Recovery Messages & News

Self-pity vs. self-love: Gaining awareness

By Mr. Eric Fisher

Life does not beg our forgiveness for the trials it makes us undergo. Oftentimes, there is the expectation that an individual’s life in recovery from Addiction should be fashioned without any major struggles psychologically, interpersonally, occupationally, etc. However, recovery is not linear and does not guarantee that there will be an absence of highs and lows. Every experience, regardless of the perspective held by the beholder, is a learning opportunity.
Someone experiencing a difficult situation may come to the point of self-pity. The self-pity may emerge gradually. Initially, the person may feel elevated stress, depression, anger, guilt, remorse, or shame. Thus, a host of different feelings. These same feelings may be present alongside the self-pity. This is especially true with shame, which reinforces the feeling of self-pity in a continuous cycle that may feel never-ending.

Self-pity, at its core, is selfish. It seeks its own fulfillment without the inclusion of others. Yet, ironically, someone exhibiting self-pity does not mind other people feeding into their disease utilizing the self-pity. There is actually a difference between taking pity on someone and displaying genuine empathy while keeping an objective, neutral stance. Expressing empathy entails neither approving or disapproving of how he or she is dealing with a situation but simply being there to listen and show compassion and understanding.

Self-love, as different from self-pity, is inclusive of people in the community. It seeks out others in order to receive genuine help while keeping healthy boundaries. An individual with self-love does not gravitate to writhing in guilt, remorse, or shame. May these feelings still arrive? Yes, but he or she is not primarily captivated by such feelings. Displaying self-love shows we are perfectly imperfect beings striving to maintain our personal values with humility and integrity.

How does one build self-love? One suggestion would be to keep connected in the community through healthy relationships, mutual support groups, and the like. This helps to not isolate, which the disease amplifying self-pity very much desires. It also helps with being able to check-in with others to process feelings and addictive thinking. Tapping into core personal values and strengths also helps cultivate self-love. Lastly, strengthening the relationship with the Higher Power will assist in building hope, serenity, and faith, all of which cripple the destructive effects of self-pity.

The aforementioned list of suggestions is by no means exhaustive. Therein lies the key: self-love connects with self-discovery in recovery from the disease of Addiction. Self-pity demands for someone to lie down and remain helpless. Recovery, with self-love, shows a person that he or she is worthy enough of experiencing serenity amongst the celebrations and the trials.