Self-Pity and Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

“One thing that makes it so difficult to stop feeling sorry for
ourselves is how real
it feels when we are full of self-regret.”
-Guy Finley (The Courage to Be Free)

Regret, in any form, nags at our consciousness continually reminding us we’re unworthy or incapable of achieving greatness or even mediocrity.

Be it a relationship, job, school, or whatever, the regret of something we’ve either failed at accomplishing or even started, binds us to the past and keeps us in the dark unable to see the possibilities available to us.

Consumed by self-regret, we sink into a morass of self-pity and low self-esteem. Even the possibilities available to us in the present moment are overshadowed by our past regrets.

Even though it sucks—a lot!—its familiarity keeps us bound to a cycle seemingly impossible to break.

“The secret attraction behind self-pity—why it’s so hard to set down—is that the part of us that feels like nothing makes the part of us that points out this nothingness feel quite special!”
Guy Finley (The Courage to Be Free)

We can look at two sources for the dilemma of being stuck in self-pity and feeling sorry for ourselves: lack of choice and fear.

Lack of Choice

Lack of choice is an illusion masked by fear. Remove the fear, and we realize we have more choices than we could imagine. Just think of the possibilities (choices) if fear was not present! It’s fear that keeps us from realizing we do have choices.

The lack of choices I saw in my own life were certainly based out of fear… or maybe even laziness. Deep down I probably realized I had choices—ones that would make my life better—but that meant taking responsibility for my life and the choices I’d made up to that point. A painful life I saw as something to be endured, not lived.

The seemingly lack of choice was the result of my dependence on self, and that the world was conspiring against me; I was a victim. Worse yet, the fear that if I did make a conscious choice to do better, I would fail. And failure also meant the end of hope. Something I realize clearly now… the hope of being happy was often times more comfortable than the fear of failing to discover my true self and happiness.


The illusion of fear is most often based on past experiences; experiences that we regret and fear going through again. Once we realize the power of this fear, that it is holding us captive, we can bring light to it by revealing its truth: it’s part of our past, not our present.

“There lives nothing real in our past—regardless of how disappointing or painful it may have been—that can grab us and make us its captive, any more than dark shadows have the power to keep us from walking into the light.”
Guy Finley (The Courage to Be Free)

When dealing with self pity (feeling sorry for yourself), think about these 10 key lessons from Guy Finley:

  1. The only thing feeling sorry for yourself changes about your life is that it makes it worse.
  2. No matter how you look at it, you involve yourself with whatever you resist.
  3. Being wrapped up in self-pity completely spoils any chance of being able to see new possibilities as they appear. Besides, no one likes sour milk!
  4. The only thing that grows from cultivating any dark seed of sorrow is more bitter fruit.
  5. Feeling sorry for those who want you to feel sorry for them is like giving an alcoholic a gift certificate to a liquor store.
  6. Your thoughts can no more tell you what is true about your possibilities than a set of streamside boulders can know the nature of the waters that rush by them.
  7. Feeling sorry for yourself is a slow-acting poison. First it corrupts, then it consumes your heart, choking it with dark and useless emotions.
  8. You cannot separate the reasons you have for feeling sorry for yourself from the sorry way you feel.
  9. The heart watered by tears of self-pity soon turns to stone; it is incapable of compassion.
  10. When you agree to live with sad regrets, you ensure they’ll still be with you tomorrow.

Those are all interesting right? But they’re still just words on this web page—how do we put these things into practice? The answer is one step at a time—you can climb mountains one step at a time. The first step of change is usually the hardest.

Just remember that most things worth doing are not hard, they’re just uncomfortable. There is a difference!

Moving out of self-pity and low self-esteem takes small actions that create a sense of love for self over time. One of my favorite quotes and philosophies of all time is from breakthrough specialist Francine Ward (who has an amazing story by the way!):

“You get self-esteem by doing Esteemable Acts”;
the operative word is “DOING””

Everyone probably gets tired of hearing me talk about action and DOING things. But honestly, there really is no other way. You cannot think your way into good living; you must live your way into good thinking. And that especially applies to overcoming self pity and low self-esteem.

Here is a short simple list of things you can do to bring light to your pity party:

  • Do something kind for someone… anonymously (need ideas?)
  • Clean your house
  • Exercise
  • Volunteer at a local mission
  • Make a decision to think positive thoughts about yourself today
  • Take donuts to your co-workers
  • When you notice negative thoughts, stop and remind yourself you have a choice
  • Send a card instead of an email
  • Plant some flowers
  • Make your bed

So get out there and do something!

photo credit: Jamiesrabbits

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  1. says

    Take a moment to close your eyes and see yourself as you think you are. Get a clear image of what you look like. How is your posture? Are you smiling or frowning? Looking down or up? Standing strong or moping about?

