9 Ways Mentally-Strong People Prevent Self-Pity From Becoming Self-Destructive

05/18/2015 08:25 am ET | Updated May 18, 2016

Whether you've been dumped by your partner, or you're facing a financial crisis, throwing a pity party won't help. In fact, feeling sorry for yourself can become downright self-destructive. It makes overcoming adversity difficult -- if not impossible -- and it keeps you stuck.

Mentally-strong people refuse to allow self-pity to sabotage their success. Instead, they use life's inevitable hardships as a way to grow stronger and become better. Here's how mentally-strong people avoid the self-pity trap:

1. They Face Their Feelings

Mentally-strong people allow themselves to experience emotions like grief, disappointment, and loneliness head on. They don't distract themselves from uncomfortable emotions by questioning whether their problems are fair, or by convincing themselves they've suffered more than those around them. They know the best way to deal with discomfort is to just get through it.

2. They Recognize Warning Signs of the Downward Spiral

When you focus on everything that is going wrong in your life, your thoughts become exaggeratedly negative. And those negative thoughts will negatively affect your behavior if you dwell on them. The combination of negative thinking and inactivity fuels further feelings of self-pity. Mentally strong people recognize when they're at risk of becoming caught in this downward spiral and they take action to prevent themselves from living a pitiful life.

3. They Question Their Perceptions

Our emotional state influences how we perceive reality. When you're feeling sorry for yourself, you're likely to focus on the bad things going on in your life, while overlooking the good. Mentally strong people question whether their thoughts represent reality.

They ask themselves questions like, "Is my luck always bad?" or "Is my entire life really ruined?" Asking themselves these types of questions allows them to recognize when they're outlook isn't realistic. This allows them to create a more realistic perception of their situation.

4. They Turn their Negative Thoughts into Behavioral Experiments

Mentally strong people don't allow their negative thinking to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, when they find themselves thinking things like, "I could never put on a presentation as good as this one," they respond by saying, "Challenge accepted!" They perform behavioral experiments to prove their negative thinking wrong.

5. They Reserve their Resources for Productive Activities

Every minute you spend hosting your own pity party is 60 seconds you delay working on a solution. Mentally strong people refuse to waste their precious time and energy dwelling on their misery. Instead, they devote their finite resources to productive activities that can improve their situation.

6. They Practice Gratitude

It's impossible to feel self-pity and gratitude at the same time. While self-pity is about thinking, "I deserve better," gratitude is about thinking, "I have more than I need." Mentally strong people recognize all that they have to be grateful for in life -- right down to the fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink.

7. They Help Other People

It's hard to feel sorry for your problems when you're helping those who are less fortunate. Problems like demanding customers or declining sales don't seem so bad when you're reminded that there are people who lack food and shelter. Rather than ruminate on their own inconveniences, mentally strong people strive to improve the lives of others.

8. They Refuse to Complain

Venting to other people about the magnitude of your problems fuels feelings of self-pity. Mentally strong people don't try to gain sympathy from others by complaining about their difficult circumstances. Instead, they either take action to make things better, or they accept the situations that they can't change.

9. They Maintain an Optimistic Outlook

Some of life's problems can't be prevented nor solved. The loss of loved ones, natural disasters, and certain health conditions are problems that most people will face at one time or another. Mentally strong people keep an optimistic outlook about their ability to handle whatever life throws their way.

Build Mental Strength

Developing mental strength is similar to building physical strength. If you wanted to become physically strong you'd need good habits -- like lifting weights. But you'd also need to get rid of bad habits, like eating too many sweets. Developing mental strength requires good habits -- and it also requires you to give up destructive habits, like self-pity.

Everyone has the ability to build mental strength. By developing an increased ability to regulate your thoughts, manage your emotions and behave productively despite your circumstances, you'll grow stronger and become better.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.