The Difference Between Self-Compassion and Self-Pity


Many of us are not compassionate with ourselves because we equate self-compassion with self-pity. Here’s the difference between the two of them. You no longer have to feel like you’re being self-indulgent when you are giving yourself the compassion that you deserve.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion (the Kabbalistic attribute of tiferet) is a merger of three emotional attributes: The free outpouring of love, plus self-discipline, plus the element of truth. In other words, appropriate self-compassion is a healthy dose of self-respect and love, combined with a healthy dose of productive self-critique, balanced out by seeing yourself honestly. When things go wrong, here is the emotional response of a person with healthy self-compassion: “I unconditionally respect myself, therefore I am not defined by this disagreeable situation. Nevertheless, I will be accountable and see where I contributed to the problem. I am not going to hate myself or feel bad for myself; instead I see clearly that I am fundamentally good, but that I need to rectify some things. I take action and don’t dwell on my problems. In the midst of all this, I am careful to take care of my spiritual and physical needs.”

What is self-pity?

Self-pity is feeling sorrow for one’s misfortunes and mistakes, and staying in that emotional place of misery for way too long. Self-pity can include either (or both) denial of one’s part in a problem, or (or and) obsessing over one’s shortcomings. Self-pity is narcissistic rather than productive. A good barometer for recognizing self-pity is asking yourself: “Can this feeling help me to transcend my problem, or do I feel stuck? Does it motivate me or does it demoralize me? Can I accept the past, learn from it, and move on? Or am I living in the past while worrying about the future? Do I feel like a victim?” Another sign of self-pity is indulging in one’s physical desires — eating the pint of ice cream in order to temporarily feel bliss — rather than tenderly, lovingly taking care of one’s health.

How to Transform Self-Pity to Self-Compassion

When you feel demoralized by self-pity, take a step back and evaluate what part of the problem is the result of others’ behavior or not in your control, and what part of the problem is your fault. Figure out what part of the problem you cannot change, and what part of the problem you can rectify. Then act. Take care of your spiritual and physical needs in a gentle way while you take action to repair whatever it is that you can change. Remember always that your soul is who you are, not your mistakes or misfortunes, and let the still, small voice of your soul lead the way.


Go deeper into this subject: The Key to Admitting Wrongs | Your Guide to Personal Freedom: Counting the Omer Week Three | Balance | MyLife: Chassidus Applied Episode 4 | Do You Know How to Empathize?

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5 years ago

Very well written!

4 years ago

I appreciate this post, it hits the nail on the head for me (including the offhand mention of physical overindulgence). I’ve been struggling with this false dichotomy of self-compassion and -pity for some time, never really being able to distinguish the two as clearly as you just let me see it. Thank you!

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