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Self-pitying – or, sitting around airing the details of your feigned helplessness – has become somewhat of a cultural past time.
The common bonds of that which we ‘hate’ solidify our friendships; you’re not human, or even sufferable, if you’re not overtly self-deprecating (ironically in the era of perpetual self-promotion.)
The problem is that we begin to believe this kind of mindset is healthy and fruitful, as it is socially acceptable. The more that venting sessions become pity parties and humility is confused for intentional insecurity, the subtle joy of rejoicing all that’s wrong snowballs into a facet of who we are. We become conditioned to seek it.
When Amy Morin’s “The 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” was picked up by Forbes last year, it became an instant phenomenon, and understandably so. It is as concise as it is empowering; as simple as it is revealing.
When it was turned into a full-length book, she included a section on self-pitying, and it shimmered through the other goodness. Here, the five reasons we are all addicted to self-pity (and how we eventually identify with them.)
1. It buys us time.
So long as we are still processing – ruminating over the details, feigning a need to consider more options – we can avoid doing the thing that probably got us into the situation in the first place. It allows us to emotionally procrastinate, and the more we seek that out of comfort, the more we condition ourselves to act only after we’ve created a bigger problem for ourselves.
2. It allows us to justify why we shouldn’t, and aren’t, doing anything about it.
Objectively stating how terrible things are, how ill your fortune, how unfairly you’re being treated, relieves us of responsibility. Because we did not bring this upon ourselves (consciously, at least) we shouldn’t have to do anything about it.
3. It’s a way to gain attention.
Desiring (and seeking out) emotional support often happens in subtle and undetectable ways. Nobody thinks they seek attention for their problems… yet most people do. (Most things most people do are based in trying to ‘earn love.’) We’re almost always trying to elicit responses from people, responses that feed us or heal us in some way… and there’s no time like when we’re suffering that this desire is more intense.
4. It’s way to defer responsibility for the future; to ease other burdens in life.
We often try to share our sob stories so that important people (such as bosses, significant others) ultimately expect less of us – and are more impressed with what we deliver. We take the opportunity to inform other people that our accomplishments are that much more remarkable, when contrasted against the ‘difficulty’ we’ve had to overcome.
5. It is an act of defiance.
By taking a stance and then vocalizing (if not dramatizing) how bad things are, we are making a statement to the universe, in a sense: this is bad. You need to change it. We pin responsibility on that which we feel could actually be at fault… and in doing this, subconsciously believe that the perpetrator will have to rectify the wrongdoing – so long as they are made aware.
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