Self-Pity and Depression (5 connections)

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This blog post will differentiate between self-pity and depression, understand the signs of continual self-pity, define perfectly hidden depression, and explore self-compassion. 

Self-Pity and Depression: What is the Difference?

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Self-Pity

Self-pity is the sense of feeling sorry for oneself and aims to seek attention, help, pity, and empathy from others. It is characterized by self-absorption and entails extreme sorrow regarding one’s problems. 

It is a commonplace to feel self-pity when unpleasant happenstances take place around you. Loss, abuse, disappointment, and other untoward events can make you feel sorry for yourself. It is normal and understandable. However, it is when you start wallowing and get stuck in pitying yourself that it becomes dangerous.

Such excessive self-pity disallows you from taking personal responsibility for the unfortunate happenings that occur in your life. You may feel like happiness is always out of reach. No matter what you do, things never seem to get better. 

It brings on a sense of victimization and restricts you from looking at the options you have. You begin to continually feel hopeless, devastated, and vulnerable, making you resort to passive means of resolving your issues by believing something needs to happen to you to feel better. 

Depression

Depression is a mental health condition that entails prolonged periods of extreme sadness, emptiness, worthlessness, hopelessness, fatigue, a lack of interest and motivation, and physical ramifications, including sleep and eating changes. 

Depression is not a feeling or a mood. It is a clinical condition that requires professional help. Self-pity is a choice, while depression is not, and self-pity can stem from depression. 

Signs that You Engage in Self-Pity Continually 

Wallowing in self-pity can be self-defeating. You can identify if you are continually engaging in self-pity by being wary of the following signs:

  • Seek Sympathy
  • Counter-Instinctive
  • Individualistic 
  • Melancholic Temperament
  • The Truth
  • Crave Drama
  • Humor Escapes You
  • Focus Excessively on the Past
  • Self-Absorbed
  • Guilt
  • Low Self-Esteem

Seek Sympathy

If you are chronically self-pitying, the relief from feeling loved, cared for, and indulged emotionally can be addictive and detrimental. It is a maladaptive and unhealthy means of coping with your concerns and leans toward an insecure style of establishing emotional attachments.  

Counterintuitive

Being counterintuitive can enhance creativity in many ways. However, it can worsen your self-pity as you continue to deny reality and responsibility when misused.

Individualistic 

You may believe that self-pity and concern with yourself and your issues are the best means of maintaining your individuality in a social situation.

Melancholic Temperament

The commonly recognized types of temperament include sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, and choleric dispositions. People with melancholic temperaments are likely to be obsessed with understanding what is right, tend to be overly conscientious, and are perfectionism-oriented. They are likely to obey rules and excessively organize, which makes them aggressive when things do not go according to plan.

People with melancholic temperaments tend to be anxious, sensitive to criticism, preoccupied with the past, and suspicious. Also, they brood and reflect on themselves excessively. All of these characteristics tend to foster a sense of self-pity. 

Crave Drama

When you wallow in self-pity, there is a tendency to crave drama due to a radical thought process or ‘splitting,’ such as black-and-white thinking or an all-or-nothing view. You are unable to hold positive and negative aspects of someone or something together. Good and bad are mutually exclusive in your opinion.

Humor Escapes You

You tend to take yourself, your life, and your problems much more seriously than required. It is good to laugh at your situation now and then, as an absolute inability to do so indicates chronic self-pity.  

Focus Excessively on the Past

When you always feel sorry for yourself, it is typically related to things that happened in the past. Most individuals focus on their present and future while letting go of the emotions tied to their past events and emphasizing the learnings that came with it. If you focus excessively on your past, you may continue to spiral in your sorrow and ruminations.

Self-Absorbed

Self-absorption and self-pity fuel each other in a vicious cycle; the more self-absorbed you are, the more you self-pity, and vice versa. 

Excessive Guilt

Too much self-pity prevents you from taking responsibility for your actions and choices. It acts as a means to escape accountability when we make a mistake. As already mentioned, self-pity is a form of victimization. Therefore, when you cannot come to terms with your wrongdoings, your defense mechanism is to victimize yourself and blame external factors.  

Low Self-Esteem

As we have noted before, self-pity aims to seek attention and empathy from others. Such things are sought after when people have low self-esteem. Self-pity can disturb your sense of self-esteem, fueling your need for others’ acceptance and approval to feel better. 

The problem is exacerbated by people who usually cave in and pay attention to those who pity themselves as their descriptions of their happenings tend to be elaborately sad. 

Unworthiness

In addition to the previous point, such low self-esteem can lead to self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors. Your beliefs make you act in ways that isolate you from people you care about, almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is true that beliefs shape behaviors. 

What is Perfectly Hidden Depression?

Sometimes, individuals are of the mindset that is along the lines of, “I have it better than most people,” “I have so many things I should be grateful for,” “There is no reason for me to be depressed,” or “Sadness and crying are signs of weakness.” 

Dr. Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, explains perfectly hidden depression in her video. She describes how, regardless of having been through something traumatic, such individuals are in denial of their depression. They tend to believe that they should be firm and “count their blessings” instead of processing their emotions and accepting their depression. This form of impairment is referred to as the “perfectly hidden depression.”