    Trust the images that appear, do not question them, just notice their flavor.

    Now open your eyes, stand up and shake it out, think of the colour of underwear that a purple elephant wears. That’ll break ya state.

    Our next journey takes you back to when you were truly enjoying yourself. Think of that most empowering song you love and let it run its course through body. Now in your minds eye strike that pose full of power.

    Feel what it is like to be truly living in your skin, full of energy and life. Notice again your posture. Feel the energy flow up from the earth, charging into your heart and cascading down from the heavens, flowing right through you. Notice how this image of you, how the energy flowing up from your heart hits the corners of your mouth and you cannot help but smile. Feel your flavor, step right into the power of your song and the living colour of this image.

    This image is also you, just another part you can access whenever you want.

    Now look at the old image of self esteem, notice the feeling that you no longer need to hold onto. Bring up the new you, feel how drastically different this sensation is.

    Show them both at the same time now. Let the old image fade away into the mist and bring the new you closer, brighter and louder towards you. Turn up the volume, smile and really enjoy this way of being.

    Open your eyes.

    Whenever you notice the old feeling, remember you can now drop it away and choose the new way of being. In an instant you can turn up that song and see that powerful you… become it now.

    Live and enjoy, I’ll be with you 😉

    • Jared says

      Amazing exercises man! I’m copying that stuff down and will read it outside this weekend. I started this meditation exercise outside by the pool and these are some exercises I’m looking forward to exploring.
      Live and enjoy yourself. Thanks for contributing here, it’s really appreciated!

  2. Mary W says

    I struggled with self-esteem for years and then one day I realized that I had choices to not wallow in feeling bad about myself all the time. I have moments now where self-esteem fleets by, but I know that deep down inside I have a power that allows me to be able to do things I never did when I was acting like I was having a pity party. I learned that I have to take care of myself. I don’t allow others to feel sorry for themselves and let them know that they are the masters of their own universe if they will only look inside. Did this happen overnight. No; it took many years for me to get where I am comfortable with myself and don’t listen to the tapes that used to play in my head. The committee is silent most days. And one of the most important things I learned is that I can only live a day at a time. When I do this, I don’t have to think about the past or the future and I enjoy the life I am living.

    • Jared says

      Taking care of myself was something I did NOT do for a long, long time. It’s sort of weird now… looking back on the way I treated myself and I really have empathy for that person. The weird part about it, I really didn’t realize I disliked myself that much. In contrast–how I treat myself today–I can see if I truly loved myself I would not have treated myself so poorly.

      I too feel self-esteem fleet by at times as you, but as you mentioned and have experienced, we notice it today and realize we have a choice!! That’s usually when I get up and go do something like jogging, ride my bike, call a friend, or pray and meditate.

      Thanks for pointing out that we didn’t discover self-pity overnight… it’s a slow fade for most. Unfortunately it often takes severe pain or being isolated from others we’ve driven away with our emotional black-hole to take a hard look at ourselves. Conversely it takes time and practice to quiet the committee. Ah, you fired the committee!! Good for you! A few of my “ex” committee members still sneak back in the conference room from time to time, but they usually leave pretty quickly once they realize they don’t have a voice. 😉

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment! I truly appreciate it.

  3. Jim Devine says

    Great blog-always appreciate you words.Finley is awesome… the best part of his comments….to gain self-esteem;do esteem -ble things.It all must start on the inside,a Stephen Covey quote come to mind;
    The ‘Inside-Out’ approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness means to start first with self; even more fundamentally, to start with the most inside part of self — with your paradigms, your character, and your motives.

    The inside-out approach says that private victories precede public victories, that making and keeping promises to ourselves precedes making and keeping promises to others.

    It says it is futile to put personality ahead of character, to try to improve relationships with others before improving ourselves.

    Stephen Covey

    • Jared says

      Nicely said! You mentioned motives… that’s something I’ve become so acutely aware of since getting to know my true self. The less I need externally for validation, love, acceptance, etc. the more pure my motives are. Conversely, when I’m spiritually “low” so to speak, I can see where my motives are more for external validation and acceptance. The amazing thing is, the more we get our self-esteem from inside, the less we need externally and thus we can feel this off-balance or insincere motives as they crop up and keep them in check.

      Indeed, private victories are what helps us sleep at night. And for me it had to start simple, like making my bed or following through with something I said I was going to do… for myself mostly. It’s like making up some lie to someone if they ask you for something, I’m being defeated inside morally and spiritually to try and make them like me — or not hurt their feelings.

      No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
      Eleanor Roosevelt

      Thanks for your great contribution to this topic!

  4. Heather says

    In addition to the lack of choice and fear being sources for the dilemma of being stuck in self-pity and feeling sorry for ourselves – I would add lack of understanding.

