We were looking at why loving yourself WON'T turn you into an abusive 'ego maniac' - due to the fact that in order to be one of these people you must be working from a place of deep shame and self hate.
If you haven't already, you can go read that post here.
Today we are going to explore the other side f the coin - the codependent side. This is the mindset that tells us that if we were to love ourselves as we are, that we would stagnate and never grow or improve again.
Let's address this fear so we can find the centre of true self love, shall we?
From Guru To Perpetual Student:
On the other side of the spectrum there are those who have a giant FEAR of the narcissistic way of being.
For these people, self love is elusive because there is an awareness that who and what they are in this moment isn’t the ‘ultimate ideal’. There is a feeling that any aspect of self that isn’t expressing as this ultimate ideal is an aspect that is unworthy of being loved. There is a feeling that if one is not constantly on the lookout for flaws, not always being diligent to remain conscious of what is not quite right, not always berating and shaming and pushing to become better through repeated reminders of how 'not good enough' one is, that one will never become good enough.
If there isn’t change there can’t be love, and if there isn’t self hate, there can’t be change.
So many of us are so afraid that if we DON'T hate the parts of ourselves that are seemingly 'bad', harmful, not who we want to be/who we see ourselves as being that we won't grow. We really genuinely believe that to love who we are right now would mean totally losing an motivation to be or do better, and that this loss of motivation would lead us down a path of even WORSE chaos and destruction in our lives. We feel we will either STAY 'bad' in some way or that we will then BECOME 'bad', unloveable, lazy, sloppy, unattractive, never reaching our goals and always content to just be how we are (which we think is NOT ENOUGH) now, forever.
There is a deep sense that all the pain in our lives comes from our fundamentally lacking nature. That if we could just improve, just be better, just arrive at this place where we have 'fixed' all the things we think are wrong with us, all our pain will go away. We believe it is our perceived short comings that are CAUSING us all our pain - that our coping mechanisms, immature parts, negative emotions, fears, self sabotage and all other parts that others don't like about us that are MAKING us miserable. So we fear if we stop 'fighting' to fix these parts, we will never have a chance at happiness. We feel that loving these parts as they are would mean they never change, and that would mean NEVER being loved, which is simply too unbearable a prospect to consider. Thus we stay in perpetual loops of self improvement, constantly seeking the guru/teacher who will show us how to FINALLY END all that is 'wrong' with us, s that we will FINALLY be lovable, and thus happy. We are so deeply convinced that it is our 'flaws' that have made love go away, that to ever consider loving them feels like the ultimate heresy.
This is why we are then caught in a state of being the perpetual student. Because we cannot actually grow from this fear state, and because whatever we are looking to 'fix' about ourselves is not actually what is making love go away, nor are our problems actually the cause of our pain. We are in pain, and our 'problems' are only symptoms of that pain, and the tools we are using to COPE with that pain.
Can you relate to this at all? Do you fear that if you are not berating yourself, on top of your 'flaws', constantly striving to improve, always on the lookout for where you may be under performing or otherwise generally trying to scare yourself into growth, that you will stay how you are now, or worse get WORSE than you are now, and that would mean a life of continual pain?
Do you feel that to look at your flaws so constantly is your only hope to find a life that isn't so painful, as you feel that your flaws/coping mechanisms/self sabotaging parts and 'shortcomings' are what are MAKING your life so terrible right now?
If so, you are so not alone.
In reality, both perspectives we have explored hold a half truth, but are too simple to be effective in actually moving forward in this life.
In reality, self love, accepting who and what you are in this moment, is NOT synonymous with developing a guru complex or considering yourself to be ‘arrived’ in any way. To TRULY understand self love is to know that you will never arrive, be done learning and growing, have it all ‘figured out’ - because that would mean an end to life itself. Greater reality is life - and therefore IT is constantly changing and evolving. It has core base truths which can be known, but the expression and evolutions of those core base truths are constantly changing. Thus to even consider having things ‘all figured out’ would require LIFE ITSELF to stop evolving - and again that is antithetical to life.
When you really ‘get’ life - you ‘get’ that to love who and what you are right now is imperative to being able to grow and expand, and that that love involves an awareness of never arriving, but rather always being in a place where there is something to learn and grow into.
