Why Self-Pity Is Harmful

Updated on May 10, 2019
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a mental health advocate and a freelance writer who focuses on mental illness and cognitive conditions..


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

— Helen Keller

My Story

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 was bullied in school. I 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 not do me any good. It harmed me as well as others. Here are some ways that self-pity does harm.

Ways That Self-Pity Harms Us

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 circumstances.

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. A deep sense of injustice overcomes us and we think that we seem to be suffering a lot more than other people. “Life is not fair!” we may wail. We end up 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 go through negative emotions such as loneliness, grief, and disappointment. We feel the hurt again of the humiliation of a bully telling 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 annoys others

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 the 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 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 with more challenges and heartbreak than we do. Instead of blaming others, we should 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


    3 years 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 

    3 years 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 imageAUTHOR

    Carola Finch 

    3 years 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 

    3 years 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!

  • profile image


    3 years ago

    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?


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, remedygrove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)