She details how perfectionism conceals their depression and emotional pain is suffered in silence. Such individuals are terrified of allowing others to sense their misery, self-doubt, anguish, and vulnerability. There is a complete absence of self-pity. They are seen as go-getters and accomplishers who never complain and continually acknowledge their blessings. 

In reality, there is so much insecurity, low self-esteem, guilt, and self-contempt. Nobody sees it because of how well it is masked. Such concealment causes excessive fear revolving around possible discovery. If anyone were to find out the individual’s struggles, they fear their entire being will collapse. The truth is that it will not. What is worse is the silent suffering, which only fuels and worsens their depression.   

Self-Compassion over Self-Pity

Self-compassion is similar to self-pity in that it recognizes the emotional pain you are experiencing. However, it is different in that it is adaptive. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and wallowing in that sensation, it allows you to assess your situation in a more nurturing fashion. 

Rather than blaming external factors, self-compassion enables you to view and care for yourself with the same consideration, empathy, and kindness you might show somebody else when they are struggling with feelings of devastation, vulnerability, and inadequacy. 

You do not engage in self-criticism but take on a more compassionate outlook toward yourself and others. Remember that you are not alone in your suffering; many people go through similar experiences when you are convinced that it is happening to you. Being humans, we all are vulnerable and bound to make mistakes. 

Therefore, instead of sweeping your problems under the rug or overemphasizing them, learn to have a sensible outlook.   

How to Practice Self-Compassion

You can practice self-compassion by learning relaxation techniques. Such processes enable you to bring tranquility to your physical being. You understand to accept and let go of your thoughts without judging or attaching labels to them. Attempt to emphasize those emotions and thoughts that bring a sense of calmness. 

Learn to regulate your emotions by neither suppressing them nor focusing on them too much. Take on a non-judgmental and clear perspective to relax better. 

Moreover, form and maintain connections that empower and genuinely support you.

Conclusion

This blog post differentiated between self-pity and depression. It explored the signs of chronic self-pity, perfectly hidden depression, and how self-compassion triumphs self-pity. 

Remember that self-compassion heals you, while self-pity can destroy you. When you confuse the two for each other, your depression is bound to worsen as you may feel alone in your struggle. Next time you feel self-critical, ask yourself how you would react if a friend came to you with the same concerns. Would you criticize them or extend kindness?   

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Self-Pity and Depression

Is it okay to pity yourself?

Yes, it is okay to pity yourself as it is a common, understandable, and natural way of responding to an unpleasant occurrence in your life. You are recognizing your emotional pain and are unsure of the ways to cope. The only time self-pity becomes detrimental is when it is done excessively, where you wallow in the feeling and are entirely absorbed in feeling sorry for yourself. 

What does self-pity mean?

Self-pity refers to feeling bad for yourself, your problems, and the things that have happened to you. 

How does self-pity worsen?

Negative thoughts and a lack of action can worsen self-pity. The ideal way of coping with a stressor is by acknowledging your suffering and working toward solving them instead of letting the negativity take over you. That is when you start engaging in excessive self-pity and deny your reality.

How do I recuperate from a breakup and not wallow in self-pity?

You can recover from a breakup without wallowing in self-pity by:

Focusing on yourself and your needs healthily without overemphasizing your sadness and feeling sorry for yourself;
Create boundaries as it can allow you to come to terms with your loss without pressuring yourself. Sometimes, having no contact is ideal, albeit difficult. Therefore, ensure you establish reasonable boundaries to accept your status quo instead of achieving what was before.
Forgive yourself and your partner. Both of you may have made mistakes. Rather than focusing on these blunders, accept them to stop being preoccupied with them. Forgiveness does not imply forgetting but merely coming to terms with things in an empowering way.

How can you stop feeling self-pity?

You can stop feeling self-pity by doing some of the following things:

Reach out to someone. Talking about your concerns instead of suppressing or hyper-focusing on them can be beneficial. Choose somebody who is considerate, patient, understanding, and not quick to judge.
Give yourself time to process your emotions. It is okay to feel bad yourself as long as you do not do it excessively. Sit with your feelings for a while and tell yourself that it is okay and healthy to do that.
Do at least the bare minimum. Instead of staying in bed, get up and take a shower or do just one thing for the day. It will make you feel accomplished while having gotten something done.

References

Luna, A. (2018). Self-Pity: 11 Tell-tale Signs That You’re A Self-Inflicted Victim. LonerWolf. Retrieved from https://lonerwolf.com/self-pity/.  

Rutherford, M. (2019, September 21). Is It Self-Pity, Depression, Or Perfectly Hidden Depression? Retrieved from https://drmargaretrutherford.com/is-it-self-pity-depression-or-perfectly-hidden-depression/

Star, C. (2018, July 8). Don’t Let Self-Pity Poison Your Life — Choose Self-Compassion Instead. PsychCentral. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/dont-let-self-pity-poison-your-life-choose-self-compassion-instead/

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