Self love doesn’t mean we believe ourselves to be finished. It doesn’t mean that we assume we are perfection and have reached ‘enlightenment’ in the sense that there is nothing new to learn. Rather it means we finally understand that loving ourselves as we are right now carries with it an awareness that we will always be growing and discovering - and that these two things are in fact meant to be synonymous, not mutually exclusive.
Why Lack Of Love Makes Growth Impossible:
The major key here is that when we are moving from a state of lack - of feeling that we are NOT currently good enough as we are, that we must learn, grow and change ourselves into something so as to BECOME worthy of love - we unintentionally block ourselves from ever actually becoming what we desire to become. Our projections of what 'good enough' is and what we must change into to become good enough are again, out of alignment with truth and life when they are the REASON we feel we can’t accept who and what we are right now. To hate who you are in an attempt to motivate yourself to become something better puts you automatically into a fear state.
This fear state puts you into ‘lockdown’ mode.
The fear state that we get into when we feel we are not good enough is simply a stress state.
The body and mind have very patterned responses to being in this state. When we are in a state of fear, the brain and body perceive that our lives are in immediate danger. They go into ‘survival mode’, which then causes us to seek out all things predictable, all things that have worked to ‘save our life’ from a similar threats in the past.
In our modern world, our existential stress is the most common form of stress - which means we aren’t in an immediately physically precarious situation. But our brains and bodies are REACTING as though we are - because to the body ALL stress is interpreted as PHYSICAL stress - mental stress, emotional stress and existential stress all get filtered into the ONE stress response the body has - which instructs us to fight, flee or freeze.
Existential Stress USED To Be Physical Stress:
The reason our bodies are set up to react this way to existential stress is because when we FIRST experienced existential stress, we actually WERE in a physically compromised situation.
When we were children, all of us had experiences where we were shamed, blamed, abused, rejected or neglected by our primary caregivers as we expressed, as we did what we needed to do to learn about ourselves and our environment.
We were yelled at when we spilled our water on the floor as though we knew that tipping our cup upside down would create a mess when in fact we didn’t know that because we were a child.
We were scolded for telling a grownup we didn’t like them because that isn't ‘polite.’
Our caretakers emotionally and physically withdrew from us when we expressed strong emotions we had no way of processing or understanding on our own.
We were in fact making our way through NORMAL growth processes - but to our caregivers what we were doing was not ok (their conditioning led them to believe that if we were the way we were either WE would be in danger of not getting our needs met in larger society or that we would hinder THEM from getting THEIR approval needs met), and this caused THEM to go into a fear state leading them to react to us with either fight or flight - discipline or withdrawal.
To us as children this was a clear communication that our caregivers were going to or were in this moment withholding from us that which we needed to learn and grow. Essentially, there was an awareness in our child state that our caregivers were our source of life - if they rejected us we could not get our needs met on our own, and thus we would die. So to have them disapprove of us WAS a true threat to our survival (Their disapproval of us came from THEIR childhoods when this happened to them!) Thus our brains and bodies started to develop neural pathways of behaviour modification in response to the feeling to love going away that would make us more acceptable to our parents so that they would continue meeting our needs.
Thus the degree to which you were shamed for being yourself and the degree to which you were shamed for your normal learning experiences is the degree to which you will feel that you must modify yourself in certain ways so as not to express this or that, or to pretend to be a way that you aren’t in order to ‘fit in’ and the degree to which you will feel shame for ‘not knowing’ anything you don’t know and around any area where you have to grow and expand.
Enter Coping Mechanisms And Scapegoats:
As we experienced the existential stress of love going away in our childhoods, of being told either through word or action that we are unworthy of love, care and attention based on some characteristic of behaviour in our childhoods, we start to develop coping mechanisms that give us a sense of control and safety over love going away. Based on our social conditioning we will come up with reasons for WHY we are getting rejected/neglected/abused and we will work to remedy the things in our ways of being that caused this abuse.
This is how we develop complexes of hating our fundamental personality traits, our physical traits, our essential wants and needs, and how we learn to hate the parts of ourselves that were expressing in an immature way that needed growth through a loving guardian working through something with us, but were rather the reason we were scolded or shunned.
Whatever we started doing in our childhoods and young adulthoods to try to alter what was getting us abused/rejected by our caretakers become the seeds for the aspects of ourselves that will become our scapegoats and coping mechanisms. The behaviors we engage in when we feel existential stress will morph over time, but will carry with them the roots of the initial trauma of being rejected for something fundamental to who and what we are.
