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For the empaths, the highly sensitives, the fixers, the healers reading this:
I want to give you a different understanding of why you find it so hard to say no and set boundaries.
You people please as a way to be chosen.
Everything we do in life is to belong. To be part of the “tribe.” The way we merge with others, compromise, the way we talk, our appearance, our clothing. Every moment of every day, we are craving inclusion, understanding, and belonging.
So, your inability to assert yourself does not make you “less than.” It doesn’t mean you are broken.
Our deepest need is to belong and our actions are dominated by this. Our hurt inner child is looking to be mirrored back and is craving inclusion. Wanting his or her experience to be validated. Because this never happened growing up.
From an evolutionary perspective, we needed the tribe to survive. This is still deeply rooted in our subconscious. And don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. We are social creatures and thrive through meaningful connection.
But now, this behavior no longer serves us. Every time you don’t set a boundary and give your power away, you are trying to control how the other views you, and you’re indirectly saying, “I choose to sacrifice myself to be chosen.”
Tell me, how has that worked out for you so far? You probably feel depleted, angry, resentful, small, and even anxious.
Reflect on how you try and control people’s opinions about you. What do you do in order to avoid rejection and abandonment?
I love this question that is rooted in shadow work:
Imagine that you have appeared on the front page of a prestigious magazine that is read by millions of people worldwide. What three words in the headline would cause you to feel humiliated, ashamed, or extremely angry? Why?
It’s quite probable that in your daily life you are doing whatever you can to create an image that is the exact opposite of what you mentioned above. Am I right?
The three words you chose are part of your shadow, which means they are also part of your authentic self.
But due to society’s conditioning, the ego, and the element of belonging, we choose to suppress these aspects of self. We usually suppress them to such an extent that we aren’t even aware that they exist. This leads to feeling ungrounded, restless, and misaligned—because these rejected aspects of self want to be acknowledged in order to be integrated. This is a fundamental part of healing and working toward a state of wholeness and completion.
Know this: you can be extremely caring and also have a side that does not care at all. The one doesn’t cancel out the other. On the contrary, they are two sides of the same coin. One can’t exist without the other (just like dark/light, yin/yang).
Unfortunately, though, society has shamed us for embodying the “shadow” side, so instead, we suppress it, and then it manifests in other ways, like depression, anxiety, restlessness, and feeling misaligned.
The key message of this article is that for deep healing to take place, firstly, you need to have self-compassion for your behaviors, and understand that they are fundamentally coming from your wounded inner child’s need to belong. Secondly, you have to integrate all the rejected aspects of self (shadow work), so you can feel this sense of wholeness and step into your full authenticity, both dark and light.
This is the journey I take my clients on so that they can take back their power, reclaim their sovereignty, and start accepting themselves fully and completely—so they can thrive.
I love this quote from Brené Brown, which summarizes everything I just said beautifully:
“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Let me know in the comments:
How do you try and control people’s opinions about you? What do you do to avoid rejection and abandonment—and, fundamentally, belong?