The largest obstacle between most individuals and life-changing self-compassion is themselves. We are all so quick to give reasons that we do not provide ourselves with compassionate actions, statements, and beliefs.
One of the most common excuses for not doing so is labeling self-compassion as a negative trait such as “bragging,” “making excuses,” or “having self-pity.” Self-pity is not self-compassion.
Self-pity is an emotional state and behavior where an individual becomes “immersed in their own problems and forget that others have similar problems .” When one engages in self-pity, they look at their situation from a perspective of an external locus of control, with the individual forgetting the connections of human experience and imagining they are the only ones struggling and that bad things are happening to them and them only. The experience of self-pity “tends to emphasize egocentric feelings of separation from others and exaggerate the extent of personal suffering .”
My hope is that, in reading the description above, you recognize that it does not at all describe self-compassion. Self-compassion does not involve the same narrow view of suffering, allowing an individual to recognize that others struggle in similar ways.
In identifying this, the feelings of isolation and disconnection produced by self-pity are reduced. Instead of shaming oneself as if you are the only one to struggle, you can then give kindness and understanding that no one is perfect and we are all doing the best we can with what we have.
The belief that self-compassion is somehow letting yourself off the hook for something or making excuses is perpetuated because of our culture prioritizing productivity over self-care. This leads to members of our society shaming themselves to increase productivity and performance instead of taking care of themselves first.
What results is a country full of individuals that are burnt-out, unhappy, and don’t know how to treat themselves or one another with kindness. Recognize that neither self-pity nor self-compassion is “bad.”
Those experiencing self-pity simply struggle to see outside of their own pain and give themselves the grace they would give others. People that are giving themselves self-compassion are leading their lives with kindness and making this a priority.
If you are in the space of self-pity, know that you are not the only one struggling and that you have the resilience and skills to make it through challenging times. If you are struggling to give yourself self-compassion, remind yourself that you are deserving of loving, positive regard from others and yourself. The more compassion we give to ourselves, the more we can also spread it to others and create a world in which we all care for one another.
Resources: Neff, K. (2021). Self-compassion is not self-pity. Self Compassion. Retrieved from https://self-compassion.org/what-self-compassion-is-not-2/.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published April 26, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on April 26, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC