What if, after all the therapy you’ve done to heal it, your fear of abandonment remains because you keep abandoning yourself in your attempts to prove to others that you are worthy of not being abandoned?
We often won’t fully dissolve or heal our fear of abandonment until we also address our own patterns of self-abandonment.
Self-abandonment is a tragic strategy to attempt to stay safe and secure in our relationships with others, and happens whenever we neglect our own feelings, needs, and well-being by outsourcing responsibility for them to other people. Others are bound to eventually and inevitably disappoint us.
Imagine you’ve just come home from a long day at work and you’re longing for some emotional support. You want to open up to your partner or housemates about your struggles and the overwhelm you’re experiencing, but when you look over to them, they have a frown on their faces and seem engrossed in their phone. You might even ask, “Hey, are you busy right now?” and they reply, “Yeah, I’m just reading some stuff.”
In that moment, you have some choices:
- Do you give up on your needs and re-orient to what the other person is needing?
- Do you take it personally and lose yourself in thoughts like: They are never here for me…No one has my back…Everyone else is too busy to be available to me…I am not worth the effort…They aren’t able to give me what I need…etc.
- Do you honor your feelings and needs and then ask gently for what you’re needing, free of demand, entitlement or coercion?
In this moment, silencing our own needs for connection and support, or overriding our own feelings of longing, overwhelm or vulnerability is how we initially experience self-abandonment
When we don’t connect with ourselves and honor our interior experience by sharing it with others in skillull, direct and kind ways that invite their support and care, we inadvertently bail on ourselves first, and then mistakenly believe that others are doing it to us.
And, when we are thinking and perceiving it in that way, it becomes very easy for us to experience ourselves alternating between indignation/rage and collapse/helplessness.
Here are five common ways we tend to abandon ourselves:
1. Ignoring our emotions
We may dismiss or suppress our feelings, especially unpleasant or scary ones like sadness, anger, or fear. But when we don’t acknowledge and address how we feel and what we need, we deny ourselves the opportunity for connection, healing and growth.
- When was the last time you dismissed or suppressed an emotion, such as sadness, anger, or fear? How did that impact your ability to connect with yourself and others?
- Reflect on a situation where you acknowledged and addressed your feelings and needs. How did that experience differ from times when you ignored your emotions? What positive outcomes did you observe from allowing yourself to feel and express those emotions?
2. Neglecting self-care
When we neglect self-care practices like getting enough rest, eating nutritious food, exercising, and taking time for relaxation and hobbies, we deprive ourselves of the physical and emotional nourishment we need to thrive and be skillful and kind with others in our lives.
- What self-care practices do you currently prioritize in your life? How do they contribute to your overall well-being and ability to interact positively with others?
- Think of a time when you neglected self-care due to external pressures or demands. How did this affect your emotional state and your interactions with those around you? What steps can you take to ensure you prioritize self-care moving forward?
3. Indulging in self-criticism
Wallowing in constant self-criticism and negative self-talk is a form of self-abandonment. Instead of offering ourselves compassion and understanding, we judge ourselves harshly, eroding our self-esteem and self-worth.
- What common situations or triggers lead you to engage in self-criticism and negative self-talk? How does this internal dialogue impact your self-esteem and confidence?
- Reflect on a moment when you showed yourself compassion and understanding instead of self-criticism. How did this shift influence your emotional well-being and ability to navigate challenges?
4. Overextending ourselves
Saying yes to everyone and everything, even when it’s detrimental to our well-being, is a way of abandoning ourselves. Constantly prioritizing others’ needs at the expense of our own can lead to burnout and resentment.
- Think about instances when you said yes to others despite it being detrimental to your own well-being. How did this pattern affect your energy levels and emotional state?
- Consider times when you set healthy boundaries and prioritized your needs over external demands. How did this impact your overall happiness and ability to maintain healthier relationships with others?
5. Staying in harmful relationships
Remaining in relationships that are emotionally or physically harmful, or where our boundaries are not respected, is also a form of self-abandonment. Let’s give ourselves the gift of recognizing when a relationship is detrimental to our well-being and take steps to protect ourselves.
- Reflect on a past or current relationship where you recognized it was emotionally or physically harmful. How did staying in that relationship affect your sense of self-worth and emotional well-being?
- What are some red flags you can watch out for to identify harmful relationships in the future? (Check out the workbook in my free mini-course Should I Stay or Should I Go if you’d like a checklist to reference) How can you empower yourself to take steps to protect your well-being and establish healthy boundaries in such situations?
Recognizing these patterns of self-abandonment that we might be unconsciously stuck in is a first step toward compassionately waking up and healing harmful patterns that keep us stuck in suffering.
What patterns have you recognized? I’d love to know. Leave a comment below!