Let’s get highly personal, and discuss how to stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Life has a funny way of timing things. I began writing this article last week after having an interesting conversation with a coworker. We were feeling a bit down, and discussing how some people seem to have it so easy. At the time, I was frustrated about my debt and how long I felt it would take me to get to other people’s starting point of zero.
We decided there seems to be two types of people: 1) People who have everything handed to them 2) People who have to earn everything they have. [Obviously it’s not that simple, but that was the topic of our 5 minute pity party]. I started thinking about the utility of pitying yourself. Painful answer? There is none. It helps nothing.
As I mentioned, I started writing the article that day. But I felt like I could not make it “right”. It was missing something, and I could not figure out what.
Then something quite traumatic happened in my personal life this past weekend. The happy path I thought I was on got shattered and taken away abruptly. I would give a lot to change it back to how it was, but that is beyond my control.
Two days later I came back to this article realizing that I personally needed it. I wanted to re-read my own advice on how to make myself feel better.
I understood then what it was missing.
It couldn’t just be about long-term habits that you can develop to feel happier. It also needed to hold up in really dark times when you needed quick ways of feeling better NOW.
My debt is something that I can make a decision to fix (which I’m doing). It’s controllable albeit frustrating. However, sometimes you feel the most sorry for yourself when you’re faced with an event completely out of your control.
The tips needed to stand up to not just controllable events like debt; they needed to stand up in times of utter heartbreak.
My favorite quote fits perfectly with this topic, so I FINALLY get to share it (I’ve been waiting for the right moment!).
Yes, some people will have easier starts to life.
Maybe they don’t have your debt.
Maybe it’s something wayyyyyy more personal than that.
There’s a million things that might make other peoples lives seem better or easier than yours. It’s easy to get jealous or feel like life is unfair because it looks like everyone else has what you want. However, the truth is you have no idea what their lives look like behind closed doors.
Your current problems are likely someone else’s wildest dreams.
I’m not saying that to downplay how you feel. Sometimes life really sucks (or feels like it does). Staying in a funk won’t help you make any positive changes though; it simply keeps you feeling terrible.
Action precedes motivation, not the other way around.
It is up to you to make yourself feel better.
Are you going to let it ruin your whole life? Will you simply throw in the towel and admit defeat because you weren’t handed some “silver spoon” option?
Throw yourself a 5 minute pity-party. It’s okay to feel crappy or jealous sometimes. Staying in that mindset won’t help your situation improve though. Take the 5 minutes, then shake it off and try one (or all) of these tricks to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Go live your life and make it a great one.
How to stop feeling sorry for yourself: The acute phase
I believe there are two versions of feeling awful: acute and persistent low-level. When something horrible happens, your feelings immediately afterwards are going to be pretty heavy. How do you deal with that? For me, there are three things that tend to snap me out out it. This isn’t about long term-term progress. It’s about taking small actions right now to get out a damaging headspace. Action precedes motivation, remember?
1) Talk to someone you trust
I don’t care whether that’s a professional, family member, or a friend. Choose someone that you know gives good advice, and that will take time to help you out. Opening up and being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It takes courage to share what you’re going through. Some thoughts are too heavy to carry alone. Let someone help you. You’re worth that.
It feels wonderful to know that you aren’t going through something alone. There are people that would love to help and support you; let them. I can’t overstate this step. Let it remind you that you have amazing people in your corner.
2) Play some pump-up music
You know what this is for you. Maybe it’s about the beat or tempo. For me it’s mostly about the lyrics. If you’re reading this when you aren’t sad, make yourself a 5-10 song “sad” playlist for the future. Blast those songs when you need them. Music has a way of changing your mood.
Need to borrow some songs right now? My list today was (don’t judge my taste in music):
- Get up- Shinedown
- Stand- Rascal Flatts
- Could have been me- The Struts
- So much more than this- Grace Vanderwaal
- Life changes- Thomas Rhett
- Fighter- Tyrone Wells
- Going out like that- Reba Mcentire
- I lived- OneRepublic
3) Get active
Bonus points if you go outside (especially with a dog). Your mind is racing. Take some of that energy and put it into your body instead. You may not feel like it, but do it. Tiring out you body has an interesting way of calming your mind.
