Are You Addicted to Self-Pity?

Simply defined, addiction is a powerful, life-altering dependence on something. It could be alcohol, narcotics, porn, gambling, or anything under the sun.

When my anxiety was at its worst, I suffered from an addiction that very few people will admit to: an addiction to self-pity. Feeling sorry for myself became my survival mechanism.

Every addiction provides satisfaction in one way or another. Typically, that satisfaction is accompanied by guilt and regret. We know it’s not healthy for us, but the satisfaction outweighs the suffering, in our minds.

In my case, I derived my satisfaction from lowered expectations. It was comforting to not feel the pressure to accomplish anything. I would rationalize my lack of motivation by using my anxiety as a crutch. How could I possibly be expected to do anything while I have an anxiety disorder? It was much easier to remain in my comfort zone of self-pity.

I thank God every day that I was able to heal and recover from that destructive mindset.

I had an experience recently, that took me back down self-pity memory lane.

I scheduled and marketed an anxiety workshop to be my first venture after my retirement from the golf industry. I wrote an hour long speech about how I overcame anxiety, and rehearsed it every day for over two months. I knew the speech like the back of my hand. I couldn’t wait to get on stage and help people with my story.

In the days leading up to the event, I was contacted by about a dozen people who didn’t RSVP, but told me that they would do their best to attend the workshop. I was optimistic for a nice turn out.

When I arrived at the venue, my bubble was quickly busted by the reality of a completely empty room. I tried to stay upbeat, but I was beyond disappointed.

Eventually, a few friends came by to support me. One of them was nice enough to drive for over an hour to record the speech.

In an attempt to make the best of the situation, I decided to do the speech anyway, and use the video footage for a speaker reel.

I began with the first five words of the speech, and then my brain completely froze. The speech that I rehearsed for 65 days, and knew like the back of my hand, was nowhere to be found. I quickly left the stage, and said, “I can’t do it!”

My friends convinced me to “tough it out,” so I did. I managed to force my way through it. It was nothing short of horrifying. My body language was awful. I stuttered, stammered, and fidgeted my way through it. I felt like I was doing an impression of Reverend Jim, from Taxi.

At the conclusion, my friends complimented me on my ability to work through my fear. Even though I was grateful for the support, it didn’t feel like much of a consolation prize, at that very moment. My inner Chris Rock told me that I didn’t deserve credit for doing something that I was supposed to do. An anxiety coach who expects a pat on the back for overcoming fear, is like a parent bragging about taking care of his kids. Cue Chris Rock: “Whattaya want, a cookie!?!”

I went home that night, and threw myself a party. A pity party, to be precise. In fact, it was the granddaddy of all pity parties. For the next 12 hours, I wallowed in my embarrassment. I wallowed in my failure.

I was comforted by my self-pity, just like I was all those years ago, when my anxiety kept me housebound.

I reached out to another coach in my field, for advice. I told her about my confusion. And asked her how I could possibly have stage fright for the first time in twenty years.

It just didn’t add up. I had been speaking in front of 20-30 people once a month, for three years, in my speaking group. I had spoken at churches, banquets, and conferences, in front of as many as 75 people. I had a blast every time. Before each speech, I had nothing more than the typical butterflies that every speaker feels before going on stage. Why in the world am I having these nervous feelings, all of a sudden?

“Of course, you were thrown off your game,” she said. “You arrived with an expectation of how things would be, and were disappointed when those expectations weren’t met.” She continued, “The same thing happened to me, at an event. My brain froze. But I learned from the experience. I went to my next event with no expectations, and it was a huge success.” Wow! That was exactly what I needed to hear. Pity party over. I informed my self-pity that it didn’t have to go home, but it had to get the hell outta here.

An addiction can be a horrible thing. But it can also be a beautiful thing. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have several addictions. In fact, I’m pretty proud of them.

I indeed, affirm that I AM:

Addicted to optimism.

Addicted to gratitude.

Addicted to kindness.

Addicted to personal development.

Addicted to helping people become the best version of themselves.

When I met with my speaking group for the first time, after my workshop debacle, I used my five minute speech to tell them what happened.

I was shocked when everyone took a vote, and unanimously agreed to stay an extra hour for me to perform my speech again.

I was overwhelmed by the gesture. I proceeded to deliver my speech the way it was meant to be delivered. The words flowed. I could feel the connection. I could see that some of them were deeply moved.

When I finished, they gave me a standing ovation. I could definitely become addicted to that.