Many of us live in abject fear of being abandoned by others; whether that is by a partner or parents or by grown-up children or friends it doesn’t matter; the fear is universal. And the extent to which this causes us to (often unwittingly) betray ourselves in relationships, over and over again, is staggering.
Through a recent conversation with a friend, who was talking about feeling petrified of being abandoned by partners, and her anguished description of how she continually panders to her current partner’s mood swings to avert her greatest fear of being abandoned by him, it came to me to say to her that ‘’Nobody can abandon you except for yourself.”
She didn’t really understand what I meant, which is great because it meant I had to refine my own understanding of what I meant.
I realised that ultimately ‘self-love’ is the refusal, the absolute refusal, to abandon oneself for anyone or anything.
I think many of us struggle with what ‘self-love’ actually means. I think many of us think it means something like looking in the mirror every day and feeling this euphoric sense of ‘’I love you! You’re amazing!”etc. And that probably feels for most of us, to be so far removed from what we’re actually feeling, that it simply remains a nebulous ‘new age’ concept- to love oneself!
And so it dawned on me, that if commitment to ‘self-love’ means the refusal to abandon oneself, then perhaps it’s easier to examine what self-love looks like through the lens of all the ways in which we frequently abandon ourselves.
Here are some examples:
Every time it arises within you to speak your truth to somebody and you swallow it down, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you find yourself in a social situation that you find excruciating, but you repress that feeling, you don’t voice it and you stay there for far longer than you want to, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you feel the impulse to run or skip instead of walking sedately in a forest for example, because you feel ridiculous because you’re with friends who are all walking sensibly, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you do or say something which you deem to be ‘bad’ and then you reprimand yourself, judge yourself, criticise and hate yourself as a consequence, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you have the urge to put on some very red lipstick let’s say, for a very mundane day where not much is happening, and you talk yourself out of it because you’re not going anywhere ‘special’, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you force yourself to do something that somebody else wants you to do but you don’t want to do, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you’re sick and you force yourself to keep working, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you keep somebody in your life who radiates what you experience as ‘negative’ energy, for the ‘good’ of the social group, and you sacrifice your own well-being just to be polite, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time somebody complements you on your abilities, skills, talents or beauty and you rebuke it, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you want to scream with rage and you choke it down because it’s not socially acceptable, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you feel the tears pricking behind your eyes, and you choke them back because you don’t want anybody to see you crying in public, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you feel an inexplicable urge to go to a particular country, but you talk yourself out of it because your friends/partner want to go somewhere else, or it’s more expensive than another easier destination to get to, you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you get the urge to try something new, like playing the guitar or learning how to knit and you tell yourself that you can’t learn, you’ve left it too late etc you’ve abandoned yourself.
Every time you wake up early in the morning and you you have the urge to go straight out into nature and be one with the stillness, but you just choose to loaf around and stare at Facebook on your phone instead, you’ve abandoned yourself. (I know this one well!)
If you live in the UK or the USA but you have a name which is not English and is perhaps difficult to pronounce for English people, so you Anglicise it to make it easier for them, you’ve abandoned yourself.
If you are gay and an older adult assumes that you’re heterosexual and makes a comment about how you will “Hopefully meet a nice young man soon” and you just smile politely and say “Hopefully!”, you’ve abandoned yourself. (I’ve done this one loads too!)
There are countless other ways in which we abandon ourselves, but this gives a good flavour of what I mean.
So I urge you to just start to notice all the ways that you abandon yourself. Just notice. And one by one, slowly but surely, begin to choose otherwise.
This is the path of self-love. This path may sound ‘selfish’ to many people. It is! But it is ‘selfish’ in the most generous way imaginable.
Why? Because it means that everybody around you gets the very best of you, more and more of the time, because you are increasingly ‘one’ with yourself.
And from this place, you will never need to worry about anybody else ‘abandoning you’ ever again, because everyone you meet, without exception, is a reflection of a different facet of YOU.
So If you are attracting people into your life who you feel abandon you, they are reflecting back to you your own abandonment of yourself.
And also remember that the way you treat yourself, is your way of educating other people about how to treat you. When you can see this, then transformation is truly underway.
Begin…..today, just to notice……if you are willing to do this, then so it is, that you have taken the first stop on the path of real self-love.