IN answer to Monday’s question:

Self Pity.

If you ever indulge in feeling sorry for yourself:  Don’t.  It’s a killer.  There’s almost no surer way to stymie your personal growth and your potential for happiness than by pitying yourself.  Self-pity is the emotion that you feel when you face perceived unjust adversity and you don’t feel confident or able to deal with it.  You think you’re a victim, but you’re probably not.  And if, by chance you are a victim, it’s time to fight, not wallow.

Here’s the thing:  You can deal with anything.  When bad things happen, accept.  Grieve if it’s justified, make a new plan, then get back on that horse and ride.

Hellen-Keller-QuoteTo be clear, being sad is okay.  If you’ve lost some value, be it material, or, far worse, spiritual, a sense of loss is natural and good.  Giving yourself time to experience the pain of loss is the first step to overcoming loss, and is essential.

Self-pity though, when you wallow in the pain, tell yourself things like “why me?”, or “it’s not my fault” or “it’s not fair”, and, worst of all, display your sorrow in an effort to elicit sympathy from others, is base.

And I’m not talking only about big things.  In fact, habitual self-pitiers do it most for little things.  The “hissy-fit”, the sarcastic barb, the “silent treatment” are all tell-tale signs of a person feeling sorry for themselves and looking for others to console them.  Others just suffer in silence, but at best they’re moody, and bring down the morale of those around them.

Self Pity Hellen KellerGood leaders just don’t do it.  When misfortune strikes, frustrations arise, or roadblocks are encountered, they make time to deal with the hurt (or – the best of them – if there’s no time, put off pain until there’s time to feel it), then take stock, chart a new course, and move.

If you’re an organizational leader, you most likely have at least one self-pitier in your team.

Those who try to leverage their own suffering (whether the suffering is justified or just manufactured “victim-hood”), are guilty of emotional black mail.  They are emotional bullies.  And the only way to deal with a bully is to call them out.  Give them a wake-up call.

Here’s an example.  When I was a young manager I headed-up a project that kept me in overdrive for several weeks.  Nearing completion, after several 16-hour days, I was frazzled.  I was proud of the work, a bit over-protective, and was feeling under-appreciated.  I needed a tickle under the chin, but, not getting it, was behaving a little snarky, sarcastic, rude, unapproachable.  To my ever-lasting regret, I was indulging in emotional blackmail; sub-consciously hoping my petulance would elicit the praise I felt I deserved.  In short, I was sulking.  My boss, in a quiet moment, took me aside, and firmly told me to stop behaving like a prat.  Everyone knew the work was good, he told me, but we’re all busy, so just get through, take some time off, and reward will come.  It worked wonders, and I learned a valuable and lasting leadership lesson.

Image: @lbyper CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Leadership, success, and happiness require self-esteem, and one of the prerequisites for self-esteem is having a self worth liking.  Nobody likes a sook.