The need to prove myself has been something that has plagued many of the relationships throughout my life. Instead of coming as I am to foster relationships founded in authenticity, many times I have found myself pursuing relationships that don’t quite fit and in turn, I have found myself in an endless saga in which I continually seek the other’s approval. This has looked different in different relationships. In some it has meant overextending myself to make sure they know I’m dependable, or likable or that I am “good”. In others it has meant overexplaining myself and my actions to ensure that I fit in and I’m not judged.
For much of my life this felt like a normal relationship balance to me. Sure, there were times when it felt like some of the people I continued to seek relationships with didn’t quite understand me… and sure, maybe sometimes I felt myself overthinking before contributing anything in fear of how I would be viewed… and yeah, sure, there were the other times in which I’ve felt pressured to contribute or to explain myself, because maybe if I can make them understand, then they’ll like me … But was any of this really that big of an issue?
Did it matter if I felt misunderstood?
Did it matter if I felt out of place so often?
The answer is yes, but I didn’t realize how big of an issue it was until I encountered a situation in which I found myself hurt by the people I kept trying so hard to prove myself to.
I was angry. I was embarrassed. I was hurt. I felt both rejected and disrespected. But mostly, I felt annoyed with myself, for ending up there in those emotions despite everything, despite all of my efforts.
Here I was after having tried so hard to keep myself safe in these relationships. Here I was after trying so hard to say the right things and to be the person that I thought people needed and wanted. Here I was after having held so much back to be accepted.
Here I was after having tried so hard to prove that I am worthy and that I deserve love.
As I’ve ventured on my journey to build self-love, many of the unhealthy patterns that appear in my relationships have become glaring. After experiencing so many negative emotions arise from one situation, I realized I desperately needed to get a grasp on why I keep pursuing relationships in which I felt like I have to prove myself.
In this search for clarity, I started to see just how far back the patterns have extended in my life. From second grade when I was bullied, then took it upon myself to try endlessly to befriend my bully…then to seventh grade when again I was bullied resulting in many attempts to become unbullyable by altering the aspects of myself my bullies didn’t approve of… then to now where I keep finding myself contributing to conversations in which I find myself saying ‘Yes! I am responsible! Yes! I am organized! Yes! You can count on me!’ in different ways just to prove that I am the kind of person you want around and that I am the kind of person you should keep around.
The common thread through these experiences is the otherness in which I keep placing my worth. I’ve needed other people to see me as these things because I haven’t been able to realize them in myself for myself. I’ve searched for and given power to the relationships in which I feel approved of least. I’ve given the power of acceptance to everyone, everyone but myself.
The more I’ve examined this pattern the more I have understood where it comes from and why it needs addressing. This pattern of feeling obligated to prove myself worthy stems most obviously from a fear of abandonment. A fear that has developed from the feelings of abandonment I developed through my childhood. If I’m the things everyone else wants me to be and I prove myself worthy of their time, then there’s no space for me to be hurt, then there’s no way for me to be discarded.
The problem with this thinking is the power I’ve given to others over my self-worth. This thinking has robbed me of authenticity and the self-love I’ve been trying to build. This thinking has fostered irrational anxieties and relationships in which I’ve felt disenchanted and underwhelmed. This thinking has perpetually given life to my fear-based actions and reactions. This thinking has limited me.
As I’ve come to terms with these realizations, I’ve begun to make some necessary adjustments to my own actions, adjustments that have allowed me to act from a place of authenticity. These adjustments have brought the determination of my self-worth back to me, my power has started to become mine once again. Just weeks ago, during a conversation with people I would have normally felt the need to overshare, overextend and over-explain myself to, I found myself listening and for once, being comfortable doing just that. That pressure I have put on myself to prove that I am interesting, that I should be listened to or that I too can relate wasn’t there. That pressure I’ve put on myself to prove I fit in and that I am worthy of someone else’s time wasn’t there either. And for once, in these relationships I felt content just being.
I felt content just being me.