Home > abandonment, Outer Child > Where Did My Self-Doubt Come From?

Where Did My Self-Doubt Come From?

Abandonment vs. the Self
Some people want to understand why: Why do they doubt themselves? Why is their self-esteem eroded? Why does it hurt so much to be abandoned? To not be accepted? To feel slighted by a friend? How did this vulnerability set in? What caused it? What keeps it going?

The simple answer is “unresolved abandonment,” but to really understand the whys and wherefores, we have to go back – all the way back to the primal fear of abandonment.

When we were babies, we cried in terror when Mommy walked away from the crib, afraid she was never coming back. Our survival instinct was at the heart the scream. She was our survival lifeline. Babies, after all, can’t survive on their own.

Then as we developed from babies to children, we began to ask how we could COMPEL our caretakers to continue loving us, nurturing us, and taking care of us. The issue for us became “control.” We needed to feel that we weren’t just helpless recipients our parents’ aid, but that rather, there were things we could DO to enhance our chances (and to prevent them from leaving us and never coming back).

We played peek-a-boo to prove that we could make them re-appear at our own whim. As we developed a little more, we practiced gaining their attention, getting them to pick us up, getting them to laugh, smile, hold us, administer to our needs and wants.

During childhood we felt the ebb and flow of our relationship with our parents. They might be busy at times. There might be other siblings. There might be illnesses, alcoholism, divorces, neglect, abuse, etc. Rather than leave it up to the whims and proclivities of our parents who had lives of their own, we developed all kinds of behaviors to try to COMPEL them to continue taking care of us and loving us.

So some of us became people-pleasers; others learned to stand up for ourselves; some learned how to “get attention” even if it is negative attention; others learned the art of invisibility; some learned how to intimidate and demand; others learned how to grow numb, not care, self-sooth. These behaviors took us out of the passive role and gave us an active role in mediating the connection with our parents.

So, our sense of self-worth (our ability to compel the love and attention from others) is at the root of the survival instinct, a survival that continued to be dependent upon our caretakers until we were old enough to take care of ourselves.

At the age of independence, we transferred the need to compel others onto our peers (and especially onto our love-connections).

When, as adults, we feel someone’s love or acceptance slipping away, our most primitive self-doubts erupt. Our deepest fear explodes in our faces – that someone could leave us and never come back. And this fear is complicated by the fact that it’s tied to our sense of self-worth. As the person breaks away from us, we feel at loss of our ability to compel him or her to want to be with us.

We fell as if we are living our worst nightmare – that of being left because we are unworthy. Hence, these episodes of being slighted by a friend, ignored by a teacher, overlooked by a boss, and especially rejected by a lover – have the capacity to erode self esteem and implant self-doubt.

Repairing the damaged sense of self-worth from cumulative abandonment wounds which have been festering since childhood, begins with understanding the dynamics of what has happened. But that is only the beginning and there are tools (which are the subject of my books) to rebuild a sense of self which is invincible and which can never again be taken away from you by someone else.

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