Self-Pity, Self-Respect and Self-Control

Not everyone who has a mind-based habit of low self-exertion is also concerned about getting over their habit.  But some people, who are lazy (let’s use that word for short-hand), recognize it and want to do something about it.  A direct assault on this kind of problem may not always be the best approach.  This article discusses a specific step that a person can take – which may serve to “soften up” their own internal enemy of sloth.

Even a lazy person will move when they are directly confronted by a person that they really respect.  Evidently, this means that “a person that they really respect” does not include the affected person themselves – since, by definition, a lazy person will not follow his own “orders” when it comes to work.  (Again, in this case, we are discussing the example of a person who is both lazy and who wishes that he were not.)  So why is it that a person would fail to “respect” themselves?

Looking for clues …

Maybe we could find some clues by studying the common traits that exist in the personalities of successful people.  Successful people do not waste time spinning their wheels in self-pity.   On the other hand, folks whose lives are characterized by low productivity are often (not always, but often) awash in self-pity and blaming others for their troubles.  Could there be a chain of cause and effect here?  In other words, perhaps the mental action of self-pity results in a reduced sense of self-value – aka: “reduced self-respect.”  And once a person’s self-respect has been sufficiently damaged, it follows that their self-control will also be compromised.  Look at it this way:  Would you take advice and direction from a person for whom you had no respect?

Why is self-pity so unhealthy?

Lets explore the mechanism, for a moment.   In other words, lets see if we can understand how, exactly, self-pity might result in a lowered sense of self-respect.  Of course, we all know, intuitively, that self-pity is not healthy.  Hopefully, by taking a closer look at it, we can see exactly why it is so unhealthy.

Perhaps, what is happening internally, goes like this:

A person responds to some difficult situation by indulging in self-pity.  The act of self-pity trains him to view his problems as “someone else’s fault.”  At one level, he is probably aware that insincere blame-shifting is occurring in his own mind.  The person may even realize that the choice of self-pity is, inadvertently, a way of training himself to view the world in an inaccurate & unhelpful way.  In any case, at some level, this kind of person will probably be disgusted with himself over his own refusal to face reality head-on.  Self-disgust translates into reduced self-respect.  Reduced self-respect means reduced self-control.

When difficult decisions come up, we naturally look to people who have a solid grasp on reality for guidance.  Since our example person has already established that he does not have (does not want?) a solid grasp on reality, he therefore, automatically, has another good reason to ignore his own self-guidance.   Who in their right mind would want to take direction from a person who lives in a world of partial fantasy?  Self-pity creates a world of partial fantasy.  A person who chooses illusion over reality will, naturally, cease to respect himself.  Reduced self-respect means reduced self-control.

A hidden, secondary cost

So here is the take-home for people who find themselves suffering from laziness: Stop wallowing in self-pity!  When those tempting thoughts come up, remind yourself that, for every second that is frittered away in self-pity, there is a hidden, secondary cost, in that it also drains away your own self-respect.  And as a person looses self-respect, he looses self-control.  Alternatively, as a person gains self-respect, he also gains self-control.

Giving up self-pity might sound like a no-brainer, but, in practice, it could actually be a real struggle.  It is an imaginary world of blame shifting.  The payoff is a momentary sense of freedom from guilt, shame and responsibility.  Moral judgements are made without taking into consideration how one’s own actions and responsibilities have factored into the present state of the world.   The thinking might go like this: If “everyone” agrees that I am right, then how could I possibly be wrong!?  The missing ingredient here is  failing to remember that “everyone” and everything in the world of self-pity is still imaginary.   It will take some courage to let it go, but you can do it.  Keep your eyes on the prize.

You will hear a voice speaking …

By letting go of your self-pity, you are plugging a hole in your soul’s vessel of realness and meaningfulness.  As it slowly re-fills, you will replenish your reservoir of self-respect.  And once there is enough there, something truly wonderful will happen.  Life will hand you (as it often does) a difficult decision.   It will be a decision that requires sustained action and effort – just the kind of thing that you would have avoided in the past.  But now, you will say to yourself: “Do It!” … and you will hear a voice speaking – one that you, yourself respect.  And then you will do it.

