression experience and these feelings can inform your behavior and, consequently, your perception of situations. But CBT aims to alter this internal monologue by reframing your thoughts in a more positive and rational context so you can go through life without being paralysed by these feelings.

For example, CBT often encourages people to avoid a practice known as “black and white thinking.” This type of thought process is common for people who live with anxiety and depression because the anxious and depressed brain tends to think in extremes as a result of the fear signals and/or feelings of sadness that are flooding the brain. In practice, this might cause someone to think, “Everything is going to go wrong!” But CBT encourages people to reframe that thought by making a conscious effort to tell yourself something like, “I’m experiencing feelings of anxiety right now. My brain is causing me to worry that the worst possible outcome will occur.”

This might sound quite simplistic but, in reality, reframing your thought processes can be extremely beneficial! When we re-write our internal script, we can remember that thoughts and feelings are not facts; our brains may send us these signals but that doesn’t mean that these signals are accurate representations of reality. Re-training your brain in this manner can be incredibly beneficial for someone who is struggling with depression.

Some people also find that medication is very helpful for their experience with depression and that their depression symptoms almost disappear thanks to the combination of therapy and medication. Medications that are commonly used to treat agitated depression may include antidepressants, mood stabilisers, and anti-anxiety medications. Each of these medications can be uniquely helpful in their own ways.

For example, antidepressants can help to alleviate depression symptoms, while mood stabilizers can help people avoid the extreme mood swings that can sometimes occur when people experience depression. Likewise, medications that are specially formulated to reduce anxiety may help you feel a general sense of calm and holistically reduce your symptoms. The specific combination of therapy and medication you need will be unique to you, so it’s important to remember that you should only take medication that has been prescribed to you by a physician, whether that’s your primary care doctor or a licensed mental health professional.

It’s also important to remember that some people don’t respond to medication at all and find significant relief from their symptoms after solely treating their agitated depression with therapy. Connecting with a therapist can be highly beneficial because therapy provides you with professional insights about your symptoms and the arsenal of tools you need to fight depression and reclaim your peace of mind.

Connecting With a Therapist

So, if you feel ready to reach out and seek hope and healing through therapy, you may want to consider BetterHelp! BetterHelp is an online mental health provider run by licensed counselors and therapists who are passionate about making mental health care to all. With the advances in modern technology, many people have gravitated toward online therapy because this format is more convenient in our hectic, fast-paced world. Rather than needing to amend your schedule to attend an in-person therapy appointment, online therapy is literally right at your fingertips; you can chat with your therapist from the comfort of your own phone any time you want!

So, if you feel sad or sorry for yourself all the time, it’s important to take a closer look at the hidden root causes of those feelings. Whether you’re unhappy with the way your life turned out or you’re experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, you don’t have to feel this way forever! By connecting with a therapist and unpacking your emotions, you’ll be able to learn more about your own mental and emotional health and develop positive coping mechanisms that can give you hope for the future. Symptoms of depression can make you feel hopeless and isolated but it’s important to remember that you are never alone and you are never beyond hope. BetterHelp’s convenient online therapy platform can empower you to rediscover the joy in your life by connecting with a therapist online today.

Below are commonly asked questions on this topic:

What is it called when you always feel sorry for yourself?

If you are constantly feeling sorry for yourself, also known as taking pity on yourself or engaging in self-pity, you may be experiencing depression or another mental illness. Or you may simply have a negative mindset. No matter how difficult your life may be at any given moment, wallowing in self-pity is not productive. You can let yourself feel down for a moment, but staying stuck in that negative space will only prevent you from taking action to make things better in the long run.

Is it OK to feel sorry for yourself?

It is okay to feel sorry for yourself—for a little bit. If you remain stuck in self pity, always feeling sorry for yourself, then it will become increasingly hard for you to feel good, to feel grateful, to develop a more positive way of thinking, which can create an emotional state in which you feel empowered rather than trapped.

If you can’t stop feeling sorry for yourself, or you generally feel lost, then it’s a good idea to consider professional help, like the kind offered by BetterHelp’s licensed counselors and therapists. Doing so can help you with moving away from a negative lens that has you always feeling sorry for yourself. Instead, you can build gratitude, self esteem, and self love. It may take a little while, but it will be well worth it.

What causes self-pity?

Self pity is commonly caused by a negative energy, or mindset, that leads to complaining and throwing a pity party rather than accepting the situation and working to improve it. When we engage in self destructive mindsets that keep us stuck in constant self pity, we are giving into a negative energy that will lead to constant complaining rather than engaging in gratitude (e.g. using a gratitude journal).

Why do I like to feel sorry for myself?

Throwing ourselves a pity party is appealing. It makes us validate our own self pity rather than having more of a deep sense of the situation. We often waste valuable time on a pity party rather than using gratitude to give us a more positive perspective. Rather than complain, simply observing that you are alive and what you have to be grateful for will result in a renewed perspective that will bring much more long-term happiness than remaining in your head with your self pity.

Why is pity so damaging?

Pity is damaging because it leads you to start feeling sorry for yourself when you could be recognizing what you’re grateful for and taking action to create a better situation. If you want to know how to stop feeling sorry for yourself, start practicing gratitude and embrace more positive thinking.

Why is self-pity unattractive?

Self-pity is so unattractive because it shows an inability to make the best of a situation. It’s time spent wallowing rather than being grateful or taking action to improve things. We generally want strong partners, and it is a sign of emotional weakness to constantly engage in self pity. So, if you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you may also make yourself a more attractive individual.

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