Kindness and compassion are essential human qualities, and if you are reading this, it probably means that your ability to feel and understand the suffering of others is above-average.

And while it’s usually a good thing, if it ever turns into a toxic mindset where you end up feeling sorry for others all the time, and that does nothing but drain your energy — you need to change the way you think.

To stop feeling sorry for others, you want to challenge your own thoughts because most of them are either inaccurate or unhelpful; to stop feeling sorry for others, you should also put yourself first and listen to your own needs. Finally, you should accept pain as part of life — yours and other people’s.

Keep reading to find out why some people develop this attitude, as well as four things you can do to interrupt this vicious cycle (and not feel guilty).

Identify why you feel sorry for others

Once we are able to understand the root cause of our issues, particularly mental health issues, we then have the power to deal with them in a more constructive way.

If you are reading this article, then you are clearly aware that you tend to feel sorry for other people, and that’s causing a lot of unnecessary stress or anxiety.

But have you ever asked yourself why you feel this way?

For instance, why is it that you tend to feel sorry for others, while the average person seems to have a completely different attitude? 

Your immediate answer may be that you just have a different personality, and that, at the end of the day, feeling sorry for those who are suffering can only be a good thing — sympathy and compassion are essential values, right?

And while there is some truth to that, you want to dig deeper and truly understand why you feel the way you feel because, again, that’s causing you a lot of stress.

Plus, as we’ll see later, your feelings alone won’t change anything, even though you may think they will.

Let’s have a look at three possible reasons you constantly feel sorry for other people (you may find that two of these or even all three of these apply to you)…

Reasons you may feel sorry for others

1. You may be an empath

Being an empath and feeling sorry for others (pathologically or obsessively) are not the same thing.

That being said, if you do belong to this rare category of people, you may find it difficult to detach emotionally when you see other people’s pain, and that may cause you anxiety and worry.

Empaths are individuals who easily absorb other people’s emotions and physical feelings, and it is estimated that they only make up about one percent of the population.

If you think you have empathic traits, then be aware of that and do anything you can to protect your mental and physical energy.

Although being an empath does have advantages, it also comes with the risk of feeling drained whenever you interact with others.

And in some cases, this can reach the point where it’s difficult to function simply because your energy is being drained all the time.

I have written an article about the main types of empaths as well as how empaths can protect their energy and wellbeing — feel free to check it out here.

2. You may feel sorry for yourself

The outer world is often a reflection of our inner world.

For example, once you reach a state of inner peace — through meditation, mindfulness, or personal growth — you’ll find that your experiences in the outer world will tend to reflect that.

If you have the toxic mindset where you constantly feel sorry for others, then you may need to look inside and see if those feelings are the same feelings you have for yourself.

Ask yourself: do you ever feel that life has been unfair to you? Do you tend to play victim, consciously or subconsciously? Do you ever feel unlucky?

You want to answer these questions and be honest with yourself because if the answer is yes, then that’s going to influence the way you see other people as well.

And if that’s the case, then you’ll find that the more you improve your self-esteem and confidence in yourself, the less you’ll tend to worry about others.

So if you ever notice feelings of discouragement or hopelessness within yourself, replace those with more helpful thoughts.

And remind yourself that no matter where you are in life, you’ll always have the power to take control of your own emotions and behavior — and the same is true for other people.

Replace your negative thoughts

3. You may have been told to feel sorry for others

This is another big one.

Whether we realize it or not, most of our actions are learned — we think and behave in a certain way simply because we’ve seen others do the same, and we subconsciously emulated them.

If you have been raised with the belief that you should always feel sorry for others (or if you’ve seen your parents or friends do that), chances are that influenced your attitude as well.

There’s nothing wrong with being compassionate and helping others, but unfortunately some people interpret that the wrong way and assume their whole life should be devoted to that.

And unless it’s some kind of spiritual calling, that’s a very toxic mindset to have.

Plus, constantly feeling sorry for others and trying to help others is usually counterproductive, because until you learn to love yourself and put yourself first, you won’t be able to truly help others anyway.

So see if you can recall a time in which someone you knew (for example, a parent) worried about others, excessively or obsessively, and ask yourself if you learned to do the same because you probably did.

