There is a well-known and universally accepted saying, “Failures are the stepping stones to success.” As the saying goes, we should treat every setback as a learning opportunity. We must try not to repeat our mistakes, anticipate hurdles at every step and plan measures to overcome them. This is what we are taught in every business school, every seminar on achieving success etc. Many of us live by these rules too. But, after every failure and before the next attempt to succeed, there is a phase of self-pity. All of us encounter this phase. Wise people and pragmatic leaders ignore this sentiment; they push it aside and rise above it. The rest of us falter at this step. We hang onto self-pity though we succeed in our next attempt. This is what separates the leaders from the regular people.

To understand how to rise above self-pity, we have to understand how it works. Self-pity means to pity one’s troubles and life situations. Every time we encounter any difficulty, it is natural for us to feel bad for ourselves. We usually curse our fate as to why all bad things happen to us. But eventually, we all realize where we went wrong in our attempts and rectify our mistakes. We try again by executing a better plan etc. Eventually, we let go of the failure and get busy with our next moves. The problem starts when we do not let go of the past and keep recalling all our ordeals at every step of the way. We forget to enjoy the present and get stuck in the past. Despite recovering all losses from the failure, we refuse to let the memories and the pain fade away. This is when the situation becomes dangerous. It does not matter how successful we get or how comfortable our life becomes, we continue to complain about all the pain and humiliation over and over again. Slowly but surely, we get stuck in a vortex of negativity which starts to influence our quality of life and performance.

Initially, the feeling might seem natural and harmless. However, the more you indulge in it the sadder you get. All the old hurdles will appear higher than they were; the chains will feel stronger than they were. We might defend self-pity as nostalgia or simply remembering where we came from. That is not true in all cases.

Another danger of self-pity is the diminishing worth of struggles. Where our struggles were praised initially, upon constant reminding, people get bored with the same story. They start undermining the worth and start ridiculing the efforts. We run the risk of mocking our story. Self-pity soon becomes tiresome for those around us. The constant reminder becomes a shadow on all future attempts to succeed.

The best defence against falling into the trap of self-pity is to avoid it at all costs. We must accept all challenges as a natural outcome of the process, rather than as a conspiracy of fate. It is essential to accept the fact that everyone faces similar situations at some point in their life and that our troubles are not extraordinary.