Sometimes things are just not working for us. It feels as if everything is going wrong, we cannot get anything done, and all we say and do is not received well. It is as if the world is working against us and we tend to ask ourselves ‘why is this happening to me?’. Though, on other occasions you might ask a different type question. One I believe is more efficient and proactive. One that sounds like: ‘what can I do to overcome this, and how can I grow from it?’
The difference here lies in the questions that you ask yourself. These questions drive your perspective, your focus. So when you ask yourself ‘why is this happening to me’ you will use your mind in a matter that it is going to look for answers to that question. It will provide you reasons why something negative is happening and most of the time it will reinforce the negative emotional state you are in. If you, on the other hand, ask yourself the question ‘what can I learn from this’, you’ll program your mind to look for lessons. It will highlight the golden nuggets in the bad situation that will make you richer in future experiences. Rich in wisdom that is.
‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’
– Wayne Dyer
The obstacles we face in life will come back to us in different forms, until we learn how to deal with them. If you do not learn how to deal with the situation, you will not grow from it and you will not be able to deal with it more efficiently.
I believe we can divide these two type of questions into one that is constructive and the other that is destructive. I would also like to link these type of questions to certain type of acts. Those being self-pity or self-victimization, being the destructive one and self-love or self-acceptance, being the constructive one.
Self-pity provides pleasures that should not be underestimated. It can provide comfort to feel sorry for yourself and hope that others will feel sorry for you as well. It is normal to feel sorry for yourself and it is ok if you do. However, self-pity is like digging a hole and not wanting to get out. The further down you go, the harder it gets to get out. Just think of it, you are quicker to dig a little further than to climb all the way out. If you decide to get out you not only have to climb to the top, you also have to accept the fact that you were being a victim, and this is not something that sounds very lucrative.
It is also very dangerous. If you look up the definition of ‘self-pity’ it says ‘excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles’. Research in the field of Psychology defines the victim mentality as learned helplessness. They do not feel capable nor responsible to change their circumstances. If you have a conversation with a person with a victim mentality, you can notice how the conversation is centred on the unfairness of their problems.
People with a victim mentality tend to give up on life, thinking that everything is out of their hands, believing that they are not capable to change it, or they just do not want to put in the effort. They accept being helpless. They have an external locus of control, meaning, that they believe they have no control on their life and no responsibility for their behaviour and feelings.
‘Self-pity is easily the most destructive of non-pharmaceutical narcotics. It is addictive, gives momentary pleasure, and separates the victim from reality’
– John W. Gardner
Self-love on the other hand is empowering. It is accepting the way you are feeling and taking notice of it. You see it for what it is and allow yourself to endure it and heal. Self-love is appreciating who you are, in your physique, psychology and spirituality. It is about accepting your strengths and weaknesses, your beauties and flaws, perfections and imperfections. Self-love is about giving yourself a moment to think about yourself, your emotions, about what it is that you need at that time.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, whenever you feel as if the world is coming at you and it is too much to handle, it might be a good moment to take a step back. Instead of trying to fix everything for everyone, maybe it is a better idea to take a moment to breathe.
I once heard that we should be meditating 10 minutes a day, and if you don’t have 10 minutes than you should meditate 1 hour. I am not trying to say that to practice self-love you should meditate 10 minutes everyday (however, this might be an appealing form of self-love to you and that is fine). What I am trying to say is that we should always put ourselves first and take care of us. Whenever you feel that you don’t have the time to take care of yourself, it should be a sign that you NEED to take care of yourself. If we don’t practice attentive self-love, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we’ll run out of energy, we’ll collapse and everything else will collapse with us.
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
– Lucille Ball
So when life seems hard, it is important to remember the difference between self-love and self-pity. The main goal of self-pity is to feel sorry for yourself and draw in others to feel sorry for you too. The main goal of self-love is to give yourself time to accept what it is that needs to be accepted and to heal.
There is a big and meaningful difference between these two concepts and they have opposite effects. One entails you to accept yourself, while the other lets you become the victim. One gives peace and the other draws in problems. One gives clearance and the other gives you a clouded mind. One heals and the other creates more trouble. One of the two makes you feel weaker and less capable of encountering all the dangers in the troublesome world. The other makes you strong, calm and centred to encounter whatever it is that needs to be faced. One is easier than the other and everyone has applied, or is capable of applying, both.
If you would like to share your story and/or insights, or if you know someone who would want to, please let me know! You can send me a message or an e-mail. More contact information can be found here. Let’s grow together.