I recently read a self-help book which helped me understand self-reliance and how to rebuild my sense of self. I learned how I can validate myself and how I can set my own boundaries and values rather than looking to others for validation. In the past I have let others provide me with my own identity (e.g. tell me what job to have and what hobbies to take on) rather than following my own guidance. My habit of letting others validate me has often caused me to go from 0 to 10 or 10 to 0 all depending on another person’s ability to validate me. This has meant that I am extremely sensitive to criticism; as having low self esteem has meant that I have believed every single criticism aimed at me and have felt completely unable to stick up for myself or comfort myself.
Also, lack of self-reliance has made me extremely dependent, especially in relationships. I became so dependent in my present relationship and in most relationships in general that I couldn’t stand a second without the other person. Having time to myself made me extremely depressed as it felt like I suddenly had no purpose. I also gave up all my hobbies and interests and practically handed over my entire identity to my relationship. This way I lost a lot of my friends, and I generally just lost my entire identity. I thought my relationship would fill the emptiness that I felt but it didn’t, in fact, giving up everything I loved was what made the hole in my chest so much bigger.
After a few counselling sessions I realised that this habit of giving up everything for my relationship had come from my past. As my dad abandoned me when I was a child, I saw my boyfriend as a replacement for the hole left by my dad. I wanted him to make me feel loved the way I never did as a child, I wanted him to validate me, comfort me when I was sad, tell me that despite being abandoned both physically and emotionally by both parents, I was still capable of being loved. 20 years of age and I’m still in child mode, I still subconsciously think that one day my dad will come back and give me the childhood I wanted and I struggle to believe it when I realise my childhood is gone and I can never have it back.
To try and reform my identity, I have decided to spend a month abroad away from my partner so that I can learn to cope emotionally without dependence on him to make me feel better as he is not responsible for my emotions. I need to learn to cope with them on my own otherwise I am just setting up another unhealthy relationship and also, putting unnecessary pressure on him.
So as I was saying, I recently read this self-help book which basically helped me to grieve the pain experienced through my childhood. It first went through the 5 steps of grieving, although the steps are in a slightly different order to the usual; they are Acceptance, Denial, Bargaining, Anger and then Depression.
Fast-forward from this stage (before I go off on a tangent), I got around to learning self-reliance through basically learning how to parent myself. First, I had to create a long list of the things I enjoy e.g. hobbies and interests. I struggled with this for a while but remembering things I enjoyed as a child helped me translate them into what I could enjoy as an adult. For example, as a child I loved dancing and gymnastics which can translate to pole fitness as I remember joining a pole fitness class last year and I loved it; so I have made it my goal to go back to doing that. Then I wrote a list of my values and am trying to keep them in mind when around other people as I often mold to other peoples’ values and opinion without realising I’m doing it. It’s almost like a defense mechanism to make people like me, but doing this is ignoring my own values and again, losing my sense of self.
I have been neglecting my own emotional well-being recently and thus, haven’t really been parenting myself properly. I love to sing and I love to dance and I love blogging but I just gave it up completely as I just thought, what’s the point? But I can’t really blame myself because that’s just what happens when you have depression. A good way to overcome this obstacle is to write out a plan for the day and then put a score out of 10 of how satisfying you thought it would be and then a score after you’ve done the activity of how satisfying it actually was because sometimes you can surprise yourself, as depression convinces you that nothing will be satisfying when some things actually are.
The book also suggested writing a list of positive things you believe you are. Society often teaches us that saying good things about ourselves is vain and selfish and we should only compliment others. In my perspective, people actually seem only to approve when we criticise ourselves and I can’t quite comprehend why people encourage us to beat ourselves up like that. But despite everything, I decided to write a list of positive things that I believe I am e.g. I am kind, I am empathetic, I am honest etc.
I still have a long way to go with learning self-reliance but once I become a little better at it, perhaps hurtful things people do or say will start to bounce off me rather than drive into me. I hope this helps you also if you’re struggling with self-reliance.
Thankyou if you got this far :).