“Self-pity” Is Not Feeling Sorry For Yourself: How Are They Different?


Have you ever stopped to observe what your internal dialogue is like in your daily life? How do you accompany yourself in hard times, when things don’t go the way you would like? Would you treat someone important to you the same way? Would you speak to him with the same harshness?

On most occasions, when we ask ourselves—or someone around us who appreciates us and realizes the intransigence and judgment with which we treat ourselves asks us—one of the last two questions, the answer is a resounding no. And, why do we do it with ourselves?

In general terms, In our society, care and compassion are encouraged for others, but not so much for ourselves. In this article we will see what self-compassion is, what the benefits are and the myths that accompany it—among them, that it is a way of feeling sorry for ourselves—and, of course, we will also see how to cultivate it.

What is self-compassion?

The majority of people in our society tend to present an internal dialogue loaded with judgment and criticism towards themselves. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is the act of being kind and understanding with oneself in times of suffering. This definition is proposed by Kristin Neff, one of the most important authors in the field of research on the subject.

This concept, without a doubt, is closely linked to emotional intelligence and awareness of one’s own internal world and the emotions that occur in it. According to the author, the main components of self-compassion are the following:

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The concept “self-esteem” refers to the assessment that a person has of themselves. In this aspect there are different factors involved, but many of them are related to external perceptions and values ​​or in comparison with others. On the other hand, self-compassion is not linked to such comparisons and is therefore more stable.

Currently, we can say that there is a wide variety of research that has explored and studied the topic. It has been observed that there is a direct relationship between self-compassion and various mental health indicators, including well-being. For example, Self-compassion is negatively correlated—that is, the more present one factor is, the less present the other is—with anxiety, depression, and stress. On the other hand, the correlation is positive with aspects such as the perception of life satisfaction, optimism and happiness.

Other benefits have been observed, in addition to those already mentioned, which would be related to greater emotional resilience. In addition, an improvement in interpersonal relational ties has also been observed since empathy and understanding towards others increase. So far, we’ve outlined just a few of the main benefits that self-compassion promotes. However, positive changes have also been observed on a physical, hormonal, brain and behavioral level.


Differences between self-pity and feeling sorry

When we feel sorry for ourselves, we tend to “wallow” in our pain and suffering. That is, we focus so much on our own experience that we cannot even try to find solutions. We tend to position ourselves in a victim position that prevents us from analyzing the situation and assuming our own responsibility.

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While self-compassion motivates us toward self-improvement and promotes resilience, self-pity often leaves us blocked, paralyzed, feeling stuck, and without hope or motivation. In this state, avoidance behaviors usually occur that aim to escape from pain, avoiding it at all costs.

We could say that in reality, self-pity is an antonym of feeling sorry for oneself. Self-compassion is about understanding suffering as inherent to the human experience. Starting from this foundation, we can recognize and validate our own pain without judging it. This allows the integration of the experience, with its emotions and physical sensations, in an adaptive way that allows us to grow as human beings. Unfortunately, the misconception that self-pity is synonymous with feeling sorry for oneself is not the only one that appears. We can observe other myths, among which we highlight the following:

There are many and very diverse ways in which we can begin to cultivate self-compassion. Of course, it is essential to keep in mind that, like most things, it requires a process of learning and internalization. That is, performing a few exercises one day alone will not sustain the benefits.

Our brain feels very comfortable in those things it knows, hence the importance of being constant with practice. Until this new way of treating us, caring for us and supporting us has been integrated, the process can be complex. Below we offer some tools that may be useful to begin this path: