What is Self-Abandonment? 5 Examples and How To Stop It
Are you the type of person who is always trying to make other people happy, even at the cost of your own happiness, needs, and feelings? Are you somebody who says "yes", even though you really want to say "no"? Or, are you a person that does things that you actually do not agree with? Or, perhaps you find yourself going along with other people's desires? If that is the case, then you probably fit in what we call self-abandonment. This is a very new term that we are nowadays seeing often in social media and in the psychology world; but it indeed is a real and very helpful concept. It encompasses a behaviour that has been observed by a lot of psychologists in their therapy rooms. And, most importantly, it is a set of traits that largely affects our mental health and our relationships. So, in this article, we will discuss what self-abandonment is, some common signs, and how to stop abandoning yourself.
What is Self-Abandonment?
Put simply, the term self-abandonment refers to a set of self-destructive behaviours. It is a rejection of your own thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires, in favour of the ones of other people. They are usually learned behaviours that stem from childhood and can negatively affect your mental health. For example, it can lead to increased anxiety, depression, or self-esteem issues. In order to better understand what self-abandonment is, let's look at some common signs and characteristics of self-abandonment.
5 Signs and Examples of Self-Abandonment
There are some common signs and characteristics that one can look at in order to see whether we are abandoning ourselves. Some examples include:
1. Dismissing your needs
The first sign is if you constantly dismiss your own needs. People who self-abandon tend to distrust their own instincts. When something does not sit well with you or does not feel good, you tend to dismiss that feeling—your gut feeling—and go along with somebody else's needs or priorities. You probably second-guess yourself, overthink, and tend to reframe things at your own cost and detriment.
For instance, at work, you might not have time for another project, but then a colleague needs some help with some other project. Instead of reacting, rejecting the project, and setting firm boundaries, you accept. In your mind, you turn around your own experience and persuade yourself that you can find some time, that it is not that hard, and it will be a positive thing for your career. In this case, you are denying your own experience and you turn it around so that you can accommodate other people.
2. Seeking external validation
As a person who is practicing self-abandonment, another thing that you might be doing is seeking external validation. You do not think that you are enough, important, successful, smart, or lovable, and you turn to ask validation from other people. It is important for you that other people approve of you. But, of course, as you might already know, any external approval, if it is not accompanied by internal acceptance and approval, does not stay long with you. It just stays temporarily and then you keep seeking for approval—time and time again.
3. Hiding yourself
Another thing that you might be doing is hiding some part of yourself. This means that even though you might like or dislike something, if it does not resonate with the people around you, you hide it. So, you are essentially living in a relationship with your fake self or with only one part of yourself, and not with your true, authentic self. You give up on your hobbies, your interests, your goals, dreams, passions, feelings, and needs. All the while making space for those of another person—not for the ones that you feel truly and authentically connected with.
4. Being a perfectionist
Another element of self-abandonment is being a perfectionist with yourself. You hold yourself up to high standards and to high expectations. You might think that you are never enough for other people and you need to try more. This eventually can lead to exhaustion or to feeling resentful. Namely as people who self-abandon are doing all these sacrifices for other people, but, in many cases, the people around might not appreciate or even see these efforts and sacrifices.
5. Suppressing your feelings
One last sign of self-abandonment is suppressing your feelings—especially the uncomfortable feelings. This occurs because you probably think that there is no space in a relationship or in the moment for these feelings, so you hide them under the carpet. You might feel as if you are asking too much from others, that you are going to be a burden, hurt somebody, or bring them into an uncomfortable situation. So, you decide to put all these emotions in a box and hide them somewhere deep within you. You decide to only show this happy and positive façade as you think that this is what other people need and want. However, at the same time, you are neglecting and abandoning a big part of you: your feelings. And, as you might infer, your feelings are very important and a core part of who you are.
What Causes Self-Abandonment?
Self-abandonment behaviours did not start yesterday. It usually stems from childhood. It generally begins the moment we realized that there is no space for us; that there is no space for our needs and feelings. It starts the moment when we reached out to a person from our family, be it a mother, father, or important caregiver, and did not get their support. When we did not receive their validation, and in some cases even, receive in turn abuse, dismissal, or rejection. At that moment we learned that our needs are not important. We realized that somebody else's needs are more important than our own. So, we started giving more space to others and completely suffocating our emotional needs.
