Two Ways to Feel Better About Yourself (Without Improving in Any Way)
The following bullet-point "suggestions" are meant to hit close to home for those of us with unhealthy coping mechanisms. We all use these to an extent and my goal is to illustrate their long-term harm to a positive outlook on life, as well as healthy alternatives.
1. A Victim of Circumstance
It's not your fault; The world and its habitants are all against you!
What happens to you is outside of your control; it can instead be blamed on others.
You just have a lot of consistently bad luck.
You are being forced by your environment to do unhealthy actions.
Our own negative, impulsive reactions to unexpected events can be dismissed by this reasoning: "It wasn't my fault."
If we decide to consider ourselves powerless, we might temporarily feel better from shirking responsibility; but, until we accept that we have the choice to improve ourselves, we will continue to have no power over our own lives. Until we accept responsibility for our actions, we do not have the grounds to improve ourselves.
It is true that our world shapes who we are; but, we can't control the world! All we can do is accept responsibility to improve what we have the power to change: ourselves.
2. The Weight of Your Guilt
You are inherently a bad person.
You can't do anything right!
You don't deserve to forgive yourself for what you've done.
Guilt is a punishment in itself through which you can be absolved.
After making a mistake, if we feel guilty and terrible enough, we consider ourselves forgiven and our mistake dismissed and forgotten.
When we are young, we are punished for being bad - that is how our caretakers trained us to learn good habits and responsible behaviors. After remembering being recalled from detention by "okay, you've suffered enough," we forget there is a discrepancy between punishment and correction. Punishing ourselves not only yields zero results in the area of improvement; it also gives our minds the false impression that, having suffered for something, we have therefore earned our reward.
Feeling bad about ourselves isn't enough. Don't pain yourself as an attempt to pardon yourself. Face your mistake by not only accepting your faults but also taking tangible steps to improve.
While these two unhealthy coping strategies appear on the surface to be polar opposites (shirking all responsibility vs. self-punishing), these are both related to the self-pity of feeling like a victim of circumstances. For those reasons outlined above, self-pity ranges from useless to counterproductive.
How to Escape and Avoid Self-Pity
If you feel bad for yourself, whether by indignation or guilt, you're not saving room in your mind to care about others! Self-pity stems from the same root as egotism and selfishness. To escape the trap of your self-centricity, use your energy instead to help others!
The worst enemy of self-pity is empathy.
When I suggest having empathy for those around you, I don't mean "somebody is worse off than you." They might not be worse off than you; but rather, just the same. We all have an abundance of people in our lives who are struggling as we are, who could benefit from our investing our own time, energy, and emotional support in their well-being.
You are not destined to be the victim; you would be better off as one of the heroes.
If you are miserable, you can't afford to not try your best and fight your problems head-on! Until you are willing to abandon these unhealthy coping mechanisms and take the driver's seat in your own life, there's no reason to think anything will ever change.
We must all accept the responsibility of adapting our mindsets to reflect a more proactive and positive outlook on our lives and our futures.
Whether or not you accept the challenge, you have the option to be positive. Positivity means looking objectively at a situation and asking yourself honestly and specifically, "How, exactly, did this happen?" and more importantly "What can I do better next time?"
We are all works in progress and everything we do shapes who we are. Choose to be the person who overcame their own self-imposed adversity. The world is outside of our control and there's a lot of bad in it; but within our own minds, we have full reign!