When loving means losing yourself.

If you find yourself giving more than you want to, putting everybody else’s needs and wants before your own, tend not to ask for what you want and need, it may be time to start doing things differently.

But before I say too much, I don’t want you to think that what you’ve been doing is wrong. It just isn’t working for you anymore.

I believe there’s a fine line between giving and giving too much. And you may recognise if you’ve crossed that line by checking if any of these describe you in your relationship;

1. You’ve lost sight of your passions and goals
This may or may not include whether you work or not but is more about whether you remember what excited you or what you looked forward to achieving for yourself. You don’t feel hopeful that you’ll have the time or means to accomplish much anymore.

2. You’re in neutral and going through the motions
Your day to day life just seems to be moving in a loop. Everything that needs to get done, gets done but you feel like you’re on autopilot and nothing actually requires you to think or decide or choose.

3. You’ve stopped speaking about your wants and desires
This one isn’t so much about never getting anything you want but more about whether you’ve stopped thinking about what you want past tomorrow. Sometimes it’s also about giving up something small for the other person, even though you want it or doing something that you’re actually not happy about doing (do you remember that tag line from the Nestle Rolo ad in the 80’s “do you love anybody enough to give up your last Rolo? Are you constantly giving up your last Rolo?)

4. You feel fearful and anxious a lot of the time
You’re always preparing for the scenario of accidents or something going wrong. Big or small. Worried about the tea spilling on the floor as much as you are worried about a big life threatening accident. I’m not exactly certain why this one plays into losing yourself except to think that we’ve given up so much of ourselves that the fear that we’re out of control can be debilitating.

5. You loop between feelings of normalcy, resentment and anger
You move between a state of normalcy, anger and resentment. Which may look like your emotions move in a loop like this; you’re in a state of neutral where everything is normal and day to day living continues, the next day you begin to feel resentment towards your partner and lastly you feel angry. Except that you’re not expressing it unless you’re banging doors or giving underhanded comments.

6. You’re controlling and perfectionistic with those closest to you
Even though you’re actually quite bored with life and not feeling much joy, it’s also all you know. And maintaining that is important to you. Maintaining it for yourself and those around you. You need them to be who you expect them to be so that life is as you know it. Allowing you to plan for any and all eventualities – which actually is not possible.

7. You help out everybody, which is silently eating away at you
This is a bit like the resentment loop and a bit like the giving up on your desires part. You’re the rescuer, the solution-finder and the martyr rolled up in one. And as much as you give, you want everybody to know it, except you won’t ever admit it. When they don’t, resentment sets in but you’re not use to asking for what you need, so it eats away at you even more.

8. You’re constantly looking for things to fill the void
Your unconscious void is filled with unnecessary eating, unnecessarily feeding others, unneeded shopping or mindless hours watching TV or scrolling through social media. This is an escape tactic from facing the emotion of ‘not knowing what you want’ or ‘knowing who you are and what gives you joy’. 

9. The hopeless feeling that you’ve “sold yourself out” is part of your self-talk
Self-talk is that little voice we have in our head that tells us we’re either the most kind person ever or tells us we’re failing at the most basic of things. If all you hear is that you’ve wasted too much time, you’re filled with regret and it’s already too late for you to change things around, it’s most certainly time to turn the tides.

light bulb, lightbulb, light

If the list above has given you something to think about or if straight off you were agreeing with everything, then you may be wondering why we end up in spaces like this?

There may be many reasons and I’ll touch on three very briefly. This is not an exhaustive list.

It’s important for me to add that the following reasons are very often unconscious beliefs. This means that we don’t know that these motivations are at play.

1. We believe that we will only be loved if we give
We believe that the basis for anybody offering us love is that we have to give more of ourselves in return.  Always more, always more. To validate receiving.
This is based on an underlying belief that we are not worthy of love. Which means that we will never be in a space where we’ve given enough of ourselves to validate that love. It’s like saying “our cup is empty” and even if somebody pours a bit of love in it, the cup doesn’t have a bottom, so we’re always unable to catch it.

2. We believe that giving makes us “good”
This stems from a belief that our acceptance is based on whether we are “good” or “bad”. Remember being a child and being reprimanded when you were naughty or getting a bit more attention when you did something considered praise worthy. Again we give and give in order to seek affirmation of being worthy. Worthy of what you ask? Love. But remember our bottomless cup. 

3. We need to feel needed
It does feel really good to feel needed right? Like somebody else’s world isn’t complete without us? Even if we unconsciously avoid closeness, I am certain this plays out somewhere in our lives. If it’s not in the relationship, then maybe with the kids or maybe even at work. When we often find ourselves needing to be needed, we’re expecting some kind of affirmation in return, some form of gratitude or praise. When we don’t receive whatever that is, we can become resentful.

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Why loving has meant losing yourself is involuntary or unconscious. There is probably a history of looking for love in this way. If we choose to become conscious about our actions and understand our motivations and unconscious behaviours, we’ll be in a better space to ask for what we actually need.

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