Pain is inevitable. But misery is a choice

A few months ago I wrote why we shouldn’t feel sorry for people. It was the most shocking thing I’ve learned this year, but it makes perfect sense looking back.

Only recently it occurred to me that I should apply the same rule to myself first. Turns out this is much harder not to feel sorry for myself than for others. Who would have thought?

When I’m feeling down, my first instinct is to find someone to complain to, and commiserate in the horrible tragedy has happened to me. Please, show me that you care, and that you too think that the situation I found myself in is simply unacceptable. I keep doing this even when I know that having a shelter and plenty of food, health, money, and love in my life, the things that get me upset are a minor nuisance at most.

Still, even though I know that objectively speaking I have no reasons to complain, the part of me that feels sad wants to find validation for feeling sad. And whenever someone says, “Oh no! You poor creature… What a horrible tragedy has happened to you!”, it will grow tall and proud and wallow in misery. See? I told you, it says. This situation is just unacceptable. Everyone would feel miserable if they were in your shoes.

It takes a lot of gut to admit that wallowing in misery is a choice I make. This doesn’t mean that I should ignore my emotions, or try to suppress them.

Guilt, sadness, or anxiety come and go, for better or worse. There’s nothing I can do to make myself feel good all of the time. But if I treat myself like an adult person who is capable of handling whatever emotions come up, I can just let them be, without dramatic gestures or getting overwhelmed.

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