Sometimes it does not need to be a direct experience. It can also occur when we live in an environment, which is very unpredictable, and our main caregivers do need a lot of support. For example, when a caregiver or parent is struggling with their mental health, finances, or is emotionally absent. In these cases, even though nobody has neglected or rejected our feelings, we receive the message. We get the message that there is no space for us to ask for something. We realize that these adults clearly cannot manage their own self and their own lives; so how can they manage me? You then think that you do not want to burden them and feel that you have to sort it our yourself. So, you learn to self-abandon.
Back then, self-abandonment was a way of surviving, and could have been helpful. However, nowadays as adults, it is a way of attracting toxic relationships, developing codependency, and other unhealthy patterns that are undesirable for our mental wellbeing. Therefore, it is important we learn how to untangle these unhealthy patterns and stop abandoning ourselves.
How To Stop Abandoning Yourself: 3 Steps
Now that we understand what self-abandonment is and where it stems from, let's learn how can we stop abandoning ourselves and fostering a healthier relationship with our own selves.
1. Reconnect with your needs and feelings
First and foremost, allow yourself space and time for your needs and your feelings. I say 'space and time' because usually when I am working with people that self-abandon it is very difficult for them to figure out what they feel or what they need. For instance, when I ask them how something makes them feel, they usually reply that they do not know, that they have to think about it, and that they do not have enough clarity at the moment. And, I get it, that is absolutely normal. Identifying your feelings and needs can be challenging.
So, the key is to try to create space and time so that you can look inside. Try to reflect on your feelings and realize what is it that you value in your life. Ask yourself: what is it that gives you joy? What is it that you like and dislike? What is it that you want, and what don't you want? This is a full time project, right? This is something that does not happen overnight. It is a mindset that must be fostered. It is a healing process where you allow yourself to get back in contact with yourself and figure out what is important for you so that you can find joy and real connection again in your life.
2. Practice Self-Compassion
The second thing that you can do is allow yourself to practice self-compassion. We have discussed that when we experience negative feelings we tend to immediately dismiss them and change them into a positive experience. It is time now to be compassionate with yourself and allow yourself to see that you are suffering. That you might feel as if you have been treated unfairly. Or, that you are feeling sad or lonely. You do not need to change that reality because that is simply you. You are important. Allow yourself time to see that you are feeling like that. Embrace these uncomfortable feelings, and give yourself permission to take care of these feelings. If you do so, it is likely that it is going to be a very liberating experience. So, try to practice self-compassion and allow yourself to feel. And, if you like, you can join us in our 30-day self-compassion and self-love challenge.
3. Learn to say no
Finally, the third step is to start saying no when you want to say no, and yes when you want to say yes. This, of course, comes as a result of you figuring out in step one what are your needs and what you really want. By learning what you value, you now have the clarity and knowledge of what you really want out of life. Now, you must say so more explicitly. You are now allowed to say no or yes when you feel like it. You are not going to lose people who are important to you or you value just because you say "no". These people will embrace whatever makes you feel good and happy. They will be there for you and are not there only to take from you. So start saying "no".
You can begin by practicing with small things. For example:
If someone asks: "Would you like pizza today?"
You say: "No."
Even if a part of you says that you do not care, and pizza is fine, try to assert yourself—look within you and ask yourself what it is that you really want.
If you do not find it easy to say 'no' downright, you could also begin with an intermediate step. For instance, you could say: "let me think about it, and then I will get back to you."
A person who is abandoning themselves all the time tends to say yes immediately, without even thinking about it. Therefore, this intermediate solution lays somewhere between saying "no" when you don't feel like doing something, and saying yes. During this time that you have, try to think how you really feel about this other person's suggestion. Check with your needs and your feelings without any pressure from another person looking at you or waiting for you. This will be your own private time. A time where you can check with your needs and feelings and prepare your answer for the person. This is always a good place to start.
Self-abandonment usually stems from childhood and is a pattern of behaviours where you neglect and ignore your own needs and feelings. Learning to reconnect with your feelings and needs, practicing self-compassion, and asserting yourself by saying no when you want to, are three steps that can help you break the self-abandonment pattern and start living a more fulfilling life. I hope this article has helped you and, throughout your self-healing journey, please remember, you are not alone. Take care.
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