Believing That Self-Neglect Will Bring Love

Dating and relationship gist

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Many internalizers subconsciously believe that neglecting oneself is a sign of being a good person. When self-absorbed parents make excessive claims on their children’s energy and attention, they teach them that self-sacrifice is the worthiest ideal—a message that internalizing children are likely to take very seriously. These children don’t realize that their self-sacrifice has been pushed to unhealthy levels due to their parents’ self-centeredness.

Sometimes these parents use religious principles to promote self-sacrifice, making their children feel guilty for wanting anything for themselves. In this way, religious ideas that should be spiritually nourishing are instead used to keep idealistic children focused on taking care of others. Children don’t inherently know how to protect their energies. They must be taught how to engage in good self-care—something that happens when adults pay attention to their needs and reinforce the fact that they need rest, sympathy, and respect. For example, sensitive parents teach their children to notice and identify their fatigue, instead of making them feel anxious and lazy for needing to rest.

Unfortunately, emotionally immature parents are so self-focused that they don’t notice when their children are getting overwhelmed or trying too hard. They’re more likely to take advantage of a child’s sensitive, caring nature, rather than protect the child from overusing it. And if parents don’t teach their children about good self-care, in adulthood those children won’t know how to keep a healthy emotional balance between their needs and the needs of others.

This is especially the case with internalizers. Because of their attunement to others, they can get so focused on other people’s issues that they lose sight of their own needs and overlook how the emotional drain is harming them. In addition, they are secretly convinced that more self-sacrifice and emotional work will eventually transform their unsatisfying relationships. So the greater the difficulties, the more they try.

If this seems illogical, remember that these healing fantasies are based on a child’s ideas about how to make things better. As children, internalizers tend to take on the role-self of the rescuer, feeling a responsibility to help others even to the point of self-neglect. Their healing fantasy always involves the idea It’s up to me to fix this. What they can’t see is that they’ve taken on a job nobody has ever pulled off: changing people who aren’t seeking to change themselves.

It’s hard for internalizers to give up the fight to be loved, but sometimes they eventually realize that they can’t single-handedly change how another person relates to them. They finally feel resentment and begin to withdraw emotionally. When an internalizer ultimately does give up, the other person may be caught off guard, since the internalizer has continued to reach out and try to connect for so long.

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