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Rights versus Rewards

In a recent post, Don’t Be Fooled By Pity, I wrote:

Self-pity is like fool’s gold. It attracts a lot of attention, but ultimately, you can’t cash it in. If you have plans to sit around feeling sorry for yourself, don’t expect a big payoff. No one has ever created a life of beauty or bliss through brooding and sulking. Pity has no power. Only self-determination has power.

In response to the above statement, a reader emailed me the following question (re-posted here with their permission):

But don’t I have the right to feel sorry for myself if that’s what I feel like doing?

I am reposting my answer to them as today’s blog post since I think it raises an important distinction between rights and rewards.

You absolutely have the right to feel sorry for yourself if that’s what you choose to do.

You also have the right to invest in Fool’s gold. That doesn’t make it a profitable deal.

The right to do something doesn’t mean it’s going to be rewarding.

Successful people don’t just think about the rights they have. They also think about the results they want.

I have the right to complain out loud about whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want, and to whomever I want.

If I exercise that right without discernment and discretion, however, it will not only have an adverse effect on my relationships with others, but it will significantly undermine my personal efforts to create the kinds of results that matter most to me.

There is very little need, in today’s world, for you to defend your right to feel sorry for yourself. As things now stand, no one is going to fine you or imprison you for being “guilty” of self-pity.

Your desires, goals, and dreams, on the other hand, are very much in need of defending. Because if you don’t fight for the things you really want, then the unharnessed forces of time, chance, and circumstance will rob you of every opportunity. This isn’t because the universe is evil and just waiting for the right moment to crush you. It’s because life is reciprocal and you never get more out of it than what you put into it.

I do not condemn any emotional state. Whatever you feel, in my humble opinion, is intrinsically valid. Dwelling in a state of self-pity isn’t wrong.

Just remember: unless feeling sorry for yourself is your ultimate goal, self-pity is not a rewarding long-term investment.



P.S. If you feel “stuck” in a state of self-pity and you want out, I encourage you to share this need with any trustworthy friends or family members who will listen. Talk to a professional (even if you can’t afford to hire them) and get their advice on how you can cope with your situation given the unique circumstances and conditions of your life.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Very good post—again.

    I think it becomes about habits. If you get
    in the habit of self-pity it can become defeating.
    If you get in the habit of problem-solving and
    solutions, that becomes rewarding. Your mind
    and emotions get busy with productive results.

    If I’m going to feel sorry for myself, I can find any
    number of life stories to jolt me out of it.

    Here’s one from today:

    1. Thanks Alana,

      You’re right on about habits. The encouraging thing about habit-building is that, if we’re willing to put in the work, it gets easier and easier and we can eventually ride the wave of positive momentum.

      And what a magnificent story. “buried with dignity.”

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