In today’s video, I want to talk about what I believe to be the least useful human emotion (and what you can do to transcend it).

Read on or watch below to learn more about retroactive jealousy and self-pity.

Zachary Stockill: In today’s video, I want to talk about what I believe to be the most useless human emotion: self-pity, its relation to retroactive jealousy, and what you can do to change it. 

I think any retroactive jealousy sufferer in particular is going to want to see today’s video. 

The most useless human emotion is self-pity. 

Because self-pity leads to inaction. It’s repulsive to other people. And no matter what challenge you’re facing in your life, I believe self-pity is always the wrong choice.

By the way, needless to say, I’ve had moments in my own life when I was inclined towards self-pity. It’s a pretty universal human emotion from time to time. 

We’re all drawn towards self-pity during certain challenging moments of our lives. I’m certainly not above that in any way.

But I want to record this video today and talk about this subject in particular because I see traces of self-pity in many members of my audience. I read between the lines of a lot of very lengthy YouTube comments and emails I receive.

I know that a lot of people watching this video right now, for example, are doing themselves and the people around them a disservice by indulging in self-pity, perhaps to a dangerous, counterproductive extent if you want to move past a challenge like retroactive jealousy (i.e. unwanted intrusive thoughts, obsessive curiosity, and mental movies about your partner’s past).

If you want to move past a challenge, like retroactive jealousy or any other challenge in your life, indulging in self-pity is not going to help you out. In fact, it’s going to make overcoming that challenge much, much harder, because as I mentioned, self-pity leads to inaction. 

Self-pity and retroactive jealousy will drown you if you let it take over your life. 

Another reason self-pity is what I believe to be the most useless human emotion is that it acts as an excuse for inaction and hopelessness.

f you’re indulging in self-pity, if you’re wallowing in pain, or you think nothing can ever change, you’re kind of giving yourself permission to not take any action. You’re going to waste weeks, months, or even years of your life using that as an excuse.

Once you take action, that will make you start feeling better, rather than the other way around, necessarily. So you can’t wait for your feelings to “change” before you take action; it doesn’t work that way.

I also wanted to mention that self-pity is repulsive to other people, at least to people who aren’t inclined towards self-pity. What do I mean by that? 

You’ve probably heard the expression “misery loves company.”

Self-pity also loves company. If there’s one particular friend in a group who’s particularly inclined towards self-pity, you can bet your bottom dollar that the majority of the other friends in that friend group are similarly inclined towards self-pity.

Alternatively, people who try to fight their own self-pitying instincts are drawn to other people trying to fight their self-pitying instincts. 

You want to be around people who fight this inclination towards self-pity in themselves, regardless of any challenges they’re facing in their life.

You want to bring in people in your life who are proactive, who are more positive, who are more upbeat. People who are that way don’t want to be around other people who are inclined towards self-pity, and who let self-pity take over their lives. 

If you want to start moving past self-pity, I wanted to mention a few exercises. 

The number one exercise I would have for you is to try to get clear on exactly what function self-pity is serving in your life.

Ask yourself what you’re getting out of this inaction. Ask yourself what you’re getting out of this behavior.

Because if there’s any behavior in your life that you’re trying to change, and you are feeling stuck, a good starting point is always to ask yourself: what is the benefit that I’m getting out of this behavior? 

If there were zero benefits associated with this behavior, you wouldn’t be engaging in it. Because human beings are motivated by incentives.

So you’re getting some kind of incentive or benefit as a result of your self-pity. And the more clear you can get on exactly what you’re getting out of that self-pity, the more likely it is you are going to be able to change it moving forward.

If I am honest with myself, during moments when I’ve been overwhelmed by self-pity, I think the biggest benefit I’ve got out of it is it serves as an excuse for inaction. “I don’t feel like taking a walk, I don’t feel like changing my diet, I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I don’t feel like recording this video, I’m not in the mood…”

It acts as an excuse to get to stay where you are. Keeps you safe in your little self-imposed shell of victimhood. 

And it’s almost comforting, in a sense, to identify as a victim.

I’ve noticed that quality in myself in my younger years, during certain challenging periods. So for me, that’s the benefit that I got out of self-pity. You can ask yourself the same question. And be brutally honest with yourself when you respond.

The other two antidotes to self-pity and retroactive jealousy, the way out of a victim mentality, are twofold…

retroactive jealousy and self-pity

Number one, always be taking action. Always.

This isn’t some empty platitude. Even if you’re not exactly sure what the right action you should take is, try something to create some kind of positive forward momentum.

Even if it’s small, this will lead to more positive momentum, and this will lead to more good things happening. But it all depends on taking that first step. So always be taking action. Always bring the focus back to what is within your sphere of influence, your sphere of control. Focus on that, and take active steps based on that. 

And the second antidote to self-pity or a victim mentality is practicing gratitude. Every single person watching this video has something to be grateful for. If you are alive in the 21st century with the means and the technology at your disposal to be watching a video like this, you have many things to be grateful for. 

If you want a very simple gratitude practice, I would encourage you to start every morning by writing down three things you’re grateful for, big or small.

I’ve done this for years off and on. It’s a great practice.

Start your day with some kind of recognition of all the gifts you have in your life. For example, if you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, which is unwanted intrusive thoughts about your partner’s past relationships/sexual history…

If you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, guess what? You have someone you care about in your life.

There are millions of people around the world who would kill to have someone special in their life, and they don’t. So that’s an example of being grateful for something even though there’s a certain challenge associated with it.

When my mother died almost six years ago, I had an inclination towards self-pity. And I felt like a victim and I thought about all these other people: why is their mother still alive? Why are their parents still alive and mine’s not?

And I was going down that victim rabbit hole. Things really started to change for me when I started practicing gratitude. I had a wonderful mother in my life for 20-something years. And I started realizing that many people in the world never had that; they never had a positive maternal figure. 

I did for 20-something years. What a lucky guy I am.

This is just an example. I’m just trying to get you thinking about your own examples.

That’s kind of the two-part path toward overcoming self-pity and retroactive jealousy.

Overcoming a victim mentality. 

Always be taking action, always focusing on what’s within your sphere of influence, and taking action based on that. And number two, always be practicing gratitude.

If you are currently struggling with retroactive jealousy, you can click here to sign up for a free four-part mini-course that will help you get started. Or, if you need more help, then you can consider signing up for one-on-one coaching with me. [Subject to availability]

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.