Why Self-Pity Is Harmful

Updated on December 16, 2017
Carola Finch profile image

When I was in my twenties, I was an expert on self-pity. In the end, though, I realized that feeling sorry for myself harmed me most of all.


Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.

— Helen Keller

When I was in my twenties, I was an expert on self-pity. After all, I had suffered emotional and physical abuse in my childhood, and I had been bullied in school. I actually measured how close I was to people by how much I shared about my miserable childhood.

I detailed the “spankings” that left me black and blue. I described how my parents told me I was dumb and could not do anything right. I told the harrowing stories of encounters with bullies who pushed, poked, and hit me while saying I was stupid and ugly. There was a sense of emotional release in sharing my story, but the feeling was only temporary.

I would say to myself:

“Poor me.”
“Life is so unfair.”
“I do not deserve this.”
“Why am I the only one in my family who does not have money—a house, a good job...”

In the end, however, I found that feeling sorry for myself did no good. It harmed me as well as others. Here are some ways that self-pity does harm.

Feeling Sorry for Ourselves Is Self-Centered

Self-pity focuses on us and our pain and can blind us to the hurts that other people are experiencing around us. We do not take responsibility for our part in the situation, if any, and blame others instead of ourselves for the situation.

Pity Creates a Victim Mentality

A victim mentality can cripple us emotionally. We cannot heal and move on. We stay stuck in our pain. We are in a fragile state emotionally and are unable to move on and heal. We feel a deep sense of injustice and think that we seem to be suffering a lot more than other people. “Life is not fair!” we may wail. This leaves us feeling helpless and unable to do anything to solve our problems.


Self-pity Stirs Up Negative Emotions

When we focus on our bad experiences, we experience negative emotions such as loneliness, grief, and disappointment. We feel the hurt again of the humiliation we felt when a bully told us we were ugly. Feelings of abandonment are resurrected as we recall a spouse who dumped us. When we focus on the negative, we may not recognize and embrace the positive things in our lives.

Feeling Sorry for Yourself Is Annoying

No one wants to hear someone whining about how the world has done them wrong. Some of us love the drama that goes with tales of woe and enjoy the “oohs” and “ahhs” of other people who pity us. After a while, people may be more likely to dismiss us as “drama queens” (or “kings”) and be more irritated than empathetic.

How to Avoid Self-Pity

Question our Perceptions of Ourselves

Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do says that people should question their perceptions of their situation. There was a time in my life that I based my identity on how my parents and bullies perceived me. I heard the messages that I was stupid, ugly, and incompetent and felt that I deserved the bad treatment.

Over time, I challenged those perceptions by developing a positive self-image. I defined myself by my good qualities instead of other people’s opinions. I told myself that I am intelligent, caring, loyal, trustworthy, and generous. I have many skills that make me a valuable employee such as good organizational skills, an ability to pick things up quickly, and a quick mind. I have qualities that people love about me such as my sense of humor.

I have also become more aware of my weaknesses, such as a desire to be overly dramatic, and a craving for other people’s attention and sympathy. These weaknesses can tempt me down the path of trying to get others to feel sorry for me.

Accept yourself and your situation

Everyone goes through trials and difficulties. Life is often unfair, much as we hate the fact. The universe has not specially selected us to be its punching bags. There is always someone has more challenges and heartbreak than we do. Instead of blaming others, we shuld take responsibility for our part, if any, in our circumstances.

Focus on Solutions to Problems

We cannot change our past but we can make a better future for ourselves. Time spent on self-pity is not productive. Instead, we should take action to improve our situations when we can. Victories that overcome adversity build our self-esteem and confidence.


Help Others

Helping other people takes the focus off of us and helps us to realize that there are others who are much worse off than we are.

Stop Complaining

Whining and complaining fuels feelings of self-pity and bitterness.

Develop a positive Mindset

Look for the good things in your life and be grateful for them. Focus on what you have, and not what you do not have.

Concluding Thoughts

Self-pity is a waste of time and effort. It keeps us stuck in anger and emotional pain. It makes us miserable and bitter people that no one wants to be around. Instead, it is healthier for us to let go of the past and find peace and joy in our lives.


Morin, Amy. "9 Ways to Get Past Self-Pity: How to Stop a Downward Spiral Before It Starts." Psychology Today. May 8, 2015.

Grieger, Russell, Ph.D."Refuse To Self-Pity: Never Be a Victim." Psychology Today. May 26, 2013.


Submit a Comment

  • Haider Mama profile image

    Haider 10 months ago from Melbourne

    You have exactly described my situation. I was going through the same situation that you explained in this article. I used to self pity and beat myself up and tell myself that I'm wrong .I deserve this treatment and the people who bullied me and treated me unfairly was right because I am trash and should be treated like this.

    But recently I've started to read self improvement and self-help books and started to change my approach and change the way I think about myself and now I'm a completely different person. My confidence and my self-esteem has come back and I have come to know about my rights about how I should treat myself and not to allow anybody to belittle me.

    Thank you for this beautiful article!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 10 months ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for dealing with the debilitating aspects of self-pity and for showing us how to avoid it. Very helpful!

  • Carola Finch profile image

    Carola Finch 10 months ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks for your comments. I think that self-pity and self-compassion are two different things. Self-pity is focused on a "poor me" mentality. Self-compassion is the opposite - it is accepting yourself in spite of your weaknesses and failures, and not beating yourself up when we make mistakes or poor choices.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 10 months ago from New Delhi, India

    Great hub with important message!

    I agree that self pity can be very harmful for us and can make us negative people. It's good that you have provided solutions also to avoid self pity.

    Thanks for this useful and helpful hub!

  • threekeys profile image

    Threekeys 10 months ago from Australia

    I agree with you Carola. But I think to really break away from self compassion (self pity) you need your life to change for the good. You need new people, the new environment, the new, new and new to come into your life! I can't see one shaking off the self compassion unless you can do this. What are your thoughts on that?