It may not always look the same. But it will always feel the same. Walking out on yourself is like that. There is nothing quite as disconcerting as the sense of abandonment that comes from leaving yourself behind.
I’m talking about the times that you have blatantly lied to yourself about how you’re doing.
The times you have quit before you gave yourself a chance to really start.
The times you never even started.
Especially the times when you have criticised, shamed, attacked, and blamed yourself (perhaps for reasons you were aware of, perhaps not).
The times you’ve refused help or not asked for it.
The times you ran when you needed to stay. The times you stayed when you needed to go. The times you have maintained as fact that you are not (and perhaps never will be) enough.
It’s a form of betrayal, this walking away from oneself. It’s more subtle than the lipstick stain that trespasses on a relationship. Instead, it’s an insidious and quiet violence against your mind, heart and soul with the capacity to leave wounds that weep instead of close over.
I know this because I’ve done it. I’ve tip-toed, walked, and flat-stick run out on myself.
I’ve done it when the stakes weren’t that high, like the gym membership I purchased and used for a month but paid for a year. I’ve done it when the stakes were high enough that it hurt, like the time I pursued a career as a pilot for far too long knowing that it wasn’t for me (but I suffered through the anxiety anyway to avoid what I saw as failure). And I’ve done it when I so desperately needed to have my own back that I now need to regularly practice forgiveness for leaving myself by the wayside. That story is bigger than I have words for here, but suffice to say I hit 10 on the self- abandonment scale, where zero equals “Present and accounted for” and ten equals “Looks like she’s never coming back.”
Oh, the pain of watching myself go.
This was before I learned self-love. Back in the days when I talked about self-love as a noun rather than a verb – something I told myself I “had” but never practiced.
I’ve come to believe that running out on ourselves only leads us in a wide circle until we are back infront of the mirror. It’s at this point that we choose: To run again, or to show up.
I don’t need to tell you how many times we run before we show up. (Perhaps you’ve lost count, like I had).
Truthfully, I just got sick of it. I was tired of the same outcome, which was usually some version of being convinced that I wasn’t enough. I became sick of not listening to my gut and ending up out of alignment with what was important to my heart. I was sick of being the last person I could trust when it came to doing The Hard Things.
Now that I think about it, the pain of walking out on myself became greater than the effort required to show up for myself. I had to choose which type of hard I wanted.
I chose to show up.
Perhaps you’re in a similar spot to that discomfort of not being there for yourself. Perhaps it’s time for you to come back. I hope it is, because life is so much lighter and brighter when you do. Not necessarily easier (in fact, sometimes it’s much harder in terms of effort). But coming from the place of having your own back presents a life of possibilities. It allows you to be tender and forgiving. It allows you to soften into your experience of trying. It allows you to be completely human while accepting all the imperfections along the way.
Things I know About Showing Up
In case you’re ready, here’s a few things I’ve learned about the process of showing up, in no particular order:
- Stop waiting until you “feel” a certain way. Motivation is fickle and entirely unreliable and being “ready” is state we get to often long after we have started, not before.
- Procrastination will seduce you into believing a raft of excuses for why you can’t do what you need to do that all mean the same thing: “I’m Scared.” And in case you haven’t figured this out already, letting fear in the driver’s seat usually means a lot of talk about going somewhere, but never actually heading off on a road trip.
- Our brains are wired for survival. Part of this wiring includes a mind whose function is to warn us of every potential problem it can anticipate. Be aware of analysis paralysis. Believing everything you think will give you a far more melodramatic version of reality than the one you’re really living.
- Showing up for yourself is not a destination. It’s a continual choice to choose yourself. Sometimes it’s a choice to do The Hard Thing, if that’s the thing that is consistent with your values at the time. It’s always a choice to hold your own hand.
- Showing up for yourself is not about forcing yourself to do something. If you have to force it, it’s probably not for you.What it Looks Like to Show Up for YourselfI can’t say exactly what showing up will look like for you, but here are the things I’ve noticed for myself and watching those around me:
- It’s about getting in touch with your intuition. That means listening to yourself while tuning out the white noise of everyone else’s expectations.
- It’s about peeling back the discomfort of whatever mistakes you’ve made previously so that you can see the lessons.
- It’s about gathering all your self-knowledge and doing what needs to be done.
- It’s about speaking kindly to yourself, even when it feels like a foreign language (I highly recommend it’s a language you adopt as your own).
- It’s about giving yourself another chance – as many times as you need.
- It’s about forgiving yourself – as many times as you need.
- It’s about acknowledging that your humanness is not brokenness.
- It’s about celebrating yourself while giving yourself space to evolve and growShowing up for yourself is about coming back to yourself, and staying there.
Learning to show up for yourself is one of the most profound personal practices you will ever discover. It is the foundation of self-love. It will give you the confidence to be open. The confidence to love wholeheartedly. The commitment to do what’s right for your body, mind and soul (even when you don’t feel like it).
And most importantly, the confidence that you can trust yourself to be there when you need yourself most.
It won’t come easily (I’m still practicing). But life is lighter and brighter over here.
By Dr Rebecca Ray
Rebecca is a Clinical Psychologist + seeker of the inspired, expansive life. She is a writer + the creator of Happi Habits, a 12-week program to boost well-being, + devoted human to her Weimaraner, Henry.