If you’ve completed steps 1-3, you’ve taken care of 3 aspects of health: social, mental, and physical. Repeat as necessary. Just think: if you’re capable of taking care of those 3 while you’re at your lowest, what will you be capable of tomorrow when you’re a bit stronger?
How to stop feeling sorry for yourself: Persistent/ low-level phase
There are likely things about yourself or your life that come back and nag at you. Things that just don’t seem fair. That thing that just popped into your mind? That’s the thing I’m talking about.
I have a few. But one that creeps in often is my debt.
Oh how many times I have wished it would just vanish. That I could win the lottery. I tell myself I’m not even being greedy. I’m not asking to be rich, I just want a clean slate. I’d love to be at zero. Is that so much to ask? It can really drag my mood down if I think about it.
So, how do you stop feeling sorry for yourself? How do you build healthier mindsets today and over time? I have many suggestions, and I’d actually recommend you try them all.
1) Start a gratitude list
Every night, I write down 3 things that happened that day that I’m grateful for. Even on the worst of days. Actually, ESPECIALLY on the worst of days. It’s important to look for something good each day. Sometimes you will have massive, amazing things to write down. Some days you won’t. I don’t care how crappy your day was, I promise three good things happened today. Even if it’s something as minuscule as your bread toasting to the perfect level of brownness, write it down. It can be easy to see all the bad that’s happened or the things you’re unhappy about, because those are the thoughts that eat at your brain. Train yourself to start seeing the good too. You might start seeing a heck of a lot more of it.
2) Compare yourself to others
Wait…. what? Isn’t that terrible advice?
I want you to give yourself a reality check. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to people we feel are better off than us. If you’re going to compare, do it in both directions.
I get down about my debt. However the reality is I have a job that pays my bills. A roof over my head. I don’t go hungry. I have access to safe drinking water. Compared to many people in the world, I’m incredibly blessed.
Really take a look at your life…. is it actually that bad?
3) Blame from your soul
I wrote an entire article about blaming from your soul, not just your head. I think it’s a life changing way of looking at things, so I strongly suggest you read it.
Essentially, you cannot blame something just for what it took from you; you also have to blame it for the gifts it gave. No matter which way you look at an event, it caused positives and negatives.
I’ve always said I hate my debt. I dream about the day it is gone. Having it does not feel like a good thing, at all.
I blame it for making me feel unsuccessful. For feeling like I am stuck and falling behind my peers. I blame it for making me lose sleep, and not feeling like I have freedom of choice.
Even debt has offered some positives though. I need to blame it for the degree it allowed me to get. It needs to be blamed for lighting a fire in me to build a better life. I have to blame it for making me take a risk on getting a higher paying job (which I got).
I’d have to blame it for the creation of this blog, which I love writing.
Every situation in life opens a different door. Some are going to hurt, but they’re still a new path. Ever heard of the butterfly effect? You have no idea which events in life (that may have felt awful) lead you to something incredible later on.
4) See yourself from other people’s eyes
Sometimes our self image sucks. We are often our worst critics. So stop thinking about yourself from your side. What do other people see?
There are two ways of doing this.
1- What would you be jealous of about yourself (if you weren’t you). Don’t be bashful. This is entirely in your own head, so preferably be as conceited as possible. If you were another woman (or man), what characteristics would you be jealous of? If you were someone in the same profession, what traits would you be intimated or impressed by? Pretend to be various people until you have a list long enough that you believe you’re awesome.
2- Ask people close to you what the best parts of you are. Ask them what they see. Then actually believe that if they see those things, they’re likely true. Again, you’re awesome.
5) Make your “10 things” list
I also wrote a full article about this, and shared my list of 10.
In this exercise, you write down the 10 things that bring you happiness on a weekly basis. What actually brings you joy?
After writing your list, schedule a few of those into your next day. Realize that you actually have the power to make yourself happy. You’re in control.
You get to decide. That’s the best and hardest part.
Life isn’t always going to be easy. A wise friend told me you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you deal with it.
It’s perfectly ok to feel down or sad sometimes. Don’t stay there though. You deserve more than that, truly.
Practice gratitude. Notice and appreciate the amazing things that come into your life, even if they don’t stay.
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness [Jon Safran Foer].
This is your one and only life. Get out and live it. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself for long. You might miss out on something truly beautiful just around the corner.
For a list of all articles I’ve written (binge-reading time!) click here