"Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself and You Will Be Happy." - Stephen Fry

I'm a big fan of Stephen Fry back from his Fry & Laurie days, I think ZenPencils.com is amazing, and obviously I'm obsessed with self-improvement theory.

So it was a perfect storm of awesome when I saw this. The comic game me frisson all over, but I think it's worth breaking down a little. Why is self-pity pretty much the worst thing ever and how can you stop pitying yourself?

Self-Pity is a One-Stop Trip to Nowhere


You want to be somebody and you hate yourself because you don't know how or you're too weak or whatever. You know you don't like yourself and you want it to stop. You're angry at the world that you're too stupid or fat or lazy to get what you want.

I'm trying to train myself to do one-handed push-ups but they're hard. I started doing them against a wall while standing up. That's easy, right? And sure enough, I could do it just fine. But it was easy, so I was hardly going to pat myself on the back for it. I tried doing them on a counter at chest height. Easy. I don't get any self-compliments for that either. I tried waist-high on a table. Not too easy, but not really difficult either. Finally today I tried knee height on a bench.

THEY WERE BRUTAL. I could do 2-3 reps before my body gave out and I lay on the ground coughing. And I hated myself for it. I've been training my chest and triceps for eight months now and I can't do more than a couple on a freakin' bench? I felt like I wasted all that time and effort. What was I doing? Why the heck was this so hard? Who could I blame? Hadn't I done everything I could? Maybe it was the wrong program. Maybe I should have used dumbbells instead of bodyweight. I thought I was a loser.

It was really overwhelming. My self-contempt spiraled into self-hate for other things, too. Why am I so awkward around girls? Why am I so full of fear all the time? Why do I procrastinate? Because I'm a loser, that's why. I'm hopeless and I shouldn't even try.

You see what can happen when you allow yourself even a little self-pity? I wanted to stop the program I'd been doing for eight months then and there.

Self-Pity is as Weak as it is Ugly


So, what to do about it? It's extremely simple:

Keep going.

Ignore the self-pitying thoughts in your head for a couple minutes and they'll go away. It's really that simple. I did two more sets of one-handed push-ups, a couple sets of dive bombers...and I felt like that man I know I am.

Exercise feels good in general, with endogenous analgesic and stimulant effects, but on a purely mental level, I proved to myself I wasn't a loser. A loser wouldn't keep going. A loser would have given up. Self-pity wants you to give up. That's it's source of power. You keep going and the negative thoughts shrivel up like so many trees in an Agent Orange shower.

So face your fears. Do what you don't think you can do. Run, push, climb, jump, scream, shout, dance, live your life. Anything you do is better than hating yourself for doing nothing at all. And when the self-pity inevitably returns, keep going.