November 24, 2021

Chronic Misery: 7 Ways we Abandon Ourselves.


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“Why is it so easy to abandon ourselves, and why do we so easily fall into the illusion that this self-abandonment is the only way people will like us?” ~ Ariana Carouth


“I did so much for her! I killed my own desires, ignored my needs just so that she could be happy, and for what? Just so that she could ditch me in the end?!”

“I do whatever he asks. I never complain. I could be dying of pain from within, yet I put on my smiling face and do other things. He never seems to notice, though. It’s as if I don’t exist or maybe I’m invisible.”

“What more do I need to do to get him to love me?”

I hear this and so much more day in and out. People walk into the therapy session, half-baked versions of themselves, cutting and bleeding from invisible wounds, waiting for someone to come and patch them up, only so that they can go and hurt themselves again.

It takes all of my courage to stop myself from doing this with my own self—to not give in to long-standing patterns of thinking that everyone else is more important than I am.

We are all guilty of doing this at some point: abandoning ourselves for the sake of others.

What starts off as a onetime thing slowly becomes a way of being and eats up our souls. It takes away the essence of life and leaves us hollow and empty from within.

After some time, we even lose sight of what we really want because we were never attuned enough to look within to begin with.

Self-abandonment is when we suppress, reject, push away, and at times kill off parts of ourselves.

Simply saying, we take away from ourselves the right to need, want, and desire because either we don’t know how to, or perhaps, we don’t want to face the consequences of showing up as our fully formed self.

We do that because somewhere we feel we are not important or worthy enough to be loved and accepted for who we are.

We do that because we have experienced trauma after asking for what we need.

We learnt that self-expression leads to grave consequences.

We do that because we don’t trust ourselves enough.

So we run and hide, and we run after others in ways that can offer us some sense of protection—which is false.

We fail to nurture and comfort ourselves because we never learnt how to do that—maybe because someone was never there for us the way we wanted.

Before we realize, in a bid to run after others, we leave our crying, screaming self behind.

This is how self-abandonment often shows up:

1. Putting others’ needs above ours. In simple words, it’s a defense mechanism. We think that by constantly fulfilling the needs of others, we won’t feel hurt. If others are happy, then we will be happy. It leads us to compromise and sacrifice in ways that leave us totally drained and cut off from our real selves. It perpetuates fear—fear of being hurt, harmed, rejected, and being left alone. It also has its roots in false hope—that one day they will see us for who we are. But if we are not in tune with ourselves, then who are we really and what are we expecting others to see?

2. Giving too much in relationships. “I have never done anything for myself! I have always done things for others!” All relationships require a healthy balance of give and take. When we are giving too much, it highlights a lopsided equation. Since we all have needs and wants, the more unmet they are, the emptier we will become. At some point, we can’t pour from an empty cup. So what does this leave us with? Nothing.

3. Having difficulty trusting others. The more we depend on the outside world to fulfill us, the more insecure we will become. After all, the world is dynamic, and relationships are ever-changing. Permanence is an illusion. We only have ourselves. When we don’t learn to connect with ourselves, we will always fear what others have to offer. When we trust ourselves, we learn to slowly trust the people who deserve our vulnerability.

4. Pushing away people and relationships that are working for us. Because remember, we have trust issues by now! When we are not in touch with who we are, when we don’t know what our needs and values are, and are constantly abandoning ourselves for the approval of others, our minds understand only one thing: abandonment—in every form. So when someone comes along who wants to stay, we run. Why? Because, “Oh, I’m not good enough! Why would they want to be with me? They will also leave me!”

5. Staying in unhealthy relationships. We stay in places that are unhealthy, soul-sucking, draining, and where we are constantly being abandoned because that’s all we know. It’s not fulfilling, but it’s at least familiar.

6. Constantly seeking validation and approval. We all need love and appreciation to survive. Sadly, when we don’t know how to give these to our own self, we are constantly looking out, turning to whoever we can find to make us feel this—inadvertently attracting only those who are equipped to reject and abandon us.

7. Ignoring our instincts. How can we trust our instincts when we are busy focusing on others? And trusting our instincts also means doing the opposite of what someone else would want, right? So even if our instincts are telling us to go one way, we will go the other way, which eventually leads us down a never-ending rabbit hole.

Most of us would like to believe that abandoning our own needs, compromising, and sacrificing for others makes us martyrs—that it’s a selfless act.

Well, no one is selfless. We are programmed for self-preservation.

Therefore, self-abandonment only makes us miserable.

As John Bradshaw says, “Hell in my opinion is never finding your true self and never living your life or knowing who you are.”


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