How To Accept Compassion Without Feeling Like You're Being Pitied

To witness the suffering of others often invokes feelings of empathy in most people. We see their pain and challenging situations as part of the human experience and knowing that pain ourselves, we want to help and offer compassion. However, sometimes we may intend to be compassionate to someone in a difficult situation, but instead we are pitying them — which isn't a good feeling for the receiver. Sometimes, pity can even make us feel worse and prevent us from learning the lesson we were meant to learn from the challenge (via Chopra).


Compassion goes hand-in-hand with hope and receiving compassion often strengthens us to find our way out of a problem. In contrast, pity doesn't leave much room for hope or growth. Actually, being pitied often makes us feel as if we are doomed to continue living a hard fate (via Psychology Spot). The difference between the two can obviously be confusing, whether you're on the giving or receiving end. Let's take a closer look at how to accept compassion without feeling like you're being pitied.

Assert your dignity

If a well-meaning friend or acquaintance is unaware that they are offering you pity rather than compassion, it's important to remember that you write your own story and to politely remind them of this. Typically, those who offer pity to others rather than compassion haven't reconciled with themselves the uncomfortable truth that any human can suddenly find themselves in hardship and pain, per The School of Life.


Remind yourself that you are a powerful individual facing temporary difficulty, not a victim of life, and while it isn't your duty to convince anyone of this, knowing it within yourself will help gently get the point across. If you can, remember that it's possible that there is, in fact, some degree of compassion enmeshed with the pity you've been offered. But ultimately, it isn't your responsibility to explain the difference to anyone and keeping in place healthy boundaries is key to protecting your energy.

Accept help from others

One way you'll know someone is offering compassion rather than pity is that they want to actively help you out of your difficult situation, according to Exploring Your Mind. If a friend or family member has offered to help you move into an improved housing situation or wants to help you write a strong resume to apply for work after losing employment, then they don't pity you. They may have been there themselves or simply care for you deeply and want to help you return to a state of empowerment. As tricky as it may feel to accept help, know that you aren't reinforcing any victimhood by doing so. You are accepting compassion.


Psychology Spot further explains that pity stems from fear, while compassion is related to love and the genuine desire to want to help someone through a tough time. If you feel that people are offering real support and not judging you for your misfortunes, it's okay to accept the love you are given.

Offer yourself compassion, not pity

It's far easier to accept compassion from others if we are being compassionate towards ourselves. If you're stuck in a loop of self-pity, then others will naturally also begin to pity you, which will keep you stagnant and unable to integrate the lessons of a challenge into your life experience. So, if you've made a mistake or have found yourself in a hard situation due to circumstances beyond your control, as difficult as it may be, resist the urge to feel down and give in to feelings of failure.


Remember that no one is immune to life's suffering. There is no reason to feel superior when another is down. And it's important to translate that empathy into self-compassion when you're in a tough situation (via Exploring Your Mind). Compassion does not include judgment and directing this loving act towards yourself is the catalyst that'll propel you through the growth of the lesson and into a place of wholeness.

Reach out for support

In some difficult life phases, shame takes the wheel and we have trouble even breaching the topic of what's truly going on beneath the surface with those close to us. Perhaps it's fear of judgment or embarrassment, but reaching out to let others know you're suffering is a huge first step to moving forward. We can't accept compassion (or even pity) if we don't open up about what's going on. While some may be nervous about oversharing or burdening friends with their issues, trust that your loved ones want to be there for you just as you would be there for them. Give them a chance to be compassionate towards you and help you activate your potential to dig yourself out of a hole.


If you don't yet feel comfortable sharing with a friend or family member, try a therapist or a support group to get the wheel rolling. Simply being in the presence of others who have been there or have the professional tools to help you can bring deep relief. Compassion is a vehicle, and it can't take us to where we need to be unless we take off the mask and are transparent about our struggles.

Assume positive intent

"When you feel compassion for another — rather than mere pity — it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection are part of the shared human experience," compassion researcher Kristin Neff, Ph.D., told MindBodyGreen.


Perhaps you have someone in your life who truly means well and genuinely wants to help you, but their words come across as judgmental or condescending. Being the bigger person can be a challenge when you're in a tough spot, but if you can assume the positive intent of another and accept their active help, you are opening the door for true compassion to evolve. In a way, you are showing compassion to the person who wants to help you, but may not have the tact to express it in the most helpful way. If they want to ease your pain, chances are they've been in a similar spot in the past — or can at least imagine from the heart what it might feel like (via Chopra). Just be sure to recognize the signs of compassion fatigue.