To begin with, it is the presence of “self” and that’s the problem. To compound issues of the ‘self’ with still greater negative output is to live in self-pity. The saddest words, either said or written, are “It might have been”.
It is the small rivulets and streams of regret(s) that each one of us allows to sprout from within ourselves, while being in career jobs, that later in life develop into mighty rivers that unleash upon our minds, floods of remorse, despair, depression and distress. We begin to pity ourselves. Self-pity is actually infliction of self punishment.
Perhaps less than one percent of those employed are satisfied with what they are doing. Most, however, are employed but dissatisfied. Such come to work every day. They perform to their best. Their supervisors are satisfied. But the individual is dissatisfied and not in mental peace and harmony, with himself. It is also true, that most staff engagement surveys are a major hog-wash, despite claims of neutrality, independence and the autonomous nature of the deployed mechanics, for its conduct. So, there is a “real gap” between performance and internal satisfaction.
Organisations are filled with employees, who crib, day in and day out of how their efforts are not adequately recognised, either by way of promotion or enhanced pay-check. They feel, they are ‘good’ but with no applause or recognition. Their heels are dug into the organisation, not because they are loyal, it is inertia, lethargy and fear of failure that keeps them from movement. This is a smoke screen for management to indulge itself, liberally with the thought that “loyalty” pervades in our institution. Nay, it is only the growing inventory of dead wood and future parasites. Work is different from job. And a job is different from career aspirations. If the job you do, doesn’t give you, “work that matters” to you, it is a classic case of being essentially “unemployed”. A job gives you a pay-check. Work gives you satisfaction.
A job may lead to a career. But even a successful career may not create “work” that gives peace and satisfaction for the inner-self. Check out the life of celebrities. In spite of success and ample material wealth, they are victims of depression; of being lonely and of being in need to be wanted. Successful careers are no guarantee for a tranquil life. A job is transactional in nature. The reward is made for the accomplishment of the tasks assigned. If you don’t do you task. You are fired. A career is almost akin, except that it is a longer lasting transaction, where parameters of performance are stretched over a longer period of time.
Work is divine. Work is worship only, when the element of trade-off, is expunged from it. The scribe here is not suggesting that a job or career should not be pursued. On the contrary, what should remain in focus is, will it give inner peace and satisfaction at the end of it all. I have seen from very close quarters, colleagues retiring, who otherwise despite successful careers, went away full of regrets. They could not achieve either contentment or satisfaction.
In all exit interviews or farewell meetings, what emerged predominantly was the indulgence towards ‘self-pity’. There are so many who are physically employed, for decades, but mentally disengaged, dissatisfied and “unemployed”. Perhaps, this reflects truly, the concept of disguised unemployment.
It is usually late in the day, when a person realises that in giving great life style to the family, he/she has lost on being a parent. The imbalance between work-life-family sets in elements of remorse. The lost time, usually cannot be regained.
I recall reading somewhere, that there may possibly be one in a million, who would have a lucrative job and self-fulfilment. The abstract endeavours rarely give a six figure emoluments; which poet, artist gets it; and contrastingly, the six figure salaried employee is seen rarely at the family’s dining table. These mishaps, of not fortune, but of personal choice, are reasons for the on-set of the curse of self-pity. These dwell upon the mind, with vengeance particularly, when the chips are down.
Observe, at your own workplace, when a colleague finds the environment unresponsive to his own perceived skills and abilities, he reacts. The reaction process is also over time. It is not sudden nor immediate.
Behavioural changes happen over time scales. The reaction starts from demonstration of egotistical tendencies; converting into being ego-centric and leading up to making one-self, ego-maniac. When all such traits fail to drum up favourable response, arrogance sets in; and arrogance by its inherent quality, causes the downfall of even the best; landing the individual into the dungeons of self pity.
Pity is intolerable. And self-pity makes the weakness, weaker. An internally generated tear drop takes the longest to dry. If being pitied upon is distasteful, then surely, self pity is the first step towards suicidal tendencies. Those who grieve for their own selves are more prone towards such traits. Such colleagues you would notice suffer from panic-attacks, depression, anxiety, anger and also feelings of loneliness. Self pity depletes energy. It shuns from an individual’s personality the naturally endowed elements of confidence, talent, skills and abilities.
Self-pity comes so naturally to all of us, that the most solid happiness can be shaken by the compassion of a fool. Self pity is so pre-dominant upon our minds, that being tallest amongst the pygmies does not confer satisfaction to many. For the misfortune suffered on the ladder of hierarchy, the effort should be to look inwardly ie undertake introspection, not to be self-indulgent towards self-pity but to carve out strategy for the uplift and removal of the cause.
If the ‘self’ is managed with focus and attention, there is very little likelihood that such a person, would ever be a victim of ‘self pity’. Martin Luther King had remarked, “I am afraid of my own heart than the pope and all cardinals. I have within me the great Pope, self”. Now it is up to every person, to decide if the path of self pity is better than the struggle to rise over every single impediment that comes on the way.
Self-pity for the undone is more inconsolable than what sets in as a consequence of the work done. A corporate victim status, the self generates with great speed. Those who cannot reign in will usually end up as wild horses. Such make of themselves a spectacle of gloom and doom.
However, just because you have gone long on the wrong road, does nt mean, you cannot turn back. Only the wise and superior leader knows the merit of retreat. “Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean,” (Aldous Huxley).
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist