Signs You Might Be Abandoning Yourself

boundaries self
Woman holding a cup of coffee wondering if she is abandoning hersself.

Most of us can relate to giving up our own needs or feelings for the sake of others. This is called self-abandonment, and it’s something I see with so many of my clients. So, why do we do it? Why is it so hard to value our own selves, our own time, and our own desires?

The questions I want you to ask yourself are: 

When you were a child and upset about something, were your caregivers accepting of how you felt? Or was your experience rejected?

Did they minimize how you felt? 

Did they make it about themselves? 

Did they give you the silent treatment?

Did they ignore your needs? Or bothered when you asked for something?

This is often where adults learned to please others– back when it wasn't emotionally (or physically) safe to share our own feelings and needs. As a child, we had to learn ways to feel safe and secure, which included managing the reactions of our parents or caregivers.

Now, this self-preservation mechanism shows up in our partnerships. Over time, we begin to feel resentful that we are always giving to others without receiving true emotional safety, validation, and thoughtfulness in return. We may even mature into realizing our own needs and wishes matter, but still can’t break the cycle. 

I polled my community on social media, asking “What are ways you abandon yourself?” and put together this non-exhaustive list of responses. 

I intentionally left it long, because I want you to really grasp how often we give up our needs. By the end of this list, I think it’ll be very obvious why feelings like exhaustion and resentment rear their heads.

  • Accommodating partner’s moods/needs
  • Not taking a full lunch break
  • When someone asks whats wrong, I say “nothing”
  • Eating last, after my kids and partner have been fed
  • Abandoning workouts that give me energy
  • Procrastinating work, then feeling like a failure
  • Letting other people’s words take over my mind
  • Not honoring boundaries (with work and in relationships)
  • Letting my kids take all my energy
  • Ignoring my gut feeling
  • Not getting me time away from kids/partner
  • Only responding with “its ok” when someone apologizes
  • Doing anything it takes to make partner comfortable emotionally
  • Letting out a big sigh instead of telling partner directly what I need
  • Being overly apologetic in work emails
  • Not accepting help when offered
  • Giving into compulsive behaviors (food, phone) that don’t bring me joy
  • Not getting myself ready for the day
  • Letting my toddler determine what I do, watch, and eat all day
  • Picking up after everyone else before relaxing
  • Saying “it’s fine” when it’s not
  • Hitting snooze
  • Holding pee until finishing a task
  • Not letting how I feel on inside reflect how I look on outside
  • Asking partner for help with baby instead of just going to do what I need to do
  • Powering through at work instead of eating or going to the restroom
  • Showering with my kids instead of alone
  • Watching TV at night instead of setting myself up for success tomorrow

No wonder we’re tired! No wonder our fuse is short! We’re not even giving ourselves room to enjoy the basics– like going to the restroom and eating. 

We keep giving, giving, giving– abandoning ourselves, but unsure of a way out. We want those relationships in our life, but don’t know how to show our love in a way that doesn’t deplete us.

Here is what I want you to know. 

  • You don’t have to keep abandoning yourself in order to give and receive love. You deserve to be loved even if your opinions or preferences differ from your partner. You can love your partner and children and have different wishes, needs, and desires.
  • What you did as a child to stay safe is not what adult-you needs to do today. You are likely able to care for your basic physical needs, and find emotional safety outside of your family of origin. Self-abandonment is no longer your only option.
  • You get to make choices. You can choose to eat, use the restroom, watch a show you enjoy, put on clothes you feel good in, or take a shower without permission. Your children need you, and your partner’s experience matters, however every one needs you to be well first. Practice something small frequently and see how it feels to choose you.

When we abandon ourselves through people-pleasing or ignoring our own needs, we not only invite resentment and exhaustion into our lives, we have limited space for our partnership to thrive. 

When we are true to our own identities, listen to our own bodies, and fill our own cups, it leaves space for our partners to see us, know us, and love us on a more intimate level. In turn, we have the capacity to give to our loved ones without resentment, knowing it’s a choice rather than an obligation.


Dr. Tracy