“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.” – Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)
(Helen Keller, although both deaf and blind became an author, political activist and lecturer.)
Do you ever have moments when you look at your life, your problems, your struggles and before you know it you feel so rubbish that you can hardly find the energy for anything?
Days or moments when you can only see what is wrong and struggle to see what is right?
I certainly do.
I am learning not to let these moments control me or to linger in my thoughts for too long.
I am learning how to break free of them more quickly.
Some days it is more of a battle than others.
But I have to fight, because I know that self pity will destroy us if we let it.
When we feel sorry for ourselves we become consumed by our own problems. We cannot break free from the “if only you knew how hard it is for ME,” mentality.
We become consumed with ourselves.
I am currently writing this post whilst lying flat, as I talked about in Surviving the Storm Eight months on. I have had a challenging few weeks with recurring CSF Leak symptoms which mean I have to lie flat for hours during the day to control them.
Over the past 2/3 weeks I have not been able to stay upright for as long as I did a couple of months ago.
And it is frustrating!
There is only so much you can do lying flat!
People have been asking me… ‘How are you doing?’ and I can’t lie. Things are a challenge at the moment.
That is my reality.
Sometimes they then respond saying ‘that must make you feel down’. Thankfully this is not the case, but some days I do have to fight those feelings. I have to work at keeping the right perspective.
This is why I am writing this post.
It’s currently 10am and I have been lying down since 9:30am (only having been upright for 2 hours). As I lay down I felt a wave of self pity begin to prod at me. I felt the ‘poor me’ begin to knock at my thoughts.
But as I felt this, as it fought for my attention, pulling me to listen to its complaints.
I decided I had to get free from it.
How did I do that?
Well I am doing it now.
I am writing this post.
I am speaking back to those thoughts trying to take control and saying;
Self pity you will not take me down. I refuse to be your victim. I refuse to be anyone’s victim.
So today I invite you on my journey of dealing with my self pity.
In real time.
In the exact moment it is happening.
This is not theory, it is a practical lesson in breaking free from something that can break us – if it’s allowed to.
I don’t always get it right. I still struggle with self pity and selfishness, as we all do, but I am learning ways to stop it in its tracks.
Here is what I have learnt.
1. Remain Thankful
Being thankful is the number one weapon that we can use to fight self pity.
A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. ~Cicero
I thank God for all the good parts of my life, how much better I am than at the beginning of the year & how much I can do. (I can write this post, for instance which I couldn’t do at first). I am thankful it wasn’t and isn’t worse than it is and that I have a great family and support network.
Whether or not you believe in God we can always learn how to become more thankful for life and it’s blessings.
2. Think about other people more
We can only get the focus off ourselves if we move it elsewhere. If we allow our eyes to be opened to the problems and needs of others it soon puts our problems into perspective as I wrote about last week.
Our mountain shrinks in size and becomes more of a hill in light of what some people face.
I have read of many people with CSF leaks who are in a much worse place than me. Compared to others my story has not been so bad.
3. Hold onto hope.
When hope is gone we feel like we have nothing to live for.
This is why depression is so destructive, because it strips us of our hope and of our energy for life. (I am so thankful to have not reached this desperation myself, but I have stood along side enough people struggling with it to understand the damage it causes and how difficult it is to get free from).
How can we rediscover hope in the midst of hopelessness?
We have to battle through all the darkness & negativity to find that one beam of light. To find those encouraging words and thoughts and hold onto them.
We have to keep pressing through and believing we can come out the other side.
There is always hope to be found if we will seek and find it.
4. Changing the what ifs
We have to choose to do away with the negative ‘what if’s’ about the future and focus on the positive ‘what if’s’. This doesn’t mean pretending or avoiding reality. We cannot live in denial. It just means choosing to see more of the positives rather than being blinded and consumed by the negatives that we cannot change.
5. Optimism vs pessimism
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller”
We can all learn to think more optimistically. Even if we are a ‘glass half empty’ person – we can change.
I know from my own life, I have moved from a more pessimistic to a more optimistic outlook over the years and it partly comes through retraining the way I think.
We don’t have to stay the way we are, we can learn practical disciplines which help change our thought processes.
6. Feed yourself with encouraging thoughts and words and get around encouraging people.
For instance when you feel self pity knock at your door, whatever you do don’t sit dwelling on those thoughts.
Be careful about listening to sad songs or watching sad films that perpetuate the negative feelings.
Instead, you need to be encouraged. You need to find people and things that uplift you.
I keep a store of great bible verses and quotes in my phone for this purpose. So I can always find words to counteract negative feelings when they come. I also then have words for others when they need them.
Store up encouragement for that rainy day. I really do believe that a few simple words can change your outlook for the whole day.
Self pity is always lurking round the corner in our lives. It calls us to listen to its complaints and excuses. But ultimately, it only leads to despair and destruction in our own lives and relationships with others. It amplifies our selfishness and drags us into dark ways of thinking.
We all need to take care of ourselves. We need to be real about the challenges we face. We need to ask for help when we need it.
It is possible to face the reality in front of us without letting it consume us. We can say to ourselves, ‘yes this is hard, it’s painful, it’s a struggle… BUT!!!! … Despite it all I still have so much to be thankful for’
That is the way to freedom.
“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.” Helen Keller
What practical things do you do to deal with self pity? It would be great to share your ideas with others. Please do comment below.
To read more about my ongoing story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.
Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.