Adulting: You can always feel it. You usually shouldn’t act on it.
Self-pity isn’t really a thought, it’s an emotion. And while life would be a lot simpler if we could just elect not to have a given feeling, emotions just sort of are. They are mental weather. Some are better; some are worse, but they’re all temporary and you’d usually do well to put on a scarf if it’s cold out.
But there’s a difference between feeling sad/bad/mad and feeling self-pity. Self-pity implies that you don’t deserve whatever is happening to you … which, of course, you probably don’t.
The things that make us really sad are not usually consequences of things we’ve done. The passage of time, desire for a life that is outside one’s ability to obtain, unrequited love — these things happen to all of us, and none of us “deserve” them. In this way, feeling self-pity about a given situation is not a lot more meaningful than feeling angry that you can’t breathe underwater. It would be so fucking great if we could! But we can’t.
The New Yorker, January 14, 2013