Picture this scenario: You pour your heart and soul into your career. You stay late at the office, take on extra projects, and sacrifice personal time to meet tight deadlines.
Over time, your physical and emotional well-being gets neglected. You find yourself unable to assert your needs and desires.
Your relationships begin to suffer. And this leads to a sense of resentment and disconnection in your interactions with others.
Sound familiar? It’s a common narrative in today’s society. And this is known as self-abandonment.
In the hustle of your life, you may lose touch with your authentic self. You might become the quintessential people-pleaser, trapped in a cycle of perfectionism, or experience a sense of self-neglect in relationships.
But what does this all mean? And how can you break free from the cycle?
“There’s something really powerful that happens when you realize that you get to choose how you perceive your experiences,” says Jennifer Partridge, a world-renowned tapping expert and trainer of Mindvalley’s Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest. And by making a conscious shift, you can reclaim your inner power.
What Is Self-Abandonment?
The “self-abandonment” meaning, as the term suggests, involves neglecting your own needs. It’s an unhealthy pattern where you disregard your own emotions, desires, and well-being to cater excessively to others.
It’s one of the main causes of human suffering, according to a 2002 article published in the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. And though the concept might sound foreign to some, its manifestations are all too familiar.
It’s the voice in our head telling us to suppress our feelings for the sake of peace. Or the constant urge to conform to societal ideals and expectations. Or the habit of seeking external validation.
The thing is, though, self-abandonment goes beyond just being a people-pleaser or perfectionist. At its core, it’s a reflection of our self-worth and self-esteem.
And in today’s competitive, expectation-driven world, it’s more relevant than ever.
What Causes Self-Abandonment?
Self-abandonment can have various causes. And it often stems from a combination of internal and external factors.
Taking points from the 2002 Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing article, here are some common causes of self-abandonment:
- Childhood conditioning. Traumatic events, neglect, or being raised in an environment where one’s needs and emotions were invalidated may lead to a pattern of self-neglect. It often involves prioritizing others’ needs over one’s own.
- Fear of rejection. This can drive individuals to abandon their authentic selves. They may suppress their true desires, opinions, and emotions to seek acceptance and avoid conflict, sacrificing their well-being in the process.
- People-pleasing tendencies. They excessively prioritize the happiness and approval of others. And the fear of disappointing or upsetting others can lead to a pattern of self-sacrifice.
- Perfectionism. Not knowing how to overcome perfectionism can set unrealistically high standards for oneself. It’s a constant strive for flawlessness, which can result in neglecting self-care, self-compassion, and the ability to acknowledge one’s limitations.
- External expectations and societal ideals. There’s always pressure to conform. And trying to meet these standards and pressures can push an individual to abandon their own needs and values.
It’s important to note that this is a complex issue. And what causes it can vary from person to person.
So understanding your own can be a crucial step in addressing and overcoming the self-abandonment cycle.
10 Signs You’re Putting Yourself Last
When you live in an unpredictable, chaotic, or abusive family, you learn to hide your true self in order to survive. This can lead to a cycle of self-abandonment in adulthood.
And whether you realize it or not, the signs can manifest in various ways. Here are some common indicators:
- Ignoring your own needs and wants while always focusing on what others want
- Finding it hard to set boundaries and say “no” to others
- Feeling empty or unsatisfied inside
- Forgetting to take care of yourself and your own well-being
- Trying to be perfect all the time and being scared of making mistakes
- Thinking that you don’t deserve love and happiness
- Needing external validation and approval to feel worthy
- Not showing your true emotions and hiding how you really feel
- Putting what others think and want ahead of what you think and want
- Feeling like you’ve lost touch with who you really are
These signs are different for each person. However, breaking away from this self-perpetuating cycle requires you to learn to value and honor your own ideals.
Examples of Self-Abandonment
Because putting people first is such a major theme in life, it’s often depicted in movies, TV shows, and music. For each of the main causes of self-abandonment, here’s where you can find examples in pop culture:
- Childhood conditioning: In Titanic, Rose DeWitt Bukater is raised to follow the strict societal expectations of high society. She’s forced to hide her true dreams and talents to conform to the role of an obedient and proper young woman, which, obviously, makes her unhappy.
- Fear of rejection: Andy Sachs of The Devil Wears Prada is driven by her fear of rejection. Working in the high-pressure fashion industry, she compromises her values and personal well-being to meet the demands and expectations of her boss, Miranda Priestly.
- People-pleasing: The Office’s Michael Scott is constantly joking around and attempting to make his colleagues laugh (even if it’s not always appropriate). This is a classic display of suppressing his own authenticity for external approval and validation.
- Perfectionism: As a ballet dancer, Nina Sayers from Black Swan obsessively pursues perfection. She pushes herself beyond her limits, neglecting her mental and physical well-being in the relentless pursuit of flawlessness.
- External expectations and societal ideals: Each main character in The Breakfast Club represents a teenage stereotype—the nerd, the princess, the jock, the basket case, and the criminal. And to avoid judgment or rejection, they play the roles that society brands them as.
You may find that you relate to one or more (or all) of these characters. After all, they shed light on the common struggles of life.
And if you feel like you’re struggling with self-abandonment, it’s important to seek help from a therapist or counselor. They can help you understand the root of your problems and develop strategies for breaking the cycle.
How Can Self-Abandonment Affect Your Relationships?
When it comes to relationships, the way you relate to yourself plays a crucial role. Self-abandonment, unfortunately, can have a profound impact on your connections with others.
It can create barriers and hinder emotional intimacy. What’s more, it can lead to imbalances in the dynamics you share with your loved ones.