The ways of being we developed in response to our caretakers initial rejection of us, to our brains, became the behaviors that SAVED OUR LIVES - in the sense that as we experienced love from our caretakers going away, we knew on some level that their love going away meant them taking away our ability to survive. We then changed our way of being to attempt to be more pleasing to them - and at some point we were fed, hugged, clothed, sheltered and so on.
Which means that our brains then programmed in that when we feel that existential threat we are in physical danger, at that whatever behaviour we then did in response to that was THE THING that saved our lives. Thus it will become our automated RESPONSE to ALL existential threat from there on out.
This is a very important point, so please take a moment to really let it sink in.
The brain and body will then set in place automatic reactions to this existential threat that force us to repeat the behaviour we learned in childhood that seemingly appeased our parents, and this is what we will carry on doing for the rest of our lives if we don’t catch onto ourselves.
Thus our patterned reactions to our stress, to the body, are perceived as the winning ticket to SURVIVING the threat we just experienced - because again the body doesn’t know that the threat was never physical, but again, existential in nature. So when we feel this stress of love going away the body/mind wants you to do whatever you did last time you felt this stress - whether it was ACTUALLY effective for addressing the REAL stress you were dealing with or not - because to it, whatever you did last time saved your life and thus was the answer.
Then as we grow, we start to project this same fear of rejection onto pretty much ALL humans in our vicinity that we perceive to have any kind of control over our state of security. Bosses, other family members, friends, coworkers, brothers, sisters - anyone in our circle that we start to feel has sway over our getting our needs met will become the people we are constantly monitoring for signs of rejection, and that we will develop scapegoats and coping mechanisms to appease so as to feel that we will be ok. We can even develop an overarching ‘consensus reality’ perspective where we feel that we must be appealing to ALL the people that come into our field of awareness. We can start to feel that ANY amount of rejection from any source is a threat to our security.
This Is Unconscious Until We Make It Conscious:
We won’t be conscious of this for the most part, rather we will be experiencing bouts of anxiety/depression and will be locked in loops of repetitive self sabotaging/coping behaviors that we won’t understand. We won't see that the cause of all our behaviour is rooted in our minds and bodies repeating patterns of behaviour modification learned in childhood in response to rejection from our caretakers that are now being triggered any time we feel rejection from anyone or anything. All we will perceive is the behaviour and have no idea why we are doing it and why we can’t stop ourselves from doing it.
This means that whatever we did to ‘survive’ feeling not good enough in our developmental years - be that turning on our bodies, shutting down our opinions or emotional expression, learning to be invisible, learning to stop trying things we don’t understand so as not to make a mess or a mistake, learning to quash any part of ourselves from expressing due to it being rejected and so on, will then morph into dieting, fighting with our partners, emotionally withdrawing, beating ourselves up, jumping on a new financial plan, quitting or starting a job, using addictive substances, going into defense, shopping, escaping into social media or t.v, in our adulthoods.
We will be attempting to SIMPLIFY our problems down to something we feel we can CONTROL or that give us a feeling of ESCAPE from the pain and then repeating those patterns of behaviour in a way that convinces our brains that because we didn’t die, this MUST have been the BEST option for escaping that threat every time we feel this stress - is going to be what we instinctively reach to do again and again and again.
Your body and mind are working to protect you through not looking to reinvent the wheel. They set up an emergency escape plan - feel that stress, do this action, save my life. Thus you don’t actually have a self sabotaging part, nor anything that is fundamentally ‘wrong’ with you. Rather you have COPING mechanisms and SCAPEGOATS that you run to/blame during times of existential stress, and you have a brain and body that does NOT feel safe to learn, grow, change, evolve and expand when you are in stress but rather wants to what was always done - as this is what saved your life.
Can you take a moment to reflect on this? Do you remember being shamed or abandoned for being yourself? For making messes or not knowing things? Do you have any coping/self sabotaging behaviors that may have been born as attempts to modify yourself to become more pleasing due to your experiences of rejection?
Next week we will look at why this stress response doesn't serve us so well in todays world, and how we can evolve PAST it to discover TRUE self love, and thus discover the TRUE path of self growth.
You are worthy.
If this message resonates with you, and you want to take a DEEP DIVE into how to rediscover your truth through the trauma of being rejected, you can check out my Mystery School here: https://www.patreon.com/AliyahMS