Preserving our relationships is our uppermost mandate. We strive to be lovable and charitable and reject character traits that we decide won’t serve that goal. We can end up squelching entire chunks of our personality that are incompatible, like showing anger, winning competitions, exercising power, getting attention, setting boundaries, or disagreeing with others. Even when not asked, we willingly give up separate interests that would mean time away from a loved one. The slightest look of disappointment (which we may inaccurately infer) is enough to deter us from doing something on our own.
Assertiveness feels harsh, setting limits feels rude, and requesting that our needs be met sounds demanding. Some of us don’t believe we have any rights at all. We feel guilty expressing any needs if we’re even aware of them. We consider it selfish to act in our self-interest. We may even have been called selfish by a selfish parent or spouse. Our guilt and fear of abandonment may be so strong that we stay in an abusive relationship rather than leave.
It’s not surprising that we’re often attracted to someone who is the opposite of us – whose power, independence, and certitude we admire. Over time, we can start to think that unlike us, they’re selfish. In fact, we probably wouldn’t be attracted to someone of the opposite sex who is as kind and pleasing as we are. We would consider them weak because deep down we dislike ourselves for being so compliant. Moreover, getting our needs met doesn’t rank high on our list. We’d rather be submissive – but eventually, pay a price for it.
We’re not aware that each time we hide who we are to please someone else, we give up a little self-respect. In the process, our true self (what we really feel, think, need, and want) retreats a bit more. We become accustomed to sacrificing our needs and wants for so long that we may not know what they are. Decades of conveniently accommodating “just this time” whittles away at our connection to our true self, and our lives and relationships begin to feel empty of joy and passion.
We can change!
It’s possible to change and find our voice, our power, and our passion. It requires getting reacquainted with that Self we’ve hidden, discovering our feelings and needs, and risking asserting and acting on them. It’s a process of raising our sense of self-worth and self-esteem and healing the shame we may not even know that we carry, but it’s a worthy adventure of self-reclamation. Learn more about the steps you can take in my books and ebooks on my website, www.whatiscodependency.com.
©Darlene Lancer 2014
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Written by Darlene Lancer JD, MFT
Originally appeared on WhatIsCodependency.com
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