“Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” ~Proverb
Glancing at the ceiling, I waited for the prick as the nurse began to draw blood from my vein.
My mother, patiently sitting in the chair next to my hospital bed, looked at me with comforting and hopeful eyes. This was not the way we had envisioned spending our Saturday.
My mom and stepdad had drove hours up from home for the first time to visit my college for parents’ weekend.
I had spent the past weeks planning activities and college shenanigans for my friends and our parents. My expectations were so real in my head. My mom throwing the winning beer pong toss, my stepdad shot-gunning a Natty in record timing, and me smiling with glee from the sides, like a parent watching their kid’s dance recital.
But here we were, in a hospital, waiting for test results, while my friends and their parents were having all the fun.
The doctor came in and said the four-letter word I was dreading: mono. Yes, I know mono isn’t the worst illness one could get and that other people have serious diseases and ailments, but I still couldn’t help feeling unfortunate.
It seemed that this entire semester of my senior year was filled with bad luck and misfortune.
I had just gotten out of a relationship with the person that made my world spin round, leaving constant, overwhelming loneliness.
I had spent the past months depressed about my current situation and anxious about the uncertain path my road would take after graduation. I walked around campus like a zombie, my white Dr. Dre Beats headphones drowning out the world around me.
And now mono was the icing on top of a broken, dry, and damaged cake.
I spent the next few days in my bed at home literally “sweating” out the disease. I’m not sure if it was the fever or the high quantity of sleeping and flu medications I was on, but I entered some sort of spiritual quest, I guess you could call it.
It was almost an Alice in Wonderland scenario that let me see my situation in a different light. And I realized my biggest issue is self-loathing and self-pity. Instead of finding ways to be happy, I was choosing to marinate in my minor misfortunes.
I spend the next days of recovery figuring out ways I was going to combat this and it led to this:
6 Ways to Triumph Over Self-Pity and Defeat Self-Loathing
1. Focus on others.
If you deal with self-pity like me, then one of your biggest problems is that you are probably over-thinking about yourself.
Dale Carnegie, in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, stresses the importance of attention to others, based on the idea that most people love to talk about themselves.
After reading his book, I decided to put his theory to the test. In my following conversations, I focused on other people’s lives instead of complaining about my own. I quickly learned that others have just as many problems as myself, and within time I found that people began to turn to me for advice and companionship.
Realizing my ability to bring people guidance brought me the happiness I needed to stop obsessing about my problems and focus on positive thoughts.
2. Find a hobby and make a goal.
Everyone is aware of mid-life crises, but in reality we go through crises at all stages in our lives. Regardless of how old you are, you might be stuck in a rut and feeling little purpose. Instead of getting down on yourself, shift your focus to something that will make you feel good about yourself, like pursuing a new hobby and a goal.
Find an activity that you like to do: swimming, painting, running, drawing, writing—anything! And more importantly, set a goal. This will give you something to look forward to down the road, like running in that local 5k or showcasing your artwork in a gallery.
You might find out you’re good at something you didn’t know you were good at before.
3. Explore what makes you happy, and do it.
Before I had this realization, I would spend my days frustrated and thwarted with the little things that would go wrong.
In a conversation with my sister, she gave me this simplistic advice that has resonated so deep with me. It takes a bit of inner reflection, but once you find what makes you happy, doing just that can be all you need to brush away the bad events of your day.
For me, eating a grapefruit in the morning makes me happy. I realize it might come across as humorous to think a citrus fruit could bring such power. However, there is something about waking up and preparing a grapefruit the same way my mother would when I was a child that provides me with nostalgic warmth that gets me through my days.
4. Remind yourself of your positive attributes.
Whether it’s before you go to bed or during your morning routine, tell yourself a list of things that you’re good at and what makes you a good person.
This can be one of the hardest things to accomplish. Our minds have been conditioned for years to remind us of the things we suck at and all the bad things that we have done in our lives. It takes time, but with effort you can train your brain to stop feasting on those negative thoughts and instead crave positive reflection.
This thinking isn’t conceited; it’s healthy. Like a well-balanced breakfast in the morning, these thoughts prepare your mind for a day of happiness.
5. Create a self to-do list.
When feeling overwhelmed with self-pity, draft a list of what’s going through your head. Once down on paper, these problems will appear much less daunting and catastrophic. However, if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, consider this list a “to-do” list for the self.
Taking one at a time, find ways and set dates to work on alleviating each problem. Some problems might take more than a day to solve, but knowing I spent part of my day working on myself keeps me feeling productive.
6. Force yourself to smile, and hug yourself.
This is the simplest trick in the book for lifting your spirits. Look into a mirror and simply smile. It might be hard, but smile, and within seconds the smile won’t be forced, but natural.
There is a connection in your brain between smiling and the release of certain neurotransmitters that promote happiness. This tip is just cheating the system!
A similar situation occurs with hugging. Close your eyes and wrap your arms around yourself tightly. It only takes about seven seconds to trick the mind and experience the comfort and security from hugging another.
These two tips are simple ways to get yourself out of bed in the morning and started with your day.
Life can get difficult and stressful, and we’re conditioned to think about ourselves, but taking the time to think of others and allowing our mind to capture the beauty in the world can make all the difference.
Instead of wanting everything to go right or a situation to be perfect, learn to dissect the present into beautiful little moments. With time and positive energy, there is always a way to escape from self-pity and self-loathing and see a more stunning universe.
Photo by Kara Harms