It’s ok to put Ourselves First (Codependency and Self-validation)

‘Nobody thinks what I think’
– Kitchen Sink by Twenty One Pilots.

For most of my life I’ve felt unseen. Others see me as the person they want me to be and not for who I really am; Despite knowing this it can cause me to doubt myself. It’s frustrating and can feel like a fight getting others to listen. I attempted to seek understanding and comfort for this, but discovered that no matter how much I tried to explain my feelings noone was able to quite grasp them. These people have had different upbringings to me. Their minds don’t work like mine. Our beliefs and perceptions don’t match. Some experiences are hard to understand unless you’ve been through them yourself. I’ve found that it’s easy to jump to wrong conclusions based on how you think you’d feel if you went through the same thing.

My own experiences have taught me that what I feel is less important than everybody else and that my thoughts need to be validated to feel real. This mindset is risky as it relies on others to give you what you need. It’s setting you up for a lifetime of resentment. I have difficulties speaking up about what I want and it seemed selfish to me when others just took without asking or offering. They cannot understand my demons because they do not carry those same unhelpful beliefs. They might have been happy to have shared with me if I’d simply asked, but negative responses for doing so in the past have taught me that it’s safer to keep quiet. Unfortunately this is a common problem, and it’s not our fault that we have such difficulties. I also respect people that can go out and get what they want instead of just complaining about it.

‘No one else is dealing with your demons.
Meaning maybe defeating them

Could be the beginning of your meaning, friend.’

A long time ago I was given the advice that I needed to be more selfish. This didn’t sit well with me to begin with. My thoughts got caught in loops over it. If I act selfishly does that make me a bad person? I’ve been put in situations where I’ve had no choice but to put myself first to protect my own well being, but when you’re better practised at suppressing your feelings it’s hard to know how to acknowledge them and where to draw the line on compromise. I enjoy helping others, but how do I know if I’m not just doing it to feel validated or when I’m being taken advantage of? I really have to slow down and take a moment to ask myself what I really want and if my intentions are pure. This has caused me to question if we are misusing the word ‘selfish.’ We put ourselves at risk if we entrust our well being to others and it’s arguably no more selfless than taking care of it for ourselves. I believe that our intention is the key to interpreting this in a healthier way. It’s selfish if we act for reasons such as spite, but when we do something for ourselves the intention isn’t usually connected to how it’ll affect others. Too many of us have been made to feel guilty for reasons that are unfair and unrealistic. I was given the impression that how others feel matters, but I’m a person too and so that should also include myself. I believe that it’s also easier to act with kindness when we are happy in ourselves. Most of us hold no desire to hurt others, but our own inner demons can cause us to act in inappropriate ways. I’ve made mistakes – who hasn’t -, but I know that at my core I am an empathetic person, and this will naturally reveal itself when it matters most. This is why forgiveness is important, as I’d hope that others would forgive me for my own flaws.

By accepting myself I no longer have to feel frustrated when others are unable to validate my thoughts. Others don’t have to agree with how we feel, but that doesn’t make it any less real to us. I wanted to feel acknowledged in the hurt I was experiencing, but in doing so I was only aggravating the initial cause of it. I’ve been ignoring my own needs. Now I simply have to reassure myself, ‘it’s ok to feel; It’s ok to have a bad day; It’s ok to get angry or sad sometimes; Nobodies perfect.’ It’s scary as it could mean that we’ll sometimes have to find our own way through the dark, but I’ve also discovered a flip side to this. When others put me down I don’t have to let it define who I am, neither is it entirely my responsibility to ensure others are well.

The other day as we were returning from a walk a random person strode up to us in an intimidating manner and insulted us. It shook me up a little, but otherwise I surprised myself by how I shrugged off the incident. Normally it’d play on my mind for days to follow and cast doubts on my own character (like, am I a bad person? Did I do something to make this person angry?) My feelings matter too in this situation however. No matter what the circumstances I don’t agree with using intimidation or passive aggressive behaviour to get what you want and I also think I have a right to feel safe when I go out for a walk. This person doesn’t know me or my mind and so any negativity they flung my way is not the truth of who I am. If I don’t stick up for myself, who will? We share this world with many others and we’re bound to step on each other’s toes sometimes; It’s not my fault that some are unable to maintain a calm manner in such situations.