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30 Responses to Self-Pity, Self-Respect and Self-Control

  1. adpal says:

    Here’s a thought: Self-pity is one way in which a person could loose respect for themselves. But, really anything that could cause a person to loose respect for themselves would be a possible “target” when we are looking for ways to increase self-control – following the thinking in this article. So, what are the other avenues that can cause a person’s self-respect to be compromised? … This is kind of a touchy subject!

  2. shawn says:

    Well, my self pity is not to place blame on others to feel a second of relief. My self pity is is when I place blame on myself. In a weird way most of the time it feels worse but then sometime there is a second of relief, but I thought it was something I did in my sub thinking.Now I’m needing and wanting to study that thought process in my life. Another thing really caught my eye was some of us not do something for our selves even if it is good or positive deed or action but if asked or told by someone we respect we would tend to not think twice, that really has me pondering. Thanks it is hard to admit these thoughts and also the fact that I am lazy, but this website has shown me hope.

  3. Dirty Hurry says:

    first of all i dont know anything about anything… so second.. i dont know, self pitty to me means exactly what the words say….SELF pitty… not what anyone has done to you or how they screwed up yourlife.. but it may so like i said i dont know anything about anything… I know from my own experience that self pitty has this almost demonic split personality conditioning of my mind. I can dwell in it and feel uncomfortable but almost comfortable.. so this makes me think i may find and uncomfortable comfort in it. But “Self” pity.. is me againt me! i regret this , i cant believe i was so stupid, my life must be over now, i can never forgive myself… the past … not letting gooooooooooooooo…. holding on to something and making it seem and feel like reality. It can be so “self ” destructing… once again you the “self” is destructing… not anyone else… when we self destruct we don’t say , hey i can’t believe how everyone has made that person lose his mind… or do we… anyway i am rambling… but once again i dont know anything about anything… By the way who is to say “successfull people don’t suffer from self pitty” look up Junior Seau football player from the San Diego Chargers and what he did on and off the field and retirement. I am rambling but self pitty … I dont wish it on anyone…it may lead to a slow death ..
    ps…Self-pity can also be linked as an emotional response that emerges in times of stress

    • adpal says:

      Hi Dirty – Thank you very much for your comments. When I read what you wrote I thought to myself that there may actually be multiple different internal experiences, which are, collectively, referred to as “self-pity.” In other words, normally, when I indulge in self-pity the inner thought process is an imaginary re-living of a conversation that I had with someone … usually years ago. (This is kind of weird talking about this.) In any case, in my imaginary re-living of the experience I become much more assertive and aggressive – in other words “standing up for myself.” So, it works out that if, in the past, I really had said the things that I am now imagining or pretending to have said, then I suppose that I would have had a better outcome. (Its kind of weird talking about changing the past, eh?)

      Alternatively, in your description of the self-pity process it looks like the inner dynamic is more of a self-flagellation as you mull over your mistakes? You gave these examples of inner thoughts: “I regret this … I can’t believe I was so stupid … my life must be over now … I can never forgive myself.” I’m not saying this to suggest that my form of self-pity is better than yours (or vice versa) … just that I see that there are differences.

      • Dirty Hurry says:

        Yes, and that is why i appreciate the website and the outlet to vent and or discuss this topic… much appreciated..

  4. adpal says:

    I was just wondering “How would self-pity be modeled in an artificial intelligence (AI) system?” I have a computer background, but I never studied AI or took a course in it. But the ideas are intriguing – and, at some level, I think that it is understandable to anybody whether or not they have studied it. So, I’m thinking that, to make a good AI system, the first thing that you would need to shoot for would be to create an internal “model” that describes the real world. In other words, things that we take for granted about reality would need to be explained to the computer – like, for example, the fact that it is impossible to go back in time and alter what happened yesterday. Then, of course, there is a slight nuance, in that the *results* of whatever we did yesterday can often be updated/fixed/repaired by actions that we take today.