How to stop feeling sorry for others

1. Cultivate positive thinking

Focusing on the good won’t automatically solve all your problems. But it’s going to help immensely.

So whether you constantly feel sorry for other people, or yourself, or you tend to worry too much in general — positive thinking will help you have a much better outlook in life.

One of the easiest ways to practice positive thinking is to simply challenge or transform some of your negative thoughts, and identify whether they’re actually accurate.

For example, you may feel sorry for someone’s misfortunes but then notice that, at the end of the day, they have a pretty good life.

Or, you may feel sorry for someone but then realize that all the pain and suffering were actually in your own mind, and that the other person wasn’t really affected by their situation.

As long as you focus on the negative, you’ll find reasons or ways to feel sorry for everyone, so you must learn to focus on the good.

And the more you do that, the more it’ll turn into a habit, the easier it will be.

2. Realize your feelings alone won’t help

Sometimes you need to temporarily forget about your own feelings and emotions and be as pragmatic as possible.

When it comes to feeling sorry for others, you want to ask yourself whether those feelings actually make any difference, and you’ll find that they rarely do.

Although feeling sorry for others shows that you are easily concerned about other people’s problems, it doesn’t automatically translate to you helping them.

If anything, it puts you in a negative state of mind, and that can lead to less energy and willpower, so that your ability to help others actually decreases.

Once you realize this, you can then ask yourself how you can take action and contribute to making the world a better place, and it doesn’t have to be the greatest thing ever.

It could be as simple as calling a friend, or participating in a charity event, or a “random act of kindness”.

Try and replace your unhelpful thoughts and feelings with these simple but powerful acts, and resist the temptation to dwell on your feelings because, again, they only lead to more suffering.

3. Put yourself first

Way too many people believe this means being selfish, in a negative way, and that’s why they find it difficult to listen to their own needs and desires.

Yes, it’s important to be aware of other people’s problems and needs as well, and that certainly makes you a better person.

But when it translates to not being able to put yourself first, that’s definitely something you want to address.

Just like having a negative attitude or constantly dwelling on your feelings, not being selfish enough (yes, you read that right) ends up being counterproductive for both you and those around you.

You can’t love others until you learn to love yourself; and you can’t help others until your own physical and mental health is already very good.

Putting yourself first means living the life you deserve and improving other people’s lives as well — the two are interconnected, not separated.

If so far you have passively accepted the idea that selfishness is bad in general, do realize that there is such a thing as a healthy amount of selfishness, and that’s what allows you to become a better person.

4. Accept suffering as part of life

The fourth and final tip to stop feeling sorry for others is to understand that no matter how much the world has evolved or will evolve, pain and suffering will always be an intrinsic part of life.

By accepting life, we automatically accept the suffering that comes with it, and that includes the suffering of other people and living beings.

You certainly don’t want to passively accept unnecessary suffering, or cause unnecessary suffering to others.

But whenever you see or think about other people’s misfortunes, you must remember that many of them are basically inevitable; and even if they’re not, chances are it’s something outside your control.

Life was never supposed to be easy all the time; human beings were not designed to be happy all the time — even though the modern world may have told you a different story.

Whether we like it or not, pain is an intrinsic part of life. And it is only by acceptance that we can experience our full spectrum of emotions and deal with them in a healthy way.

Conversely, by rejecting pain at all costs, we may end up rejecting life as well.

If you want to stop feeling sorry for others, accept life as a challenge, and understand that no matter how much we dislike and avoid pain — pain is life, too.

How to stop feeling sorry for others: summary

Identify why you have all these recurring thoughts about other people’s misfortunes.

Three possible reasons:

you may be an empath who easily absorbs other people’s emotions; you may think life has been unfair to you, and your thoughts about others reflect that; or you may have been raised with the belief that you should always show compassion, to the point where it affects your own mental health.

Once you have identified the why, there’s four things you want to do to stop feeling sorry for others all the time:

  • Practice positive thinking and learn to challenge your thoughts (often, we tend to exaggerate pain in our mind)
  • Understand that feeling a certain way doesn’t help other people, nor does it automatically make you a better person; taking action does
  • Learn to put yourself first and develop a healthy amount of selfishness (which positively affects other people’s lives as well)
  • Realize pain is an intrinsic part of life, and that our existence was never supposed to be easy all the time