    I have struggled for years to find this intangible thing we commonly called self esteem. Believing for some unknown reason it was something outside of myself that I had to go get. Like it’s sitting on a shelf at the store or something.

    Do this you will feel better and have “higher self esteem”. Do that and you will have “higher self esteem”. Get this – get that and you will have it! Isn’t that what the media says. One day at a time I was setting myself up to fail because I did not understand the dynamics of self esteem. The “good” feeling was brief and did not sustain itself for very long before I drifted off back into the pity party. Sometimes enjoying the pity party and justifying it.

    I mistakenly thought that ego was the same thing as self-esteem. It is not. Self-esteem is based on my inherent worth and strength as a human being – its in my core – my authentic self. Ego is based in my mind—what I think I am —not who I am at my core. I know I cannot think my way out of a problem I did not think my way into.

    I don’t really have high or low levels of self-esteem. I have either easy access or blocked access to that self-esteem. The same is true for love. Love doesn’t go away; it just gets blocked. It really is an inside job.

    I have mistakenly thought that once I achieve easy access to my self-esteem, it is mine for good. In actuality, self-esteem, much like physical fitness, has to be continuously and consciously maintained.

    Consider a child – they run and play, laugh, take risks, fall down, get hurt, cry, get back up and run around some more. All they do is an authentic expression of who they are. When you consider the qualities of someone with high self-esteem, they are similar: confident, risk-taking, adventurous, authentic, eager to learn, happy, loving, lovable, etc. The live life from their core – their authentic self. Children don’t know any different – they haven’t been “trained” yet.

    That was before – before important people in my life – parents, relatives, siblings, friends, teachers—through both their words and their actions give me negative input that impacted my access to my self-esteem. I would take in these experiences as information about who I was and what I was worth. From there, I began to form beliefs that defined me. The ego chose to believe those outside sources thus blocking my access to my self esteem. I was no longer living an authentic life but living a lie my ego believed to be true.

    I took those life experiences and begin to turning them into limiting beliefs, and mistakenly begin to believe that who I am is someone limited, fearful, undeserving, reserved, incapable, dependent, jealous, possessive, and weak, instead of who I really am at my core: someone powerful, abundant, capable, friendly, energetic, creative, imaginative, expressive, authentic, and loving.

    Today I realize that these are simply beliefs—who I think I am —that are only true as long as I believe them, and they only stay alive as long as I feed them.

    When there is a difference between who you really are at your core and how you are showing up (your ego), your self-esteem suffers—and so do your relationships. When you understand the difference between self esteem and ego and the realization that your self esteem has been there all along – just your access to it has been blocked by the ego – you can then and only then start working through the fear and the false belief that you have lack of choice to get to the other side.

    “If I ever go looking for my hearts desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Cause if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Dorothy – The Wizard of Oz.

    My recommendation for accessing your self esteem? Tell your ego to take a hike and go out and play.

    • Jared says

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments! You know, I’ve always been a real “ego vs authentic self” person and believe my ego wants me dead… but really enjoyed your statement about the difference between ego and self-esteem: “Self-esteem is based on my inherent worth and strength as a human being – its in my core – my authentic self. Ego is based in my mind—what I think I am —not who I am at my core.” I re-read that several times (which I do a lot when I realize something is important and I want to make sure I get it.)

      There’s so much you’ve written there I really don’t know where to start. Great stuff and so much I feel, live, and have experienced myself. I found that for years, as you, I was confusing what I was showing on the outside “ego” with what I was feeling on the inside. On the outside I showed confidence and high spirit but was lost on the inside. What I found in recovery and working hard towards discovering my true self, was that I really was that person I thought I could be inside. The fear for me, getting over low-self esteem and self-pity, was what happened if I found my true self and I still wasn’t happy? What happened if I became one with my core so to speak and realized that was all there was? It’s sort of hard to explain I guess unless you’ve never been through it. But it sounds like you do.

      It is the way you described, that my self-esteem and worth were always there, but it was my ego that was in charge. Which was based on outside sources; job, money, materialistic things, etc. It was like having a seed to a beautiful flower inside my heart and soul, knowing it had the possibility to grow into something glorious, authentic, and simple. Yet I looked for external sources to provide food and water for those things when the entire time I just need to shed all those false believes and start nurturing it from within. The result is a wonderful sense of truth with who I am. A greater sense of wrong and right, a moral and internal compass that guides me spiritually and in all areas of my life. Everything I need comes from within and experiences through others and the universe as opposed to external sources feeding me from the outside in.

      And OH yes! When my ego drives it definitely affects my relationships.

      Thanks again for leaving such wonderful comments.

