We often think of abandonment in terms of a physical or emotional separation from another person, an act they do to us.
She gave up on me. He left me high and dry.
But I’ve recently started thinking about abandonment as something we seem to do to ourselves, too. I see clients do it, and I certainly do it, in many nuanced ways.
Identifying certain habits as self-abandonment gives them a different, more consequential tone. It invites us to seriously consider the messages we’re sending ourselves when we engage in those habits. We might ask: by doing this, am I turning my back on me?
So here are a few of the ways I commonly see clients, and myself, self-abandoning.
You quit when success is near.
You might’ve heard this called the “Upper Limit Problem.” I’ve seen it, especially, with entrepreneurs who pull back right as they’re on the cusp of something great. I’ve felt it on a really good day or week, an inclination to self-sabotage in order to level the playing field (whatever that means). Sometimes success feels scary and out of the norm, so we give in and give up, abandoning ourselves because we fear the change that comes with getting what we want.
You feel like a phony.
Imposter syndrome is a telltale sign of self-abandonment. So many of my clients feel they aren’t qualified, competent, or talented enough (despite evidence to the contrary) to stake their claim in their work or personal lives. Many feel they “lucked” into their job or that everyone else is more skilled or deserving. So they sit back and let others take what’s theirs, abandoning opportunity and personal growth. (Imposter syndrome is such a popular topic with my clients that I’ve decided to host a digital talk about it on August 5th. You can register for free here.)
You avoid conflict.
I have clients who avoid confrontation because they have the “disease to please” or they’re too tired, frustrated, or busy to have the difficult, but necessary, conversations. But as they say, “if you avoid conflict to keep the peace, you start a war within yourself.” Feelings of resentment and annoyance can compound, and the guilt and shame you feel over abandoning yourself can intensify, too.
So what to do about all of this abandonment?
If you relate to one or more of these habits, it’s important to remember that the muscles you’ve built up to abandon yourself are strong. In order to reverse course, you have to build new muscle.
Try giving that old muscle a name. A client of mine calls hers “Tina.” (Apologies to all of the Tina’s out there!) So when “Tina” tells her she shouldn’t do something, my client calls her out and then replaces Tina’s negative thoughts with positive ones.
I recently asked another client to set a timer on her phone for three points during her day. Once it goes off, she has to spend one-minute visualizing things working out for her. Over time, the muscle that triggers optimism and hopefulness will be stronger than the one that favors more cynical thoughts.
If you struggle with some form of self-abandonment, let’s talk. I work with clients to build new, more helpful habits (and muscles) so they can meet their own needs and claim their own dreams.