You Don’t Need Nor Want Other People’s Pity

Feb 10, 2015 by

          At the gym last week, I heard two women talking about their eating habits. One mentioned that she doesn’t eat bread unless she’s at a restaurant. She then went on to say that other people typically respond to this with pity. They feel sorry for her because she eats healthy.

          “Don’t pity me!” she exclaimed out of frustration, as if her critics were standing right there in front of her.

          If I wasn’t in the middle of a set, I would have ran to high-five her.

          Only days before, in the context of talk about saving money, a friend of mine supposed people often comment on my adamancy to park for free.

          “Oh my God, yes!” I confirmed in retroactive annoyance at my peanut gallery.

          My friend compared this to being ridiculed for healthy eating.

          “Yes, that’s a great comparison! I get comments about the way I eat too!” I said while rolling my eyes. “I don’t understand why people care. Where I park or what I eat does not affect them.”

          It was the woman at the gym, though, who really got at the source of my irritation. Though I’ve never understood why some people are overly concerned with the habits and life choices of others, especially those whose choices do not directly impact them, it is not the comments themselves that bother me. Usually, comments on my behaviours are made jokingly, and I love when my quirks make people laugh. What does bother me, however, is the tone of pity that accompanies some comments. I don’t need nor want other people’s pity. I act based on what makes me happy, which is different from what makes other people happy, because happiness is self-defined. The reality that what makes one person happy does not make everyone happy should not subject someone to pity.

          In addition to frugality and commitment to wellness, a good example of pity when pity is not due is solo travel. When you tell people you’re going to Paris, they get excited for you. When you tell people you’re going to Paris solo, depending on the person, sometimes that excitement gives way to condolence. It’s obvious by the switch to a sympathetic tone and the follow-up questions like: Why don’t you ask [insert random person here] to go with you? Why don’t you sign up for a tour? Why didn’t you tell me? We could have gone together so you wouldn’t have to go alone.

          Laughing out loud was my reaction to all of this, especially the notion that I “had to” go alone. I didn’t “have to” go to Paris solo. I wanted to. I didn’t ask people to go with me, I didn’t sign up for a tour, and I didn’t tell anyone to start saving for a Euro trip, because that trip was intended to be my adventure. I wanted to do it by myself. Many people don’t share in the desire to travel solo, and some of those people can’t conceive why anyone else would want to. Hence, some jumped from excitement to sympathy, albeit unnecessary.

          Like I said, I don’t need nor want other people’s pity. Neither do you. Pity implies hardship or misfortune. Pity suggests that there’s reason for people to feel sorry for you, even when there’s not. Engaging other people’s pity makes you susceptible to their negative notions surrounding your choices. Don’t humour it. Instead, counter pity with confidence and positivity. Although the idea that some people feel the need to pity the choices I make to save money, eat well and work out, and venture solo annoys me, I find it easy to brush off, because I don’t feel sorry for myself. These behaviours are in agreement with my values surrounding financial responsibility, health and fitness, and independence, so I’m too proud of them to let others reduce them to causes for pity. I take satisfaction in knowing that I make choices based on my own principles and my own definition of happiness. I hope you can say the same.

Happiness Tip: Don’t entertain other people’s pity.

 
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