I have worked with hundreds of clients and a major fear they have is losing themselves (yet again) in the next relationship.
This is particularly common for those who identify as being empaths, highly sensitives, or suffer from co-dependency. I have also been there many times and I know exactly what it feels like.
I felt defeated, like an empty shell. I had given so much of my essence; pouring and pouring from my already empty cup that there was absolutely nothing left. I had forgotten what made me happy and that light I once had seemed to have been dimmed for so long that I no longer remember how it even felt. I had this zest for life that now seems long gone.
I then went on to end the relationship, but I promised myself that I would never get to this point again. So, I let fear call the shots and I kept my heart closed as a way to stay “safe.” I strategically avoided deep and intimate relationships because this fear kept telling me to stay away. I never wanted to lose myself ever again. Can you relate?
What does it mean to lose yourself? Let’s break that down.
My definition of losing yourself is giving your power away—daily. We give our power away by not honoring our wants and needs; by not having firm boundaries; by not following our joy within the relationship. Essentially, by adapting to what we think the other person wants us to be.
I would like nevertheless to make something clear here: you can’t lose yourself, but you can only give yourself away.
But why do we engage in these behaviors?
Because we believe that we have to be different in order to be loved. The notion of sacrifice is probably embedded in our beliefs around love and we might also believe that love is all about keeping the other happy (even to our own detriment). We engage in people-pleasing because we derive our self-worth from keeping others happy.
As empaths, we also tend to “merge” with our partners, and start to wrongfully believe that their preferences are also our preferences, or that “we don’t mind” because “we are easy.” Again, this is a role we are playing. So, it’s critical that we get clear on our limiting beliefs and the roadmap we have created around love from our childhoods.
It’s time to get honest about this and finally lower our masks. Having the courage to be vulnerable and show our authentic selves will be paramount in our quest to never lose ourselves in a relationship again, but it is also the foundation of deep intimacy and connection.
Here are some exercises that will help you to create awareness around this pattern, to develop a stronger sense of self, and to take your power back from past relationships.
Exercise 1: What limiting beliefs do you have around love?
A crucial step in breaking this unhealthy relationship pattern is to identify the limiting beliefs that are fueling it. Some limiting beliefs around love that might ring true to you are:
>> “Love is sacrifice”
>> “Love has to be earned”
>> “The more I give, the more lovable I am”
>> “Only by pleasing/satisfying the other am I worthy of love”
>> “Love is hard”
Read each belief and tune in to see if it resonates.
Don’t use your rational mind here (as many of these beliefs are subconscious and logically don’t make sense). Instead, connect with your body and notice if the belief rings true on a deeper level.
Then, logically, reflect on each one and ask yourself. “Is this really love?”
Your answer will probably be no for all five beliefs. The unfortunate part though is that many of us have internalized these (or similar) limiting beliefs, thus attracting relationships that mirror them. Yes! The law of attraction works with limiting beliefs and childhood wounding too.
Essentially, the way we are conditioned to behave as children in order to receive love or get our needs met will create our own personal blueprint of what love is. Now, during our healing journey, it’s up to us to redesign this blueprint and reprogram the beliefs that are holding us back.
Next, reflect on how you behave in your relationships. What patterns do you engage in? Then do some detective work and figure out what beliefs you need to have around love to engage in these behaviors and attract these relationships into your life.
Moving forward, in order to fully break free from this pattern, you will need to work on reprogramming these beliefs and releasing the trauma associated with them. Working with a therapist or coach specialized in trauma release can help. I personally use tapping (EFT) with my clients and it is incredibly fast and effective.
Here is an example:
Pattern: I am always in pain and working hard to fix the relationship.
Belief 1: ”I have to work for love”
Belief 2: “Love has to be earned”
Belief 3: “Love is hard”
Exercise 2: Your blueprint of love.
This exercise will help you to start redesigning the blueprint you have around love. Write out your new definition and revisit it when you start a new relationship or are questioning a current one. This can act as a compass to avoid potentially toxic relationships and stay true to your values and needs. You can also use this to manifest the loving and nurturing relationship you deserve.
When we get clear and decide on what we want, the universe will start to listen. So ask yourself: What is love? What should it feel like?
Here is my new blueprint (definition) of love:
Love feels safe, supportive, and nurturing. Within the relationship, I feel understood, heard, and seen. I am accepted for who I am. I don’t have to change to fit the other person’s expectations. My partner uplifts me. They don’t dim my light, instead they help me to grow and shine brighter. I am calm and peaceful. I feel appreciated, loved, and acknowledged. It is always safe to communicate my needs and be unapologetically me.
Exercise 3: Learn to set firm and healthy boundaries.
When we aren’t clear about what we want and need, it is easy to give our power away. When we continue to people please, along with the fact that we “lose ourselves,” we also start feeling this growing resentment and silent anger that slowly starts to surface.
Developing a strong sense of self is a lot about knowing what is okay and what isn’t, and most importantly letting the other person know how we would like to be loved and supported. Where are some areas that you would like to set boundaries? What is something that you keep pushing under the rug and avoid expressing?
In my article, “The Childhood Wounds That Keep us from Setting Healthy Boundaries,” I share some deep insights and practical exercises on this topic that so many of us highly sensitives struggle with.
I hope this article resonates. Please comment below with any questions you might have, and I will personally respond.
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