I know a man who is severely diabetic yet eats whatever he wants. Social functions will find him bellying up to the dessert bar and filling up. This particular belly is immense, as obesity has taken over his body. Peripheral neuropathy has rendered his legs nearly useless and he recently had a stroke that put him in the hospital for a few weeks, followed by home care, a wheelchair or walker, and many days of illness. Yet when he appears at social functions, which is where I see him, he’s still stuffing himself with cakes, tarts, and other sweets.

As I have become more acquainted with this fellow, it is clear to me that he is motivated by self-pity, or “poor me” syndrome.

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Where this attitude originated, I have no idea but he seems to need indulgence, and with no one to feel sorry for him, he takes it upon himself.

Self-pity is insidious. It sneaks in dressed as “hard done by”, or “what about me?” Have you ever felt like that? You get passed over for the promotion you hoped for so you drown your sorrows while you nurse your grievances. Your romance breaks up and you feel like the victim. The self-pitying don’t generally have trouble finding comrades. Complainers and gripers are a dime a dozen.

You can pet that grievance as long as you want. You can even call it whatever you want, but what it really is is self-pity. When you fall into the grip of self-pity, you feel compelled to do all kinds of bizarre stuff to salve that perceived wound. Basically, self-pity makes you act weird.

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To be clear, it doesn't matter if the cause of your problem is real or imagined, warranted or not, you can choose the path of self-pity about anything.

But why would you? Why do some individuals wallow in a “poor me” attitude, to their own detriment, instead of moving on and choosing a healthier outlook? Self-care and self-pity is not the same thing.

It’s all about what you’re getting from the behavior. The self-pitying person is gaining something by indulging his or her own hurts or slights. It might be attention or sympathy he or she craves. Perhaps proving a point is the goal: “See how much I have suffered? I’m right, aren’t I?”

Try these thoughts on for size and see if you recognize yourself:

  1. I have been wronged but no one will help me.
  2. Just wait, they’ll find out one day that I am right.
  3. No one else will give me what I want so I have to get spoil myself.
  4. I don’t care about what anyone else wants or needs. After all, no one looks out for me.

Notice that the focus of all these attitudes is, “me”.

So how do you get out of poor-me mode? Here is a simple strategy:

  • Admit that you’ve been wronged, or that you perceive you have.
  • Admit that you believe somebody should be made to pay for the wrong done.
  • Commute their sentence and let them off the hook.
  • Forget about your issue and move on.

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