You’ve lost your keys, your grocery list, etc etc but have you ever stopped to wonder if you have slowly lost yourself? Seems like a crazy statement on the face of it, but self abandonment really is a thing. A thing all too common for way too many of us.
What I really mean by “losing you” is when you have become caught up in, mired in or enmeshed with another person or situation that has come to monopolize your focus slowly but surely…often so insidiously you didn’t see it happening.
So how do you know if any of the above is happening? Here are some of the symptoms:
- You are feeling frustrated and angry, especially with the person/situation you have been so focused on.
- You have moments (or days!) when you feel so foggy, confused, forgetful and stressed.
- You now keep opinions, needs or hurts to yourself, because you know it won’t go well if you try to voice them.
- You have stopped your self-care, such as working out, rest, relaxation, getting (your) things done.
- You’ve been “too busy” or stressed to stay connected to your support system.
- You feel unappreciated and alone – that your needs are not being noticed or met.
- Others’ problems are your focus – how to fix it, or how to fix them by compensating for when others won’t do what they need to take care of themselves.
- You’ve stopped doing things you love – things that would have been an issue or conflict if you had kept doing them.
- Feelings of shame and guilt keep coming up, and your confidence has taken a hit.
- You’ve lost sight of what you used to be passionate about.
An example is a client who was furious with her husband for “abandoning her” by not showing enough appreciation or anticipating what she needed. In her eyes he also didn’t work as hard as she did in the home. She had to do it all. She also became jealous of his work and his friends – even his time with their son because she felt neglected.
So why does this happen…and happen to so many of us? Well usually it starts with a history of caregivers giving us the message we should always put others first, and setting boundaries is selfish and uncaring. Often this is modeled to us as well, so there was the template to follow in relationships.
This creates underlying fears that in order to be the good partner/spouse/friend/parent/employee, and therefore have love and approval, we must then subvert our boundaries, our needs and hell, eventually our identity in order to be accepted.
Thus, the boundaries between where we end and others begin become blurred. This is people-pleasing, which comes from fear of others’ disapproval. The avoidance of conflict protects us from being shamed, rejected and emotionally abandoned. We need their approval to feel ok.
So…we hyper focus on them and can’t see that we can and SHOULD be separate and still be loving, kind and dependable. Because, those who cannot accept you for who you are – who you REALLY are don’t deserve to be in your life.
So if you can resonate with some or all of the symptoms, take heart. You can regain yourself! Begin by spending time each day by yourself to get grounded it what you need, what you feel, and how you can take responsibility for you. Like I coached my client, I would encourage you to journal, write an “I’m So Sorry” letter to yourself so you can forgive yourself, and have a really good cry. Let it out.
Then reconnect with healthy others who support your authenticity and will hold you lovingly accountable to set boundaries and heal.
So, if you have abandoned yourself, or can see the slippery slope ahead, remember:
It’s a lie that you ever have to give up you to be there for someone else. You can just be you. You can learn to negotiate, to parter, to share. And it will feel so much better!