    So here is the connection – in order to teach the computer to understand (or mimic) human self-pity, we would need to explain to the computer that there is some value in re-living the past and *pretending* to change what is already done … and then explain to the computer that we humans derive some positive (or should I just say “valuable”) feeling from doing that … ? Now I could imagine the computer saying: “But wait, that doesn’t make any sense – since you are talking about changing an unchangeable property of the real world – namely the property that says that you cannot actually go back into the past and change what you did yesterday.” In other words, someone who cannot accept the fact that the past is unchangeable would be … irrational. The computer would probably recommend that I (the human) should go into the shop for repairs!!! 😀

  5. adpal says:

    So, in any case, what we are talking about is something (self-pity about changing the past) that is NON-REALITY! 😀 Meanwhile, the *real* reality (the time and opportunity that we have today) is being frittered away! It really is nuts! And yet at the same time, it (the self-pity) does seem to be so seductive and meaningful and comforting and worthy of my time and attention! So if that is not a mental illness – then what is? But maybe it would be more accurate to call it a “mind” illness – rather than a mental illness?

    Okay, so, if my *friend* told me that he was suffering from a mind illness, then what would I advise him to do? Here the illness is one that centers around excessively looking at the unhappy-side of life and imaginary excursions into the past – in an attempt to change something that is unchangeable. First off, I would probably tell him: “Dude – it sounds like you are nuts …” Then I would regret having said that, since I would probably think that that might end up discouraging him even more! 😀 Seriously, though, I think that I would probably say:

    “Look man – you are heading in a weird and dangerous direction … I’m just going by what you just told me … so I strongly encourage you to make it a priority to get your head on straight. When those thoughts come up, I strongly encourage you to *not* invite them into your head – rather – kick them out of your head and put some wholesome thoughts in – like a gratitude list … and take some positive action in the “real” world … cause if you keep heading down this path that you are on, it is just going to snowball on you … and you might end up in a *real* nut house … “

    • adpal says:

      I realize that that sounds kind of extreme – but, if a person is so heavily immobilized to the point that they start reaching out for help to deal with their laziness …. *and* they self-report that they spend a lot of time morosely spinning their wheels in self-pity … then, I would say that “extreme” is probably a good word to describe the level of severity of the problem …

      (Ooops! I just realized that I was talking about myself!) 😀 … 🙁

  6. adpal says:

    Here’s another little twist to it – it’s not that there is no value in going back in our minds to review the past – there *certainly* is a lot of value in reviewing the past. But “reviewing the past” could very easily morph into self-pity …? That kind of sounds like the way that a sickness or a broken machine normally comes about – in other words, there is a “normal cycle” in the organism or the machine – and then, somehow, sometimes the normal cycle gets interrupted … I am thinking of constipation … the normal cycle gets interrupted … really blocked in this case … same thing for a heart-attack – or low blood pressure – there is a normal system that gets slightly thrown out of whack – then, over time, the misconfiguration negatively impacts the over-all functioning of the person.

    In the case of self-pity – the normal cycle is that humans benefit from reviewing our lives – and especially reviewing what we perceive as our mistakes. The normal cycle is: 1) review your mistake, 2) learn from it, and 3) move on. The unhealthy twist to the cycle goes like this: 1) review your mistake, 2) sort of learn from it – but sort of not, 3) focus on the shameful or painful or angry aspect of the mistake, and then 4) repeat steps 1,2,3 ad nauseam.

    And maybe the reason that we have to keep repeating the unhealthy cycle of self-pity is that we never *correctly* complete the “learn from it” step ….? If so, then that immediately suggests a way to correct the cycle – in other words – find the correct way to review + learn from the unhappy experience! 😀

    • adpal says:

      That is a truly great idea! I want to remember that!

