There’s a great line in the movie Sixteen Candles. Samantha is upset because her family forgot about her 16th birthday and her best friend says to her, “Would you stop feeling sorry for yourself!
It’s bad for your complexion!”
I love that! It’s so true too. It’s also bad for our minds, our souls, our bodies, and our personal growth.
However, I will add to this that at times it’s GOOD to feel sorry for ourselves, and acknowledging what’s wrong can actually provide us with some benefit. How? I believe that it must be done consciously, purposefully, and above all, in moderation.
I read that after Christopher Reeve’s paralyzing accident he allowed himself 20 minutes every morning to cry and acknowledge his horrible situation. He noted how important that time was for him to feel the intense loss and the challenges he was facing, so that he could consciously make the shift to feeling hopeful and optimistic. Because he gave himself permission to recognize and feel the bad stuff, he was able to then put it away and focus on the good.
This is not easy to do. It’s much easier to sit in the mire of our discontent or frustration and tell ourselves that we deserve to feel this way, we’re entitled to pity ourselves for what happened to us, and we can get into a pattern of focusing on how rotten things are and what a shame it is that we’ve been hurt, disappointed, or discouraged. Those feelings can be very comfortable for a lot of us, and it can be difficult to pull ourselves out of that ever darkening hole of despair and misery.
But ask yourself, do you really want to live that way? Do you want your life to be you essentially walking around with your chin in your hands saying “Poor me,” all the time?
If not, then you have to make the choice to feel those feelings, acknowledge them for what they are and their presence in your life, and then put them away to make room for hope and happiness.
Because it can be so hard to get ourselves out of what feels comfortable and safe I suggest using a timer for your self-pity time. Set the timer for 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes, however long you think you’ll need that day, and then go for it! Cry, scream, punch a pillow, throw things (soft things that won’t hurt you or your surroundings), do whatever it is that you need to do to get the bad feelings out of you. When the timer goes off, dry your tears, wash your face, put the pillows back where they belong, and get on with your day.
It really works! Acknowledging pain, physical and mental, gives it less power over us and allows us to recognize it for what it is, and especially the fact that it is NOT stronger than we are. We may not have control over a situation, but we always have control of how we choose to react to it.
So while it seems counterintuitive, I’m actually in favor of feeling sorry for ourselves sometimes. But set a timer, and when your time is up, leave the self-pity where it is and move on. Your mind, your body, your spirit, and yes, your complexion, will thank you.