We’ve all felt pity for ourselves and others at some point. The story sounds something like this, “Look how hard my life is! How much I do and suffer! Hear me sigh; I am downtrodden. The sign I wear at my chest reads, ‘Will work for pity,’ can I get an ‘Awww! I’ve got it bad!’? Please tell me now, I need you to affirm me! I must continue to behave foolishly, treat myself and others poorly and ignore what needs to be done! Please validate me and agree that I unable to change!”
Ice cream and pity.
Have you ever noticed that it looks odd to put just one scoop of ice cream in a dish? Try it. It looks lonely and conjures the words, “more please.” Add another scoop or some chocolate sauce or nuts, and everything seems all right. It’s like this with pity.
A pity-party of one won’t work.
One person (scoop) who feels pitiful by themself just feels lonely. One person feeling pitiful with a bottle of wine (chocolate sauce) and/or another person who affirms that yes, in fact, he or she is pitiful (nuts) … feels like kinship. Put a bunch of pity-people together, and it’s pity-party-perfection!
Ready to bounce?!
Whether I’ve bellied up to the bar of Life, the bistro of a new beginning or a backyard barbeque of days-gone-by, if I catch myself feeling pity for myself or anyone else, I know I’ve bought into some real B.S. and it’s time for me to bounce! I mean … who am I to believe that anyone (including me) is pitiful, powerless and incapable to change? Shah! So as soon as I feel that “ughhh, poor thing” feeling, I (internally) pull myself aside. Like a mother grabbing her child’s ear, I take myself away from the pitiful feeling for a talking-to. I tell myself, “Darling, it’s time to pounce on a new possibility.” And then, I imagine the person for whom I’ve felt pity, wearing a king or queen’s robe, looking and acting regal and worthy of praise. Whether this is enough to alter my own attitude or it just seems so ridiculous that I burst out in laughter, either way, I have ‘broken the spell’ and no longer feel pity.
However, if the level of pity has progressed to the point of no return, I may just pick up my phone, type in “utube I’ve got the power snap,” press “Play,” and allow the music to be heard by all parties involved. Or, I might simply remove myself from the “party” altogether.
Possibilities beyond pity.
Would you like to step from pity into power? Here are five things I do:
1. First, I catch myself in the feeling of pity and congratulate myself. With awareness, I can change.
2. Second, I apologize (internally and/or externally) to the object of my pity.
3. Third, I accept that by pitying anyone, I’ve belittled that person’s power to change (which is BS).
4. Fourth, I forgive myself for seeing that person as powerless.
5. Fifth, I change.
a. I may smile, tell a joke, laugh at my silliness, change the subject, notice something beautiful—like a flower or something pretty about the person, hug the person, play empowering music or read or do something empowering.
b. I empathize …
Empathy trumps pity
When we pity someone, we feel sorry for them. When we empathize with someone, we feel with them. We feel their feelings, their emotional state of confusion or powerlessness, but we do not agree with it or become stuck in that state. We do not believe that he or she is powerless or pitiful. By choosing to feel empathy instead of pity, we “hold space” for them to grow beyond these feelings and empower themselves. This choice to empathize rather than pity is exceedingly important … especially when we apply it to ourselves and our own struggles!!! Are you willing to feel for yourself without feeling sorry for yourself? I encourage you to give this a whirl, it feels great.
Will you share your story? Where are you in the pity party or empathetic engagement? Have you found ways to feel empathy that don’t require you or anyone else to feel sorry for you? Have you fallen into any traps that might feel pitiful? Has your life become unpleasant with pity for yourself and/or others? Are you willing to pick up the pace by knowing you are powerful, but maybe haven’t applied it yet? Your comments help!