    • adpal says:

      I was just doing some wholesome thinking/reviewing/learning-from about an event (from years ago) that I often think back on – with a self-pity mindset. My review shows that my part in it had some reoccurring themes: 6 kinds of laziness, plus self-pity, selfishness, about 7 different kinds of fear, 4 kinds of pride, self-centeredness, and some gluttony, greediness and envy to boot. Plus an inability to a) accept the changes that had occurred and b) serenely adjust myself to the new reality. (Plus there was also all of that self-righteous anger.) So, my plan is that, in the future, when thoughts of this multi-stage debacle re-occur, and I am tempted to indulge in self-pity, that I will, (instead of going right to the self-pity), first spend a minute to review the above list of my “reoccurring themes” … 😀 … I feel better already!

  7. fulltime_80 says:

    Ok before I go off the deep end of bohemianismic thinking after reading some of the comments, I must admit that this article on self-pity, self-respect, and self-control is very profound because I found in my life certain behaviors to be self-damaging due in part to lack of self-discipline which comes from lack of self-control and laziness. Aha! There’s that word again. However, it made me think about how I could get a hold on this fruitage of the spirit called self-control. For without it, I am not fit for my Higher Power’s Kingdom. And with it I can keep myself from doing harmful and selfish things to myself and others. I see now that starting my day without self-pity, I could actually make tough decisions that come my way. Since I have one coming up in my life, I feel I am ready to face it now. Thank you sincerely

    • adpal says:

      That is an interesting thought about the fruit of the spirit –> “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) So, how much self-control does God expect us to have? For example, does God expect us to exert ourselves for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week – whether or not there is paycheck coming in? It seems like laziness is kind of the opposite of one type of self-control.

      This idea might be very helpful for someone who views the Bible as a source of truth. But, for someone who does not see the Bible as a divine book, it might not help. It might actually aggravate them?

  8. fulltime_80 says:

    One more thing: I like this website better than twitter because I don’t have to log on to make a comment and I can leave a longer, more thought out comment on things that matter instead of all the bullshit you can’t control on the twitter website.

  9. sisyphic says:

    i only discovered pal today. its content is useful, thought-provoking and quite empowering. i don’t usually share sites with people ’cause the majority of things i find, aren’t at all useful in any way, but it’s not the same with this site. thanks for creating something excellent for slackers like myself. i’ll regularly look here for encouragement.

  10. Question says:

    A good question to help someone decide for themselves whether or not they have a problem with laziness would be: Plz rate your own sense of your own strength of self-control. Ppl might say “oh yes my self control is sturdy – I m good in that area.”. But really what they mean is: “I m able to stop myself from punching ppl that piss me off”. Now that is certainly a good thing to have self-control in that important area of life (to not punch ppl) but what about the other area of self-control which is “the ability to come up with a plan that requires consistent (but reasonable) self exertion – and then carry the plan to completion using only self supervision to stay on track.”. Probably many folks wld have to admit that they r kind of weak in terms of self control in that area …

    • Question says:

      Obey-The-Boss-Man Mode

      It’s intriguing to see how we all clearly do have self-control in the sense of muscle-based and attention-based decisions. So for example if I want to get physically fit then i easily enough start by doing the first pushup ( that’s a muscle-based decision). And if I want to read a book then I can easily enough open the book and read the first paragraph (that’s an attention-based decision). The problem comes when I have been repeating the decision over and over for a while I get bored or distracted and I stop doing it. The end result is that the completely reasonable self chosen and self supervised long range goal is never reached! Lack of self control?

      Interestingly though when I have a job and a supervisor I m able to easily enough stay on track – even though I may grumble a bit. It is as though my mind goes into obey-the-boss-man mode and I become a machine that does the work. So why is it so difficult for me to go into obey-the-boss-man mode when I myself am the boss-man?! Lack of self control? Poor self-control skills? A weakness about allowing myself to believe lies and excuses when they come from myself to myself?