  5. Kristen says

    My partner ended our relationship yesterday. I am heartbroken and shocked beyond belief. I have been lying in bed crying and not slept, self pity creeping in….. This morning an old friend called and told me she is losing her home due to the economy and it’s forcing a short sale. She needed to whip it into shape fast! She asked if I could come over and help her and I spent the day painting trim on her whole house(in 100 degree heat!!). It actually felt good to get out in the sun and do some hard physical labor and help a friend in the process. I thought about my girl and myself a lot less. I think that sounds like a wonderful book. This blog post is so timely for me, thank you.

    • Jared says

      Wow Kristen, thank you so much for sharing that story! That’s a GREAT example of taking some action to get outside of yourself and the morass of self-pity. Things in life happy around us, not to us.

      It reminds me of the post I wrote about how to remember today. Basically, years from now will you get more warmth and self-worth remembering the day you sat around crying or the day you spent helping a friend in need! Way to go!

      And you’re welcome. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I sincerely hope everything works out for you.

  6. Clau says

    Personally i loved this post because it reminded me of how much power we can give our negative thoughts when we give into self-pity. By sinking in it, we only minize ourselves even more, allowing us to dwell more into the pain or hurt. I have experienced this many times and are currently working very hard to let go of a lot of things that only “i” have given power to. No matter how we are hurt or how our past has been, i know that i can rise above it all. The answer is withing me…
    Thank you so much for all that you write…it helps me inmensely!

    • Jared says

      Thank you for reminding us all that we do have power over more than we think. Self-pity often comes from the feeling of powerlessness. A feeling that, if we choose and take action, we can decide to overcome and move past. And you’re welcome and thank you for the kind words. You help me as well.

  7. Jo says

    Hi from me, I’m paradoxically sitting here reading this when I should be doing something else. There’s a lot of that going on lately. But the ‘should’ word isn’t particularly helpful either. Much better just to shake yourself a little, take a deep breath, stand up and move away from the screen and do something else. Take a walk round the garden, play with the dog, bake some bread and pay attention to the details of what you are doing, listen to the dog, feel the grass under your feet, the changes in the state of the dough as you knead it, I don’t try to banish the thoughts and the self pity, they just get stronger if I give them that sort of kudos, but they sort of diminish and become less absorbing if you engage your senses in something else. So having said that, I’m going down to the kitchen now to feed my levain.

    • Jared says

      Awesome suggestion and exercise in moving past a negative (seemingly) moment. I have to say kudos of course to the part of you that decided to sit there and read this… Thanks! As you say, ‘should’ isn’t that helpful either, intentions vs action! Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

  8. Jo says

    Ooh I sounded twitchy earlier. Sorry! This was a lovely posting and I didn’t say that…thank you for your kind words Jared, and to all the other people who commented on your original post who make this so interesting to read – thank you too!

  9. says


    Right now I see so much information on your sight I feel overwhelmed. The thing is that at 46 years old I am a very messed up person. I do not have any alcohol or drug addictions, but hide behind resentment, self loathing, fear and the medical conditions I am dealing with. What I have read so far makes complete sense and makes me think this is the path I need to start on. Where to start…I have no clue. I do not attend church (I was baptized Catholic), but have many issues with the politics of the church. I truly believe in God but have not been one with him for a very long time. I do not like to look in the mirror at myself and really have no idea who I am anymore, or if I really every knew. I have always lived to please others and have never really looked within or figured out what it is Rhonda wants out of life. I want to find out what I am made of and where I am headed here on earth.


    • Jared says

      Thanks for sharing your comments. I understand how you feel. Always living to please others in a sense that will bring joy and happiness to you. Those are good qualities to have however, wanting to please others. Yet looking outside ourselves for meaning and happiness seems to never truly bring us what we desperately need – self love. Something simple to think about is how you treat dear friends or loved ones, and then ask if you treat yourself the same way. Knowing who we truly are takes time, but it sounds as if you’re ready to start the journey. Remember to be patient and empathetic towards yourself. Good luck to you.

  10. SKKChalla says

    Dear Sir,
    You are right .
    1) It makes a difference if one can think differently .Self pity and Low Self Esteem are the only two enemies brewing in a Human Mind.Lucky is the one who can realize that they exist in us .Till such time one reads the above article , perhaps one may not know the truth of existence of the silent killer inside a human mind.
    2) It is exactly what the Lord Krishna unveils in the Holy Bhagavad Geetha few thousands of years ago .It is a reflection of what exactly happens in a human mind any time .
    3) Following saying caught my attention today .
    “I have been receiving your e-mails for a while now and just want to let you know that your words are like a balm for my soul.” – Antonia, Naples Italy
    4) No trouble on the earth is bigger than that was faced by those buried alive under lava from volcano in Naples as can be seen from following link by Wikipedia
    SKK Challa

    • jared says

      SKK Challa,
      Thanks for the comments. The human mind is indeed capable of many things – making us enemies as well as setting us free. Wow, I was reading the link you submitted to the Wikipedia page about Mount Vesuvius, “the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.” Thanks.

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