How to build emotional strength, leave the pity party behind, and move forward with your life.
(If you or a loved one need help, visit suicideprevention.ca to find a local number in Canada. Outside Canada, here's a list of international suicide hotlines in 35 countries, and the International Association for Suicide Prevention)
I'll be honest, Toronto 2018 part deux isn't exactly going off without a hitch. Waiting for approval on a work visa to Japan is taking so, so-o-o-o-oh long. I've been away from my guy for seven weeks. Seven weeks! I feel restless and useless, and the crème de la crème is a constant barrage of in-your-face confrontations, reminding me why I left the city in the first place. So, yeah. Not easy. But important moments rarely are.
Last week I hit a low. You could maybe say I had a bit of a breakdown. Scribbling in my journal, tears running down my face, I found myself in that old uncomfortable-but-familiar arm chair: self-pity.
I was aghast. This is not who I am, I thought. I don't do self-pity (except that sometimes, when life feels like a pile of shit, I do). I don't imagine my problems are any better or worse than anyone else's (until I start thinking they are). I practice giving, gratitude, and I confront my issues head on (uhhhh...do I though?).
Okaaaayyy, so maybe I'm not as strong, emotionally speaking, as I thought. Or, rather, at really low points, I don't behave or think the same as I do when I'm at my best.
If you're anything like me, and you feel sorry for yourself sometimes, here are 5 ways to help you cut it out and get your emotional strength back on track.
1. Face Your Feelings
Emotions like grief, disappointment, and loneliness demand to be felt. Deciding our problems aren't "fair," or thinking we’ve suffered more than others doesn't help. It distracts from the emotion, like numbing unpleasant feelings with food, entertainment, shopping, or boozing. Mr. Rogers puts it best, "Feelings are mentionable and manageable." The healthiest, albeit most challenging way to deal with discomfort is to get through it.
2. Practice Gratitude
Self-pity and gratitude are conflicting states of mind. Self-pity is thinking, "I deserve better." Gratitude is thinking, "I have more than I need." To get through the toughest times, it's important to recognise everything we have to be grateful for.
3. Help Others
It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself if you’re busy helping others. Too many people have trouble accessing even the basic necessities for survival. There are countless, worthy causes that could use our time, voice, or money (and no effort is too small). Focusing energy on improving the lives of others, as opposed to dwelling on sorrow, isn't just productive, it makes you feel good, too.
4. Question Your Perceptions
Our emotional states influence the way we see the world. When we feel sorry for ourselves, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of our lives, while downplaying or even missing the good. Building emotional strength requires us to question if our thoughts represent reality. Questions like, “Is my luck always bad?” or, “Is my entire life really ruined?” help you recognise if your point of view is realistic. And if it isn't, they help you create one that is.
5. Quit Complaining
I'm an advocate for discussing large-scale problems and emotions; sharing intimate parts of you with people you trust can be therapeutic. Grief, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy are shared human experiences, so let's not hide them. But then there's wallowing. Focusing on the magnitude of a problem fuels self-pity, and gaining sympathy from others doesn't actually solve anything. Once you've allowed yourself to feel the feelings, and you have a realistic perception of your problem, the next step is to take action to solve what you can affect, and accept what you can't change.
Building emotional strength takes good habits and practice, same as learning to do pretty much anything. The more you focus energy on productive ways to get through problems, the more resilient you'll be when shit hits the fan.
I am not a professional, so my advice may not work for you! Talk to your loved ones or your doctor if things feel bigger than you can handle. And if you or a loved one are in need of real help, visit suicideprevention.ca to find a local number in Canada for someone to talk to. Outside Canada, here's a list of international suicide hotlines in 35 countries, and the International Association for Suicide Prevention.