It happens in a split second…when life feels harder than you think it should…feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t only visit the lonely or depressed, it happens to a lot of people when faced with overwhelm – and here’s what it really means.
For two weeks straight, I’d been slaving, doing all the things necessary to get my house ready to sell – painting the interior trim and doors, cleaning out closets, edging the garden beds, scrubbing floors, swirling up cobwebs like cotton candy, clearing out the garage, and making trip after trip after trip to the Goodwill donation center. I was wiped out!
However, the house painter was coming on Monday and the deck needed staining, badly. I got off from my part-time job at 3pm and knew that if I went to the hardware store right away, I could be back by 4pm to get started. I tell you, it was the last thing I wanted to do (after work) on a Sunday afternoon with the sun making its first appearance of the day after a morning of gloomy grey skies.
But I pushed myself to go buy the stain…one step at a time, I thought.
When I got home, I looked at the can of deck stain and thought, what the hell…I popped off the lid. Maybe I can do a little…
Sitting there amidst the long shadows of late afternoon, under the full weight of fatigue, pulling the paintbrush back and forth across the rough wood grain, I felt sorry for myself. I wanted to whine. I wanted someone else to feel sorry for me too.
And then I felt ashamed. I could hear my mother’s voice, “stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
I stood up and looked at what I’d already done and what I had left…only five more feet of decking to cover and I’d be done. I started to beat myself up for feeling self-indulgent. But what was really going on?
And I knew in that instant what that feeling was trying to tell me. I wanted someone else to value what I’d accomplished. I wanted someone to share in the moment of success and sacrifice. What I really wanted was to feel appreciated and valued. But there was no one…only me and that made me feel sad.
I used to think that feeling sorry for yourself was only for the lonely, but I actually felt the same way in my marriage when no one recognized or valued my contributions. Feeling sorry for yourself isn’t just for singles, but when we’re alone, it’s easier to forget that we are valued. There is no one there to witness or affirm the truth of our inherent worth. We don’t feel like we matter to anyone. Our contributions fall flat like the brown leaves in late Autumn drifting to the forest floor where no one walks anymore.
I understand how hard it is to take care of your feelings when you’re by yourself.
Growing up, I heard, “stop feeling sorry for yourself.” “Don’t pat yourself on the back,” or “stop tooting your own horn.” I know you. We’re part of a whole generation where self-love was never really encouraged and instead discouraged in many ways. As adults, having failed to learn as children, we don’t know how to love ourselves or take care of ourselves…much less value what we have to offer.
Feeling sorry for yourself is not selfish or bad in any way. It’s a call from within to show ourselves a little more love in the moment. Maybe you need to stop whatever it is you’re doing. Maybe you need to give yourself a pat on the back, smile, and offer yourself appreciation, like, “Damn, I’m good!” If you’re with someone who can’t see your value, perhaps leave for a while. Go somewhere and do something you know will lift your spirits. Valuing yourself is hard, but you can do it. Make it a priority. Ask yourself what self-care looks like whenever you’re feeling “sorry” for yourself.
Feeling lonely or sorry for yourself in any given circumstance simply means you feel undervalued. You feel left out of the flow of love and it’s up to you to find your way back in. Where can you go and what can you do to feel love when it seems absent from your life? What are the most healthy, sustainable ways you’ve discovered to love and value yourself?
~A Girl on Her Own, Tracy