“It’s all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are finished.”
― Debbie Macomber
Things go wrong in life and when they do, it’s easy to feel like the odds are stacked against you. All of a sudden, the world is out to get you and you decide that your losing streak is never going to end.
Everyone has had moments of self-pity. You can’t help but ask why me? What could I have possibly done to deserve this? Everything and everyone is on a mission to get me, etc. Don’t get me wrong, a little bit of self-pity can be helpful, but it’s when we get stuck in this mindset that the problems will really start to set in.
Many people going through a breakup or divorce struggle to walk the line of self-pity and self-compassion, often confusing this victim mentality with being kind to themselves. Shifting the blame from yourself to others is a coping mechanism and one that we’re all guilty of. Some people, however, turn this into Poor Me Syndrome (PMS).
In this blog, I’m going to walk you through PMS, why we do it, how to know whether you are doing it, and how to turn self-pity into self-compassion.
What is Poor Me Syndrome?
Poor Me Syndrome is also known much more commonly as Victim Mentality. This means that someone’s locus of control is external. In simple terms, this means that they believe that things happen to them. They are not in control of their own lives. Failures are someone or something else’s fault. People who have Poor Me Syndrome are rife with pessimism, anger, and fear.
On the other hand, people whose locus of control is internal, believe that they have the power to mold their own journeys. They know that their success and failures are a result of their own actions or inactions.
Someone who has Poor Me Syndrome will often avoid asking for what they need, they will stay in their situation or make it worse by refusing to take action. This could be a feeling of powerlessness but could also stem from habit. With the PMS mindset, they will always see their challenges as disproportionate to their opportunities, because they are identifying and wallowing in their challenges instead of creating and owning opportunities.
In Layman’s terms, Poor Me Syndrome is long-term self-pity. It’s blaming other people and environments for your conditions and unhappiness.
Why we do it
“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”
― John Gardner
Self-pity and Poor Me Syndrome don’t sound that great when you read about it right? Why would anyone want to languish in unhappiness? Believe it or not, unlike depression, the victim mentality certainly isn’t genetic but an acquired learned behavior. So why would anyone want to feel like this? Here are just some of the reasons:
The blame game: You don’t have to take responsibility for anything that is happening in your life if you simply blame it on other people.
Attention: When you talk about how much is going wrong for you, you are likely to get someone to listen to you. People will listen to your dramatic stories (not that they don’t get tired of them).
Pity: When you wallow in self-pity, you are bound to get the sympathy that you are looking for, as people will feel sorry for you in the beginning.
Your own way: When it looks like it’s you against the world, people are less likely to criticize you and your choices. In fact, it may seem like people are more willing to give you what you want.
Drama: Being constantly embroiled in drama gives you the opportunity to ignore your problems and revel in being the center of attention.
You can complain: When you have Poor Me Syndrome, you feel like this gives you the right to vent how you want, when you want, and where you want. You are ‘going through a lot’ and this gives you license to complain.
Signs to look out for
Not everyone realizes that they are stuck in a cycle of self-pity, especially after going through something traumatic like a divorce or breakup. Here are just some of the signs to be aware of that could help you catch yourself before you descend into full-blown Poor Me Syndrome:
Your conversations are mainly about yourself and how hard things are for you
You expect people to feel sorry for you
You blame other people or factors when something goes wrong or you don’t achieve what you set out to do
You believe that others haven’t gotten where they are because of hard work or sacrifice but rather just because they are lucky or get preferential treatment
You don’t like to admit it when you are actually enjoying yourself
You tend to manipulate others to get what you want by playing the pity card
Turn self-pity into self-compassion
Luckily, all is not lost if you are struggling with Poor Me Syndrome. As mentioned, it’s a learned behavior and as such, it can also be unlearned. Turning self-pity into self-compassion is the best thing that you can do after a divorce to get your life back on track. Try some of the following points to break your self-pity habits and turn them into self-compassion:
Think about the negative impact it’s having: It’s important to take the time to think about how this could be affecting you. Has it pushed loved ones away? It is stopping you from experiencing new exciting things? Is it allowing you to move forward? Does it really feel good?
Change your narrative: At the end of the day, you can’t change what has happened in the past – you can only look forward to what’s to come in the future. Stop going over the same narrative in your head. Stop negative thoughts. Stop using past failures to fuel current pain. Talk to yourself kindly and think about how you can affect your future.
Take responsibility: Allow yourself to admit that you aren’t perfect and that perhaps some of your actions contributed to the breakdown of your relationship. Taking responsibility for yourself is the first step in becoming more in control of your narrative.
Accept and forgive: Malachy McCourt once said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Accept what has happened in the past and forgive your ex for the role they played in it or it will eat away at you and stop you from living life to the fullest. Also, learn to forgive yourself and your actions – this will lead to more self-love.
Understand you can’t control everything: Acknowledge that no one can control what happens to them. You can’t dictate life. You can however manifest positive experiences and emotions that will make you feel a lot luckier. Remember that it’s how you react to a situation that gives it power over you.
Find positive goals to focus on: Set realistic goals that you can focus on. Always wanted to run a marathon? Start training. Promised you’d take a trip to Africa? Start saving. Want to spend more time with friends and family? Give them a call.
Practice gratitude: Recognizing that you are lucky to have a roof over your head and food in your belly is a good start. But take it further by embracing everything you have in your life. Be grateful for the traumatic experience you have been through and use it to spur you on to greater heights.
Self-love: Be kind to yourself while you’re healing. Take time to read, do yoga, or enjoy time in nature. Speak to yourself in a positive way and feed yourself nutritious food. At the end of the day, you’re going to make mistakes and when they happen, step back, accept them, and encourage yourself to try things differently the next time around. Remember that you aren’t alone and that no one is perfect.
Self-compassion doesn’t come to us naturally and it’s something that evolves and grows over time with practice and patience. I still have to consciously engage with myself to ensure that I am giving myself the right environment for positive growth, especially when things don’t go to plan.
Be kind to others, be kind to yourself and you’ll be amazed in the ways that it comes back to you.
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