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Self-pity: Wikis


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Self-pity is the psychological state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have the confidence nor ability to cope with it. It is characterized by a person's belief that he or she is the victim of events and is therefore deserving of condolence. Self-pity is generally regarded as a negative emotion in that it does not generally help deal with adverse situations. However, in a social context, it may result in either the offering of sympathy or advice. Self-pity may be considered normal, and in certain circumstances healthy, so long as it is transitory and leads to either acceptance or a determination to change the situation.



Anorexia Nervosa by Dr Mohamed Osman

Self-pity can be remarkably self-sustaining particularly in conjunction with depression or other conditions. For example: a child at school feels badly because they see others as more social or outgoing. If the child does not take action by attempting to get to know others despite potential negative consequences (such as rejection) then they may continue to feel alone, and their feelings of self-pity will be sustained. Self-pity is a way of paying attention to oneself, albeit negatively; it is a means self-soothing or self-nurturing ("I hurt so much").

Social-Learning theorists purport that self-pity is a method for gaining attention, probably as a child, where an individual received attention, support, and nurturing while being sick or hurt. The child then grows up having learned to give attention to oneself (or ask for attention from others) while in real or dramatized distress to receive the same payoff. Thus, another form of self-sustainment can be sympathy offered by others: "oh, you poor thing." This is particularly true of individuals who exhibit sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies[citation needed] and rely on the sympathy offered by others as a means to manipulate.


The nature and depth of human pride are illuminated by comparing boasting with self-pity. Both are manifestations of pride. Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, “I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much.” Self-pity says, “I deserve admiration because I have sacrificed so much.” Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak. Boasting sounds self-sufficient. Self-pity sounds self-sacrificing.

The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego, and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but as heroes. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride.[1]

In fiction, film, and music

"Self-Pity" is also the title of a short poem by D. H. Lawrence. [1] The poem was prominently cited by Viggo Mortensen's character in the film G.I. Jane. It is also a song by American hardcore punk band AFI, from their album Answer That and Stay Fashionable.

"Selfpity" a feature film by Dutch Cyrus Frisch (1993)


  1. ^ Piper, John Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Multnomah, 1986; 2nd edition, 1996, 3rd edition, 2003

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