Sometimes we withhold our feelings because we’re afraid of causing offence or starting a confrontation, but over a long period of time we start to feel like we’re being untrue to ourselves. On a few occasions I have stood up for myself to find that things didn’t turn out as badly as I was expecting them to. Friends have told me that they’re proud of me and I’ve even had complete strangers tell me I seem like a really smart person. It’s not that easy to predict how others will respond to us. Kind, genuine people will understand that we have needs as well.

‘Nobody thinks what you think, no one.
Empathy might be on the brink of extinction.
They will play a game and say
they know what you’re going through,
and I tried to come up with an artistic way to say
they don’t know you, and neither do I.’

Nobody thinks like we do. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid to validate our own feelings when others can’t. I’ve found it helpful to untangle my thoughts in this way. You might not agree with me, and that’s ok. πŸ™‚

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

4 responses to “It’s ok to put Ourselves First (Codependency and Self-validation)”

  1. lexacain says :

    I so identify with this post. I felt this way for almost all my 20s and 30s. I kept myself to an overly high standard, trying to be a “perfect” person: being generous, supportive, helpful, and thinking I was smart/experienced enough to have everything figured out or be able to imagine and prepare for all eventualities. And I made the huge mistake of believing others naturally tried as hard as I did to be a “good” person. So not true. You shouldn’t doubt your feelings or sacrifice your empathy for others. You aren’t wrong. BUT you have to become a good judge of who really deserves your help and ignore someone who proves to be a “taker” or who tries to guilt you into doing things (or weird strangers who insult you for no reason).This can be hard to do, but it’s good to cut people out of your life if they are negative, greedy, or just make you feel bad. Life gets a lot less complicated if you find others who have the same ethics you do. (I’ve lost so much time, effort, and money by making excuses for people when they acted badly and continuing to support them.) I think your post shows you’re finding good ways to accept yourself and not take others opinions of you too seriously. You make good decisions for you. Like you titled this post: It’s OK to put ourselves first! πŸ™‚

    • wallcat says :

      We’re lucky to have had this realization. A lot of people struggle with this for a long time. I struggled for a long time and I couldn’t get my head around why others seemed to care so little about how I felt when all I ever did was worry about them. It’s hard to break out of that thought pattern because we’ve been taught that to put ourselves first is selfish and wrong, but then we end up getting hurt over and over. We can’t change/control other people so we have to look within to figure out what’s going wrong.

      It’s so true that we can’t expect others to try as hard as we do or to share the same values as us – this will only lead to disappointment and frustration. Some of us worry so much about how others feel that we make predictions based on how we’d feel in a given situation, but they might feel differently and our efforts are misplaced. Far better just to ask a person how they feel and what they need. In having this realization we can then let go of caring too much about what others think of us. As we don’t think alike we can’t predict it. We emphasize a problem by worrying about it and there’s a good chance nobody else will even notice it. Even if they do notice it, it might not be that important to them anyway. Trying to be perfect for everyone all the time causes so much stress.

      Identifying who is good for us is where I’m currently having the most difficulties. When we’ve been mistreated in subtle ways it can be all too easy to read too much into certain behaviours or to miss others because we want to be forgiving as we’d hope others would be with us. It’s learning how to be firm in setting our own boundaries while also remaining polite and open minded towards others. A difficult balance to get right. If we often feel stressed around certain people or we keep making excuses for them then that’s probably a sign that something is wrong. I’m still working on it and have only come this far thanks to others sharing their own difficulties in overcoming this problem. Still, just being self-aware and acknowledging it is a good start to making positive changes in our lives. I’ve made the effort to be assertive on a few decisions lately. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. πŸ™‚

  2. lexacain says :

    Super response! I’m so glad you have a really good intellectual grasp of all this. No, you don’t have to be perfect for everyone all the time. Of course, just because you *know* the root cause and how you should behave doesn’t mean it’s easy to effect change. That takes time, during which you have to be patient and forgiving toward yourself. Don’t worry — you’ll get there! (((Hugs)))

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