Self-abandonment is quite a tricky concept to fully comprehend, but we need to learn how to rid ourselves of the patterns of the behaviour. The definition of self-abandonment is essentially when you actively reject, suppress, or disregard a part of yourself. In other words, you have a need or want, and you ultimately decide not to act on it, for various reasons.
The root cause of self-abandonment lies in how we were treated as a child. It’s a learned behavior that develops as a response to unhealthy or dysfunctional family dynamics. Adults are responsible for meeting the emotional and physical needs of children but when you grow up in a home that is unstable, chaotic, or abusive, you learn to hide your true self.
You play the part of a chameleon, changing into whatever persona will keep the peace and keep you safe from mockery, belittlement, and emotional or physical harm. You learn to suppress your emotions and begin to believe that your worth is determined by what someone else expects of you. You also start to believe that your needs, interests, and aspirations are irrelevant and that you are unworthy of love and compassion.
Signs of self-abandonment
A self-abandoner values other peoples’ needs over their own. Sometimes, a self-abandoner may completely believe that their own needs shouldn’t be met due to underlying fear, related to trauma. As the self-abandoner constantly decides to ignore, repress or criticise their personal needs, this conviction leads to a continuous process of detachment from the self. They may even forget or lose the ability to recognize their own needs over time.
This leads to a pattern of people-pleasing, settling for less than we deserve and, ultimately, neglecting ourselves. It is very easy for a self-abandoner to become so entangled in other peoples’ feelings that they find it difficult to know where their boundaries end and another person’s begins.
With the lack of self-trust that is at the core of self-abandonment, we often berate ourselves for not being worthy and place an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to be “perfect”. Self-abandonment is self-destructive behaviour that can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and unfulfilling or toxic relationships.
It may have been necessary to abandon yourself as a child to protect yourself, but it no longer serves you as an adult. So, let’s have a look at how you might start to trust in yourself and learn to love yourself without the need for external validation.
How to stop the pattern of self-abandonment
The first step to learning how to break this cycle of behavior is through self-care. This begins with a commitment to be gentle and patient with yourself. The next step is in practicing daily gratitude for things that make you ultimately feel safe and happy. Then, you need to learn how to accept and love yourself without comparing yourself to others.
Make a list of what you need to be truly at peace. It is important to make the distinction between want and need, here. Needs are things that make us feel fulfilled, wants are often distractions from our actual needs. Self-abandonment often takes the form of numbing our feelings with food or drugs. Those are wants and not needs. When you begin to feel anxious and depressed, ask yourself what you need at that moment to feel calm and safe.
To stop yourself from self-abandoning is an almost moment-to-moment practice in many cases. If you find yourself doing something or not doing something, saying or not saying something in a particular moment, it is important to ask yourself if the decision involves a sense of guilt, shame, or fear of some sort.
A vital part of learning how to stop self-abandonment is to put yourself first and let go of the deeply ingrained belief that that is a selfish act. When we can put ourselves first, we learn to create healthy boundaries in relationships with others. Self-abandoners often find themselves in co-dependent relationships and, by breaking this pattern, we come to realize that inter-dependency is healthy but co-dependency isn’t, as this often leads to people taking advantage of you.
Recognize that everyone experiences pain, struggles, and feelings of failure. When you do this, you’ll feel more connected to others, rather than alone and inept. However, it is important to realize that you are not responsible for other people’s feelings. You are only responsible for your impact and to take accountability.
By fully accepting ourselves instead of judging ourselves, we learn to overcome self-abandonment. It is also important to allow all of our feelings and not shame ourselves for anything we feel, based on what we believe others may do or think. Allow yourself to express yourself freely and accept that you are flawed yet completely worthy.
It is also vital to take steps towards complete independence. This may include learning how to drive and taking financial responsibility for yourself so that you don’t need to depend on someone else. If you aren’t willing to tell the truth, whether that is just a present truth or a current feeling, then you aren’t helping yourself as much as you can.
Be aware of your feelings but recognize that you are not your feelings. They do not define you. Be aware of them and watch them come and go without becoming attached to a thought or feeling. Comfort yourself when you are feeling down, set boundaries without guilt, and remember that this is a process. Be patient with yourself and take small steps every day on the journey toward self-love and compassion.
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