Every good recovery needs a strong support structure, right? But what does “support” really mean and where does it really come from?
I’ve always been overly accommodating. I’m a total “people pleaser.” I overcompensate, because I’ve never felt like I was good enough, was worthy of love (my own included), unless I “earned” it. Not to get off subject too much, but even in the process of starting treatment for my eating disorder, which is inevitably related to my feelings of not-enoughness, I’m feeling like I don’t deserve the help, am not enough, am not sick enough, haven’t paid my dues, am not as bad off as many others, not to mention spending the time and money on myself, instead of my work and/or marriage.
I have cared about people, their opinions, and the love I thought they would give me so deeply, that I have given up my own needs to please them. I have been one continuous yes to others, because I have been afraid of the consequences of saying no. Thinking about it now, I felt they owed me love/friendship/devotion back, because I had done and was willing to do so much, ANYTHING, for them, but if a friendship breaks up over “no,” was it true to begin with?
Unfortunately, the external yeses have been internal noes, lots and lots of noes. All my life, I have been giving away the power over my feelings, putting EVERYBODY’s needs before my own, believing EVERYBODY’s happiness was more important than my own, hoping they would reciprocate in kind; hoping they would devote themselves to me, love me back, pick me first, the way I did them.
But let’s face it: you can’t gain worth through approval from others, if you are not true to your own needs in the process. You will never feel like you have worth, if you allow others to define yours. You won’t gain happiness by sacrificing your happiness for someone else’s. You can’t. It simply is not possible. If you are thirsty and you give all of your water to a friend, you will still be thirsty.
This post was not intended to be rhetorical. I realized this week that I have been supporting a friend, without honoring my own needs in the process. I allowed her to take advantage of me and the situation, because I was not willing to give up the support I expected/needed/wanted/thought I earned back from her and I have blamed her for my subsequent unhappiness at not receiving said support.
I think I am starting to learn that devotion doesn’t have to mean self sacrifice. I don’t have to love myself less in order to love others more. In fact, I’m starting to believe the more I love myself, the more my love for others can grow. Especially when there is not an underlying expectation that I am owed a return on my investment of love, which leads to resentment when that investment doesn’t pay out. I need to learn that a friend who truly loves and wishes the best for me, will not begrudge me putting myself first.
So, my advice to myself is, support your self. Honor your needs before/during/after you support others. You may lose what you thought was support from what you thought was a friend, but if you gain your own self worth and approval in the process, it will be well worth it.