      • Question says:

        Maybe it has to do with “having a vision”? What I mean is that when the boss-man is someone else then the only vision that I needto keep in my mind is the strength to focus on just-stop-thinking-and-do-what-the-boss-says. So notice that there was that “stop thinking” part there. Alternatively when I myself am my own boss-man then the vision that I need to keep in mind gets a little more complicated in that I have to keep reminding myself of the value of the longterm goal and I have to keep making action decisions which from a short-term basis are not necessarily very fun or interesting … and I can always feel free to tell the boss-man (myself) that I feel like taking a break … and you know he’s not going to say anying about it … plus I never have to worry about being fired … :-p

        This could b turned into an article titled “Who’s The Boss Around Here”? 😀

  11. Question says:

    Some ppl might respond the best to a “self-control challenge” – in other words prove that u have self control – but u might want to leave out the word prove since ppl might get pissed off and use defiance to prove that they r not going to prove anything that someone else asks them to prove. So the challenge might just b a goal that they themselves pick – and maybe even keep secret from others – except to report on whether or not they did it. Reminds me of the bondage of ciggarretes and lottery.

  12. Nine says:

    Cartoon – the disease of sloth conspires with the disease of self-pity to keep a person from exerting themselves to take action on the things that they CAN do. A colum listing all the things I can do something about. Another colum listing all the unfortunate things about which I can do nothing. Dos and dosp conspire to make the first column less visible. By placing a large potted plant in front of the list of the things you can do something about – which u bought to “cheer” up the room. Before that u say “I learned from my pal belief assessment interview(link) that I have a sneaky tendency to avoid work and a sneaky tandency to manufacture excuses to help me to avoid work …. Let’s see where should I put this plant?”

  13. Nine says:

    Looking For A Job – Dual vertical panel cartoons about pppl who watch tv vs ppl who read books. Tv show number one (clock on wall). Up to number n. Many weeks go by. Educational book 1 pages 1-3 (about plumbing). Pages 2-6, pages 297-300. Then both go looking for a job. Both get rejected. One responds in Thot (that boss was a jerk) the other responds in Thot (I will continue to improve my skills). The boss asks a question about plumbing – sorry u don’t know enough to b a useful member of our team. Then one day after many rejections – another interview and the boss says … “YOU fill in the text – you know what will happen!”. Rolling the dice.

  14. Dishwasher says:

    Self-pity, YPLL and PSA.

    Self-pity, YPLL and PSA. Write an article about the relative damage done by various diseases (YPLL) compared to self-pity. The problem is that self-pity is very difficult to distinguish from legitimate grieving. Hence, any PSA that attempted to warn people against the danger of SP might inadvertently offend and injury folks who were dealing with legitimate grieving.

    So one way to deal with that (from the perspective of the public health provider) would be to say nothing (which is what actually happens!). But that does not make any sense bcz then (assuming that SP does indeed have a hefty YPLL rating) that wld mean that we are not assigning psa resources based on YPLL ratings. Now you might say that the Do-No-Harm principle is the reason for not mentioning SP (so as not to aggravate those who are experiencing legitimate grief.). Then, at whatpoint does the YPLL rating out-weigh the DNH principle? Also, maybe there is a way to approach the PSA so as to minimize the damage to those who suffer from legitimate grieving? There are actually a whole class of issues similar to this. I m thinking of laziness in particular.

  15. bonkedout says:

    Self pity mixed with self-harm is the worst thing anyone can do. WHATEVER YOU PEOPLE DO, DON’T FREAKING DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. PAL says:

    Editor’s Note: Balanced paragraph format to equalize right borders.

  17. Virtue, Vice, Wealth and Community Ethos

    In the general case, do people become wealthy by virtue or vice? And how does the answer to that question vary by community? The premise of Atlas Shrugged is that, in a healthy community wealth comes through virtue and, in an unhealthy community, it comes through vice. So how about the USA of today?

  18. tbear says:

    I wallow in self pity if I would have some self control maybe I could stay concentrated on things and I could work on my own self respect I need tohave pride and confidence in myself because once I have those thing my LSE will most likely turn into RSE and that’s a great thing

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