How the “Pity-Party Strategy” Can Get You Unstuck


After a rough week recently, it dawned on me I had sunk into self-pity. I could tell because I was obsessing about food. I “came to” standing in my kitchen with the discouraging thought, “Nothing I can eat will even touch this feeling.”

Then I teared up, shook my head at my grim reality, and sighed from deep down in my soul. Clearly, my inner Eeyore had taken over my body, mind, and spirit. To me, Eeyore is the embodiment of self-pity. Realizing it was upon me, I knew what I needed to do.

I called my friend Johanna and invited her to my pity party. Hear me out.

You may think self-pity is a bad thing, but I’ve come to believe self-pity isn’t a bad thing or a good thing. Self-pity is not to be judged. It’s meant to be welcomed. It’s an emotion to be felt and acknowledged.

When you notice you are stuck in self-pity, consider entertaining it for a while, with the idea that after the party it will be leaving. It may come back again, but it doesn’t live with you.

When you have a pity party, you can do so on your own, as a self-empathy practice, or you can invite people to your party to share the experience with you in a supportive and loving way. Be sure to stick with safe people who you are certain will participate wholeheartedly and without judgment.

How to Throw a “Pity Party”

Instructions for the Party Thrower

  1. Assess your situation. Spend some time in contemplation. Write down what has been going on in your life, consider recent upsetting events, things you have no control over, difficulties at work, problematic relationships, a behavior you’re engaged in that you don’t like. Put it all on paper so you can get perspective and tease out smaller things you may have forgotten. Research shows that “telling your story” through journaling is therapeutic and can dramatically improve your health and wellbeing.
  2. Identify what needs you have that you or another can fulfill.
  3. Decide on your guest list, or if you prefer, have a party of one. Choose where, when, and how long, and if you have invited a guest, communicate this information with them. (If you need to do this party on zoom, plan accordingly.)
  4. This is your pity party. Write down instructions for your guests. Give them your ground rules, tell them what you need to hear from them, ask them for things (such as a letter you can re-read anytime, in which your friend says something uplifting and encouraging), ask them to create a “letting go” ritual with you. Anything you need. Acknowledging and getting your needs met will help you release unwanted stress, get unstuck, and cross a threshold into more comforting territory.
  5. During your party, connect with yourself and/or others and use compassionate communication. Express empathy by hearing what’s said, repeating back what you heard, asking clarifying questions, and saying thank you.
  6. Thank any guests, and yourself, and let them know you’d be happy to attend a pity-party for them anytime.
  7. Respect your end time. When it’s time to be done, be done.

Instructions for the Guest(s)

  1. Accept the invitation only if you have the bandwidth and can be empathetic.
  2. Arrive on time and prepared.
  3. Listen deeply and with compassion.
  4. Avoid trying to fix the party thrower.
  5. Listen without evaluation or judgment. Make eye contact. Occasionally, repeat back to make sure you understand. Encourage the party thrower to share their thoughts and feelings. Ask only clarifying questions that repeat back their words, “What kind of ‘sad’?” “Is there anything else about ‘hurt your feelings’?”
  6. Remember the focus of the party is your suffering friend.
  7. Bring or send something. It’s nice to give the party thrower a gift or memento. Something connecting, comforting, or affirming.
  8. Leave at the appointed time, which keeps the party thrower from having to deal with you staying too long and keeps you from having to give more than you are comfortable giving.
  9. Send a thank you text. Throwing a self-pity party can feel vulnerable, tell your host you are grateful for her sharing this part of herself with you.
  10. Invite your host to a pity-party for yourself sometime :-).

I’m guessing many Small Bites readers will find the idea of holding a pity-party daunting or silly. The beauty of it is it teaches you how to be with yourself when you’re suffering. It teaches others how to support you. It gives concrete instructions so your intentions will be clear.

It is a healing experiment to learn what will help relieve your self-pity.

And here’s the thing. When you spend time doing this activity, you will process your difficult feelings, you will move through them instead of staying stuck in them. Whether you are reconnecting with and deeply listening to yourself, or someone else is doing that for you, the kindness of it all can bring hope and joy.

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From Katie Jay’s Small Bites newsletter. Subscribe and get your complimentary report: The 21 Most Common Mistakes People Make after Bariatric Surgery at © 2022, Katie Jay. All rights reserved.