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I thought of writing about this topic a while ago but I held back as I felt it would expose matters of personal impact to the outside world. But then I felt my experience would be relevant to people who face difficult circumstances, find it tough to come out of it and end up with feelings of self-pity. My objective is to help such people by sharing my experience and how I managed to come out of this situation. Even if this post helps one person, my objective of writing it is achieved.
Before I write further, let me first define this not-so-innocent sounding term - "self-pity".
It is a sad, depressing feeling that one gets
- when things don't go as expected,
- when people let you down,
- when you feel a victim of circumstances that are beyond your control
- when you face certain issues while the rest of the world doesn't have to deal with the same. Social media is a major source for this "perceived" feeling.
When I discovered that I was expecting my first child, I was ecstatic, thrilled and a lot scared. I didn't know what was in store for me in the months to come. I neither have a mother to discuss personal issues nor I had close female friends to have a chit-chat.
I lost my mother at an early age. Though I missed her at times, frankly I didn't feel the vacuum until I discovered that I'm going to be a mother. Years 2011-2013 were both happy and challenging times to me as I entered this new phase in my life. The challenges that I faced in those 2 years made me miss her even more, leading to oodles of self-pity and a lot of struggle to come out of it. Thankfully, I have a super supporting husband who has been supporting me in so many ways - by being a soundboard, listening to my worries and anxieties, taking lead in many areas related to raising our daughter, encouraging me to take decisions that I truly believe in etc.
I'm sharing 5 steps that have helped me come out of this self-pity phase, hoping these would help someone who are in a similar situation.
1) Stop sulking over the past
In one of my favorite courses on Coursera "A life of happiness and fulfillment", the instructor lists down 7 deadly sins of happiness and one of them being "overly control seeking". We can't control what has happened in the past. We can't control the thoughts, words or actions by others. There are various moments in our lives where others might have hurt us. It's very easy to press the rewind button often, keep playing those moments repeatedly and feel bad. This is an easy choice and it keeps feeding on itself, making us feel more dejected and depressed. Chances of getting to that state are the highest when your mind is idle. "An idle mind is devil's workshop" - I have experienced this state and believe me, it's very unproductive to linger on for a long time there. When your mind tries to take that route, consciously try to put a full-stop and tell yourself - "I'm not going back there. It's such a waste of my time".
2) Remove negative influences or atleast stay away
If there are people in your family who are pushing you into that self-pity mode, try to stay away from them. Distance helps a great deal. If that's not possible and you have to face them everyday, try to ignore them and show a "don't-care" attitude. They will eventually get the message and stop passing hurtful remarks/comments.
Although social media helps us to stay connected with the outside world, sometimes it makes us feel that the world around us is very happy and happening (a quick glance through FB feed is enough) while our lives are dull and boring. In reality, we like to share our happy moments in FB while we are not ready to share the dull, boring, painful, sad, depressing moments of our life to anyone outside our closest family members/friends. You don't have to be always connected to social media, take some time off. Or build that maturity of understanding that everyone faces difficult circumstances in life that is not shared in FB.
3) Take charge / Lead yourself
Getting into a victim mode is easy but the right thing to do is to take charge of your life. Jot down your strengths and interests. Make a list of things/activities that make you happy. Allocate time everyday to do those things. When my daughter was a little baby, I used to take her out for a walk every evening around my apartment. The fresh air and the cozy time between us made me very happy amidst a suffocating atmosphere at home.
When she was in her toddler stage, the atmosphere at home eased and I got some space to breathe. Around the same time, I also started to look for part-time opportunities to get back to work, resumed blogging more actively and invested a lot more time in healthy cooking.
4) Be physically active / Prioritize your health
I can't emphasize this enough. I can vouch for the benefits regular exercise, especially Yoga has brought in my life in the last couple of years. Mood swings have almost stopped and my energy levels have gone up. Here's an article I wrote on how you can get into the habit of exercising consistently.
Given my interest in healthy cooking, I cook (and eat) healthy, home-cooked food 95% of the time. My physical and mental well-being is very important to me and my family. I try to be physically active (apart from exercise time) throughout the day and accompany my daughter to play area in the evenings to get some fresh air. I stopped watching TV a couple of years back. Though I enable DTH connection for short time periods whenever my dad or my in-laws visit me, I don't sit on the couch and channel-surf like I used to earlier.
5) Dream big / Set goals
The quote below has changed my life in some sense.
“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” —Leo Rosten
I came across this quote while reading this brilliant article by Joshua Becker where he talks about why one should seek a life of significance. Highly recommend you take a look.
Day-to-day responsibilities and routines can be mind-numbing but if you start to seek significance, then days become more beautiful and purposeful. It's not about discovering your life's purpose but creating a life of purpose. My passion for healthy well-being is taking me to different places - books, blogs, cooking, catering, spreading awareness etc.
Identify an area of your interest that not only makes you happy but makes you want to explore more. How to identify it - simple. Become aware of the articles that you stop to read in your never-ending newsfeed, newspapers, magazines you pick up, books you love to read, topics you love to discuss about. Many of our unconscious choices reveal so much about ourselves. That's the area you will make an impact. That will be the story you leave behind.
Enough gyaan :-) Hope the essence of this post is clear and you are able to get out of the self-pity trap.