Everything You Need To Know About Self-Abandonment
Self-abandonment is a term that is often used in the world of dating and relationship self-help.
If you have difficulty trusting yourself OR if you tend to suppress your own thoughts, feelings, and instincts to accommodate other people- this article might be an interesting read for you!
You may have come across the concept of self-abandonment on Instagram. As therapy terms become more mainstream on social media, it can be difficult to keep track of them all and how they actually apply to our daily lives.
We are here to help decode some of this ‘therapy-speak’ for you.
In this post, we get into what self-abandonment is and how it manifests in our lives. Specifically, we are:
Discussing how it shows up in our lives
Providing a few tips on how to manage self-abandonment tendencies
What Is Self-Abandonment?
Self-abandonment occurs when we:
- Do not value ourselves
- Reject, push down, or ignore our needs and desires
- Do not act in our own best interest
- Choose to judge ourselves harshly
Self-abandonment is a LEARNED behaviour. This also means that it can be unlearned!
In childhood, when caregivers struggle to meet our emotional needs, we can end up feeling emotionally abandoned. This is also true if our caregivers physically abandoned us.
We grow up internalizing the feeling that we are unworthy and unloveable. This evolves into a lack of self-trust. The real-life consequence of this is we often fail to recognize and honour our needs, wants, and boundaries (i.e. self-abandonment).
Self-Abandonment In Real Time
Self-abandonment often occurs in real time. This means that we can abandon ourselves in everyday life decisions. We can understand our needs and desires in a given moment, and choose to abandon, or reject them, on the spot. Let’s provide an example of how this plays out:
Lina comes home after a long day, feeling absolutely exhausted and emotionally drained. All she wants to do is order pad thai and watch Netflix. As she is settling in, Lina get a phone call from her mom. She knows what this phone call is about- her mom wants to vent about the issues she is going through in her marriage. After the day Lina has just had, she knows that her capacity to have this conversation is very low.
Lina answers the phone and continues the conversation anyways because she does not want to disappoint her mother.
In this scenario, Lina abandoned her own needs and desires to prioritize her mother’s. This is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself- many of us would go the extra mile for those we love. However, if Lina tends to do this every time someone needs her, it can easily turn into a cycle of people-pleasing.
Here’s another one:
Raj has been interested in food for as long as he can remember and he has a natural flair for cooking. He finally decides that he wants to go to culinary school. Raj shares this plan with his partner, who hesitates because her family will not appreciate her dating a chef. Instead of pursuing his dream, Raj abandons the idea and chooses finance as his major.
In this scenario, Raj suppressed his own needs and desires to conform to those of this partner’s family. We have all made certain decisions to make our loved ones more comfortable and secure. Pushing aside a life long dream, however, is not acting in our best interests or showing that we value ourselves.
In fact, self-abandonment tends to occur when our own needs and desires are in conflict with something that society or significant people in our lives, expect of us. Read on to find out how this shows up in our day-to-day lives.
How Do We Abandon Ourselves?
There are a few ways self-abandonment can manifest. If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, please know that you are not alone. Once we recognize how we self-abandon, it empowers us to make different choices.
Ignoring Our Instincts
Self-abandonment can take on the form of ignoring, or not trusting, our deepest instincts. This can look like dismissing gut feelings, constantly deferring to others to make the ‘right’ decisions, and second-guessing everything we do.
If you find yourself constantly suppressing your needs and wishes to please others or avoid rocking the boat, you may have some people-pleasing tendencies.
People-pleasing is a form of self-abandonment because we go out of our way to gain approval and positive regard at the costly expense of our own wellbeing.
Judging Or Condemning Yourself Harshly
When we are harsh and overly critical with ourselves, we are abandoning that inner child all over again. Self-judgement can make us feel emotionally lonely in the same way we did during childhood.
Coping With Self-Abandonment
Managing self-abandonment often comes down to building trust in yourself again. After years of abandoning our needs and desires, it’s common to feel disappointed in ourselves and doubt our ability to make a true change.
Remember this though- the most important and long-lasting relationship we have in this life is with ourselves. Building self-trust and self-accountability may be the biggest and most worthwhile investment you make in yourself.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Lay out your non-negotiables in life: A non-negotiable is a commitment to yourself that you will not break. It’s quite literally something you avoid negotiating on- with others and with yourself too. Having non-negotiables helps us build trust in our ability to follow through and also aligns our behaviour with our values and principles
- Assert yourself where it matters: Standing up for yourself can be scary- yet we must all learn to do it anyways! We cannot accept disrespect, invalidation, and violation of our boundaries- at some point, we have to advocate for ourselves
- Accept your feelings and needs: Give yourself permission to have feelings, needs, wants, and desires. They are valid- all of them! Even the ones you would rather not feel. Try staying present with challenging emotions and noticing exactly when they become overwhelming and the instinct to self-abandon kicks in
Self-abandonment is a common issue many of us deal with. In therapy, a lot of the work we do actually addresses issues of self-abandonment- setting boundaries, focusing on building self-trust and self-worth, and prioritizing our personal development.
Scaling back self-abandonment tendencies is an ongoing and intentional process. Like all important changes, it does not happen right away! Approach yourself with the utmost love and self-compassion. You are undoing patterns, and breaking cycles- it’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
I want to hear from you: Does this concept of self-abandonment resonate with you?
Until next time!
Sarah Ahmed is the co-founder and a psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy Services. Sarah strongly favors an integrative, trauma-informed, client-centered approach to create a healthy alliance with clients and their loved ones.