So let’s explore self-abandonment in relationships and gain insights into the challenges it presents.
1. Lack of boundaries
“We are wired to find connection and avoid rejection,” says Marisa Peer, a world-renowned therapist and trainer of Mindvalley’s Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest. And saying ”no” can sometimes feel like a threat to our sense of belonging.
The Thriving Center of Psychology conducted a survey revealing that 58% of over a thousand Americans struggle to say the two-letter word. And when you consistently put others first and forget to set healthy boundaries, it can lead to various negative outcomes.
For instance, imagine if you always put your partner’s needs before your own. Over time, this behavior can result in feelings of resentment, tiredness, and a sense of being taken for granted. You might start feeling unappreciated and emotionally drained, which can lead to dissatisfaction in the relationship.
Codependency means relying too much on others for validation, approval, and feeling good about yourself. This behavior pattern can make it hard to have healthy relationships, according to a 2018 study.
In this situation, your own needs and boundaries often get ignored as you prioritize the relationship. Over time, this can lead to losing your own identity, an imbalance of power, and a decrease in self-esteem.
3. Emotional disconnect
“It’s our evolutionary trait—we want to feel connected,” explains Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, the co-founder of Mindvalley and trainer of Mindvalley’s From Awesome to Flawesome Quest. “So we put on those masks so that people accept us.”
It’s behind these masks you wear that you hide your emotions. And this creates a disconnect inside you. That can make it hard for you to express your feelings and form deep and close relationships.
As Kristina adds, “Somewhere deep inside, we are afraid that if they see what we truly are, they might not like us.”
4. Unhealthy relationship patterns
When you struggle with self-abandonment, you might find yourself pushing aside your instincts. You might be attracted to partners who reinforce your belief that you are not worthy of love and respect.
In these relationships, your needs are often neglected. What’s more, you may feel unfulfilled or unsatisfied.
This perpetuates a cycle where you continue to seek validation and acceptance from others. And this can come at the expense of your own well-being.
5. Inequality and resentment
When you prioritize others, it creates an imbalance in your relationships. You may feel unappreciated or taken advantage of, resulting in feelings of resentment.
The thing is, “hurt people hurt people,” as Marisa says in her Mindvalley Quest. And as the resentment grows, it can create distance and emotional barriers between you and your partner.
So it comes as no surprise that this makes it challenging to maintain a healthy and fulfilling connection.
How to Stop Self-Abandonment: Tips from Mindvalley Experts
Recognizing self-abandonment is a major challenge. Stopping that kind of sabotage is another. So how can you go about doing it?
Here are three practical ways you can try them with the guidance of the experts at Mindvalley:
1. Re-evaluate your idea of perfection
As mentioned, perfectionism can be a destructive force that leads to self-abandonment. According to Kristina, when you relentlessly pursue an unattainable standard, you push aside your true feelings and needs, creating a growing darkness within you.
Stopping self-abandonment is not about being the perfect version of yourself. Instead, it involves a shift in mindset—practicing self-compassion, setting realistic expectations, and prioritizing self-care.
“Can you just accept that the things that make you cringe and feel uncomfortable about yourself are the things that make you, you?” she poses at her Mindvalley A-Fest 2022 stage talk. “They can become your blessing if you allow yourself. That’s what I call loving yourself unconditionally.”
And when you learn to value yourself unconditionally, despite your flaws, you can establish a solid foundation for self-acceptance and growth.
Watch Kristina’s full talk on Mindvalley’s YouTube channel:
2. Challenge the ingrained negative patterns
Our brain has a survival mechanism rooted in our ancestral past, where being hyper-aware of potential dangers was necessary for survival. It’s what scientists call “negative bias.”
It makes us focus “way more on the negative than the positive,” explains Jennifer. She adds that this can show up as:
- Not trusting the stranger at the supermarket,
- Thinking that the world is out to get you, or
- Seeing reality as a struggle and something to overcome.
To stop your self-abandonment, it’s best to challenge the deeply ingrained patterns that keep you focused on the negative aspects of yourself and the world. It starts with recognizing and acknowledging the negative beliefs you carry, tapping into your emotions, and creating a safe space for self-reflection.
Learn more from Jennifer Partridge:
3. Amp up your self-beliefs
Your beliefs can either empower you or limit you. So when you dismiss your own worth and potential (as is what happens with self-abandonment), the negative mindset can really take hold of you.
Your mind, though, has the ability to influence physical well-being through belief and intention. So whether it’s feeling better after seeing a therapist or connecting your well-being to your religious or spiritual practices, the underlying factor is the power of your belief.
“Your words shape your reality,” says Marisa. And so, when you use better words, you’ll have a better reality.
Dive into Marisa Peer’s expertise for greater learning:
Believe It to Achieve It
Oftentimes, overcoming self-abandonment can be mistaken for selflessness or altruism. While helping others is commendable, it can become detrimental when it leads to self-neglect.
Another common misunderstanding is that self-abandonment is a “personality trait.” It’s not. Rather, it’s an acquired pattern that can be changed with conscious effort.
You can make that shift with guidance from experts like:
- Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani in the From Awesome to Flawesome Quest
- Jennifer Partridge in the Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest
- Marisa Peer in the Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance Quest
These programs (as with the others on Mindvalley) are filled with resources and tools that’ll help you reclaim your life from societal pressures and self-imposed expectations.
The great thing is, when you sign up for a free Mindvalley account, you have access to the first few lessons of their quests (and others). Not only that, you’ll be among a compassionate community of like-minded individuals, providing you with a supportive network where you can connect, learn, and grow together.
As Marisa says, “When you believe in you, everyone else believes in you.”