Devotion of self might sound a little narcissistic in our culture. We are taught that sacrificing ourselves for others is the noble thing to do, right? I am going to suggest a modification here. I do think it is noble and right to sacrifice ourselves for something larger than ourselves, only if we understand that we are also part of that Thing – that which is larger than ourselves.
A few years back I was working with the theme Motherhood & Codependency, deeply frustrated with both my own private situation in regard to these phenomena but also collective norms on Motherhood and love that – I will say boldly now – ain’t real love. We are still sold the idea of sacrificial love – I mean the kind that is at our own expense and to our own detriment – and that this is essentially what it means to be a good person. I want to challenge this view. I am not talking about temporarily putting your own needs aside to care for another, like a mother does when she has a small baby who needs constant care.
I am talking about that toxic, codependent energy that sucks the life out of you. That guilt and shame-ridden bad conscience arising within when I do not cater to another person’s request, even if I don’t have any time and energy to spare. Do you know the one I am talking about? Not everyone knows this feeling, but many of us do. And I do think this is embedded in our collective understanding of the meaning of Motherhood, sadly.
We can change this, if we choose to not agree to previously agreed upon norms. If we challenge it in our own life, we become the agents of change.
A good friend called me yesterday, and we were talking about this topic. She knows I have been working very hard with codependency, people-pleasing and boundaries in my life for many years, and is just embarking on her own journey in this area. For some of us, we have a lot of work to do, while others will find other areas of their lives to be more challenging. But this particular friend of mine is on a similar path to my own, and she described this pain of wanting to be there for this other person in need, but not finding the strength for it due to her own circumstances. And I can so relate to this feeling.
But there is a fallacy here, that I haven’t been able to spot before. The false assumption one makes, is to believe there are just the two of us in this equation, when this isn’t true. It is true – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy so to speak – to the extent that we believe that it is so. “I am in need and you are the only person in the world who can help me”. This ‘truth’ becomes very toxic when the person who is on the receiving end needs to go into self-betrayal and stretch themselves further than they have the capacity for. The reason why a person does this is usually because they themselves need something, unconsciously. They need to be liked and that voice of guilt within is screaming louder than the voice that says you cannot be of service at the moment.
The real truth is, that we live in an abundant universe. There aren’t just the two of us in this equation, but there are always going to be some component out there, another person perhaps, who is a better match. Someone who is available and willing to give from an overflowing cup.
If we devote ourselves to give to ourselves and to each other from this Wellspring – not from an empty reserve – we need to say NO sometimes and we will say YES at other times. We need to remember that we ourselves are part of that larger thing we want to give our devotion to, otherwise we don’t fully honour it.