The Fine Line Between Self-Compassion and Self-Pity

I have this habit of listening to podcasts while working out at the gym – that multi-tasking thing, you know. One channel I follow is the Aubrey Marcus Podcasts: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC604SM0YhltEKZ5hmDs_Gqw/videos.


As described on his YouTube page, the podcast…”is about the idea of bringing balance back into a world that is increasingly polarized, and a sense of tribe back to a people growing increasingly solipsistic. True to the concept this channel blends humor with gravity and levity with depth…” (Side note: the definition of solipsism is, “holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure.” I had to look it up myself).


I follow Aubrey’s channel as I have an interest in bringing this balance back both on a personal level and through wellness coaching work. The last one I listened to was #198, Aubrey’s interview of Humble the Poet, discussing that we often find that, “Turbulence Precedes Transformation”.


That got me thinking. A lot. How does this play into the struggles of life? How does this affect one’s ability and desire to make changes in life? When you feel beaten down, hopeless and cannot see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, how do you accept that this turbulence will likely lead to transformation?


It’s hard. Pretty damn hard. When you’re in the midst of that turbulence and paralyzed by the overwhelm, how can you possibly believe that the transformation is coming?





Well, you get vulnerable. Really, really vulnerable. You surrender to the fact that you are at that low point and might be ready to seek support. You let go of the idea that vulnerability is a sign of weakness and begin to recognize that there is a certain strength in conceding to the fact that you are human. You are fallible and it’s OKAY. And in that surrender, you finally realize that by dropping your defenses and ceasing that hiding behind a self-protective curtain, that you are not alone. You find that you aren’t all that unique in your suffering, others have travelled the same or similar path. And guess what? You shift into this sense of tribe as it dawns on you that there are people who can guide you to that so desperately desired transformation.


But it takes a huge amount of strength and self-reflection to get there. Because, while you are at that low point, in the darkness, you oscillate between self-pity and self-compassion. It’s very easy to slip into that self-pity, “poor me” thinking because that’s just what we do. We are addicted to our story of suffering, so we play it over and over in our heads. It’s familiar and certainly easier than change. Even if the familiarity of the story is painful, there’s a certain comfort of knowing it. We inherently avoid change ‘cuz it’s scary as hell.


What if, however, you move out of that self-pity party and start to think about having some self-compassion for where you are in that moment in your life? You deeply desire something better, but you just can’t seem to take that first step. How about you take that moment and say, “Hey, self. I’m sad and frustrated right now. I want to be happier, have more joy in my life. I constantly worry about finances. I’m overwhelmed by home and work demands. I have an incredible amount of stress. I am JUST PLAIN EXHAUSTED.


“Can we just take a little time out and acknowledge that it’s okay that I feel this way? Can we rest and do a little self-nurturing even if our culture says that’s inexcusable?”





Then go do it. Go sit under a tree on the beach. Lay on the couch and watch mindless movies. Take a nap. Sleep in. Take a break. And tell yourself over and over that it’s just fine that you take this little timeout. The world will be waiting for you while you hang out in that self-compassion bubble.


And when that period of breaking away from it all feels like it’s over (p.s. - notice that I said “feels like”, not “should be”), you’ll find that the turbulence might have stopped or at least lessened. You start to believe that you can put your foot on that first step toward transformation. You begin to move forward because as Humble the Poet said in the podcast, we suddenly realize that, “we don’t overcome a fear and then move forward. We move forward to overcome the fear.”





Thanks, Aubrey and Humble, for sharing your insights with all of us. I too oscillate quite frequently on that fine line between the self-compassion and that self-pity. But today, I’m going to give myself a little love and take that break. Maybe I’ll read something that has nothing to do with work or “have to” stuff. Or watch something on Netflix completely and totally for the sake of entertainment. Throw in a glass of wine and some fine dark chocolate, and you’ve got a deal, Self.





I invite you, my tribe, to come along with me. There’s room on the couch for you too.




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