(A Woman’s Guide To Reclaiming Wholeness After Sexual Abuse)
Blog and Podcast Show notes
By Simone N
For a more in depth discussion, check out the podcast episode for this blog, to listen.
Are you needlessly self-sacrificing and codependent?
What does it mean, and how does it obstruct our lives?
Why and how do we kick self-sacrificing habits and codependent tendencies in relationships?
As women, I believe we are all self-sacrificing on some level. We are more prone to this because of our nurturing, loving ways, maternal instincts. It is wired within us to take care of others.
Before we go any further, let’s define what self- sacrifice entails. To sacrifice yourself, is to give up your time, energy, interests, goals, dreams, desires, many times needlessly, to a person (or people) and/or for a cause. Sacrificing is giving too much of yourself to jobs, family ( family or origin, or created family, husband and children), relationships to others (friends, business partners, parents, codependent relationships).
Self sacrificing is a learnt behavior; through up-bringing/past experiences, cultural beliefs, societal norms/ideals (a woman’s place, gender roles), and the trauma of abuse.
Abuse, can teach us to self sacrifice, through the actions of others, and their treatment of us. Sometimes, were just there to fulfill someone’s need; agenda, purpose, or pleasure. We could have also been the object or brunt of their frustration, discontentment, and rage, emotionally and physically. We may have learned that we didn’t matter, our life’s existence was purely for that person, or others. Other times, we did not have a choice for ourselves; and/or we did what we were told in order to avoid trouble; criticisms (name-calling, disrespectful comments, labels, and judgments), or neglect (emotionally, and/or physically). We knew more of a conditional “love”.
With that said, many of us, with the belief that the only way we could be loved/lovable, feel worthy, and acceptable, was to self-sacrifice; if we didn’t do what is pushed upon/ required of us, we would not enough, worthy, and get the love we needed. This is the origin of people-pleasing.
Self-sacrificing, in small quantities, however is OK. Especially, when it is required to step into a new role or level of living. Becoming a mother is an example. There are some things that need to be given up for a time, to tend to new responsibilities that the role demands; to leave space to be occupied with what is most important, priorities.
When self-sacrificing becomes a problem is the time when we give up our morals, integrity, essence of self for someone else, others. When we become a crutch, doormat, pawn, or object of manipulation, it is a signal to pay attention to how much you are giving.
Are you self-sacrificing? Here are several ways to tell if you have this problem:
- You are out of touch with yourself. You are not familiar with who you are anymore (if not at all). You’ve become distant, of any relationship with yourself; ideas, goals, desires, are rarely visited.
- When you do think of them (ideas, goal, desires), it hurts. You are feeling this way because, you are not doing, working towards, or even starting those things that are important to you. You have the desire, but because of your self sacrificing habits, it keeps you away from them.
- You don’t have time for yourself. That’s a given. Tending to other people; their plans, needs, desires, problems, etc., constantly, will leave no room for you.
- You are sick to death or apprehensive of someone wanting to get in touch with you. You want to avoid, duck, or rid yourself of the phone calls, random home visits, or at work. They are after you because you are the go-to person. You know this too, but has become too much.
- You feel victimized and powerless. This can be in some way you re-enacting the cycle of abuse within yourself, in a time that you were subjected to something that had you feeling victimized and powerless.
- As a result of this state, you may feel unhappy, miserable, drained (emotionally and physically), and jaded most of the time (maybe all of the time).
Let’s get into codependency.
Codependency is related to self-sacrifice. I say this because, people who have these habits and tendencies become codependent, and get into codependent relationships.
Codependency is to take care of someone else’s needs, desires, responsibilities, emotions, at the expense of yourself. It is “care-taking” to the extreme. These kinds of relationships are very one-sided; someone is the chronic giver, while the other is a chronic taker. There is another dynamic that can function alongside this one: savior/victim dynamic. The savior, as you may know, is the one that does all the saving, and helping, while the other is always the helpless victim, who has endless problems and issues that cannot be solved by them. The boundaries (emotional, physical, financial, interests) are non-existent, or very thin in this kind of relationship; no line of distinction between you and this person. In the chronic giver/savior (this is directly linked to self-sacrificing tendencies) gives up everything; what they what they want, do, what they are, things goes to the wayside to be replaced with this relationship and person. The relationship may take over, becomes the basis of your life; an all agenda; priority, responsibility, obligation, etc. Codependent relationships can be a romantic partnership, friendship, parent/child, any relationship.This is very unhealthy and damaging to your self, and the natural progression, and evolution of your life.
Here are some ways to determine if you are codependent, or in a codependent relationship (it’s not always so easy to tell as it can be very intimate and close):
- You are always giving (money, time, advice, favors, consolation/encouragement), but you don’t remember the last it was reciprocated.
