Are You a Chronic Self-Abandoner?

By Brianna Johnson | Apr. 30, 2018

 

Self-abandonment is a strange concept. How can you abandon yourself when you are always with you? If you're well-schooled in the world of self-development, you may have an educated guess at what self-abandonment is: It's when you don't support yourself, right? Kind of.

Essentially, self-abandonment is when you reject, suppress or ignore part of yourself in real-time. In other words, you have a need or desire you want to meet, and (often on the spot) you make the decision not to meet it.

Example A: Jen comes home from a long, exhausting work week and is looking forward to resting. A friend calls, asking if she can come over to vent about her difficult relationship. While Jen knows what she wants, she still reluctantly tells her friend to come over.

Example B: Kyle is interested in studying a particular style of art that has excited him for years. But his friends poke fun at him, saying it's a waste of time. Kyle despondently never enrolls in art class, despite his genuine interest.

In both cases, these individuals value the needs and opinions of others more than they value their own. They have an initial trajectory they are fairly certain about, but they abandon it as soon as they are “pressured” by others.

In a self-abandoner's mind, the belief that their needs and desires either cannot be met or should not be met is a strong one. This belief leads to a continuous process of detachment, as the self-abandoner repeatedly makes decisions to ignore, repress or condemn their personal needs. Over time, they might even forget or lose the ability to identify their own needs.

This is a tough pattern that can lead in many negative directions. It can take us so far away from who we are that we find ourselves in a pattern of people-pleasing, settling or neglecting ourselves. Before long, our personal identities might even feel hazy. So, how can we move out of this pattern?

At its core, self-abandonment typically arises from a lack of self-trust. So, the fundamental solution to self-abandonment is self-trust and making a commitment to yourself. Anything that involves self-care, self-exploration or asserting yourself is a step in the right direction. Another part might be learning to handle peer pressure (yes, just like in high school!).

Here are two questions you can apply to any situation to determine if you are operating from self-abandonment:

  1. "For what reason am I making this decision?" If the answer involves guilt, shame, fear, timidity or generally negative emotions, you might be in abandonment mode.
     
  2. "If I were the only person on earth, would I still want to do ___?" This removes other people's influence from your decision-making and frees you up to determine how you actually feel.

Remember: There's no quick-and-easy solution. We don't become self-abandoners from one decision, so we won’t change after one positive experience. Eventually, you’ll create a reservoir of experiences in which you trusted yourself and things worked out. With those in mind, you won’t default to self-abandonment. With those in mind, self-trust will come more naturally.

 

A mental health counseling grad student, Brianna runs ExistBetter.co, a blog that explores the nitty gritty of mental illness and self-development.

Comments
Barbie chaney
Absolutely ME. It’s kind of everybody to some degree. Then there is me. Who runs non stop doing for people who are capable of doing that for them selves I spread my self so thin I get rushed and snappy. I am deliberately narrowing where I spend myself now. Saving some quality me for me. Not the rest of me bawling and crying in bathroom.
5/29/2018 7:30:03 PM

Kim
With depression it can be hard to stick up for yourself--you're barely just scraping up the energy to make it through the day. That's why many of us retreat--it's easier than making decisions.
5/15/2018 3:13:12 PM

Liz
Are you still considered a Self-Abandoner if you are the one who convinces yourself not to do things?
5/10/2018 11:57:05 AM

Debbie Hennessy, MS
I see this in the inability of people to simply say no. NO is more powerful than YES in most cases. People pleasers who say yes to everything are most miserable. As a counselor the most common issue among my clients was their inability to make choices that favored themselves and an inability to say NO.
5/4/2018 1:53:36 AM

Julia
Self-abandonment also has a lot to do with just giving up on everything and instead of living life only existing and other words just taking it one day at a time and more less and neglecting yourself and being socially withdrawn because that's all you can do when you're at the point to where you're only existing in life it really is not a type of Lifestyle at all to live but some of us have to struggle each day just to get through any tips on how to overcome any of this and how to have better self care or the even desire for self-care which hardly is a daily choice for someone that is in the only existing mode and a lot of people do not make it easy when they say that they are there for you only not to be ever
5/1/2018 1:47:49 PM

Lisa Pous
This is definitely a negative view if taking back power and understanding self care. Why are we blaming people for what society teaches us especially as women, poc, and LGBTQIA folks who are constantly shown how we aren't valuable by society.

Have we been oppressed and exploited, lifted for taking care of others while ignoring ourselves? Yes we have. Can we reframe and recreate our truths and liberate that strength. Yes we can. Was it ever our fault? Nope. Miss me with that blame and shame. Thank you very much.
5/1/2018 12:41:52 PM

Sam
I can relate to this topic. Self abandonment. I have been dealing with it for many years. I currently started taking WRAP (wellness recovery)classes and it has helped me a great deal.
5/1/2018 11:21:08 AM

Johnny
I tend to retreat from people and from society all together in certain situations. Especially when I feel misunderstood or mistreated.
5/1/2018 8:45:11 AM

Kristie
This describes me I want to go back to school for massage therapy but then I don't feel the support system from my brother and his wife then I end up becoming scared confused and really nervous they don't even go with me to my mental health appointments or even get involved in my NAMI WALK it makes me upset because his wife has a son with schizophrenia but yet she doesn't support me or talk me about how I truly feel inside instead she yells at me and she drinks and smokes along with my brother I don't have no support system from them
5/1/2018 4:37:04 AM

Lizanne Corbit
I love the question part of this. So often if we pause to question our thoughts (and behavior) we can make the shift to simply reacting to thoughtfully responding. Changing whole behaviors can feel daunting, but changing small habits can be more manageable and make the biggest difference over the long run. Excellent read.
5/1/2018 12:21:41 AM

Laura
Thank u for that information thats what i do to my self im always afraidvto do somthing new that i want because im always critzied
4/30/2018 4:04:06 PM