- As a result of the one-sided dynamic, it feels unbalanced.Things feel off; the other person may not think so or feel that way, however, and you may doubt your feelings.
- There is always a problem that needs to be solved for the other person; difficulties, crisis/chaos, issues. One problem gets solved, another pops up, almost immediately. It is never over.
- The relationship with you and this person, leaves no distinguishable differences between each other (not meaning physical characteristics); interests, plans, goals, activities. Your lives have become one, or in-grafted. For example: dressing and speaking alike, same routines, plans homogenized, there is a reliance on each other for decisions to be made for the self. Your uniqueness is masked by this assimilation that the codependency dynamic requires.
- You don’t feel comfortable stepping out to new experiences without them; making choices, plans (going on vacation, making a career change, move).
- You crave your own space, between you and this person. There is a strong desire to separate yourself from this person, temporary and/or permanently.
- Because you feel like you cannot get away, there is a feeling of being trapped, tied down, or obligated.
Let’s kick these habits, and unhealthy tendencies in relationships.
Here are some ways to overcome you’re self-sacrificing habits:
- Find a way to get back in touch with you. Find your alone time. Whether it is a vacation/stay-cation, in the park, engaging in yoga, exercise, bathroom, etc.Wherever you can make a sanctuary without distractions, is the goal. Don’t bring your phone, or turn it off.
- Set this alone time a certain time per day/week, whatever and whenever you need to balance and rejuvenate yourself. Write an agenda, plan, have a goal to stick with it.
- Treat yourself sometimes. This lets you know that you are deserving of attention, and pampering. That is turn, will allow you to have other people do things for you; it’s starting the habit. Make sure the treat/treatment is that which you really like/love.
- Say “NO” when you want to, and mean to say no. When you say this, you take back your power to where it rightfully belongs, back with you.
Things to remind yourself:
- It’s your responsibility, and right to life/universe to live your life fully/richly, and on purpose (that is you, and born of you), content, and happy. Let me remind you, if you are living for others, there is no room for you. Your life goes down the drain; you then become unhappy, empty, frustrated, etc. You must do and live for you, regardless of what others say that contradict this truth.
- Know that you matter. You may not have been told/ taught this; and have been taught the opposite covertly or covertly, through experiences and treatments, through actions and words. Regardless of your past, and experiences, you matter, your life matters.
- You are lovable. You will always be loved by those who truly love you. Whether you sacrifice to them or not, the state, condition, of you and your life, you are still loved. It is unconditional.
- Before you are about to do something for someone, ask yourself some questions. Does it really need to be done, is it absolutely necessary? Will that person die/collapse/crumble/ go under if it’s no done for them? Do they really need you, specifically you? Could it beleft for another time when you have the capacity, energy and time?
How do we overcome codependency or deal with codependent relationships?
- Set boundaries, strict, solid boundaries. For example, if your phone is being constantly rung by this person, give a time period to how long and when they can call you for the day/week. To set an emotional boundary: tell them what cannot be said around you and to you; what you will not tolerate, and the consequences of that action.
- Create more space (emotionally and/or physically) between the both of you. Some codependent relationships are among family members, and because the attachment cannot be severed, distance is required to maintain a more healthy balance. It can also give you more perspective about yourself, and the relationship. When there is space, it naturally forces then to take back their own responsibilities, because you are not around.
- Say “NO” when you want to, and mean to say no. It can be especially difficult for these kind of relationships and if you have self-sacrificing habits in general. When the relationship is close and intimate, the person relies on you/needs you, can pose as a challenge. To say “NO”, it breaks the dependency, and also sets you free to do what you choose.
- Get into the habit of putting yourself first. If you are to run yourself into the ground, become drained/exhausted, and jaded, from always doing for another, what’s left of yourself to give to this person? Do for yourself first. You can only help when you help yourself; when you are filled up, that is when you can pour into others.
- Let the go, if needed. If you do all of the above, and this person/ people refuse or are unwilling to abide by the new changes; newly implemented boundaries, freedom/space, and/or they are adamant on your care-taking/carrying, wanting to keep you controlled, then it may be time to let them go. Despite your efforts to be fair and/or balanced, if the other person/people are unwilling to make the shift, the situation/circumstance will not improve, or change for the better. A relationship can grow, only when the two are aligned with the same vision, goal and intention.
It’s quite hard to deal with these circumstances and difficulties, these relationships we find ourselves in, and we are confused, drained out and not sure of what to do. Just know that these challenges, are here to teach you something, and develop as a person. For you, as a person that is caring, generous, and loving individual, to find yourself self-sacrificing and in codependent relationships, it is all just a lesson for your growth and expansion.
Check out he next article: How To Overcome: Overindulgence Part 1