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Complaints and Self-Validation

I've discovered something about myself that I'm not fond of. I complain a lot. I've never considered myself a complainer. Such people have always come across as irritating, whining about things the could change but aren't. And I think I even had some internal self-righteous pity on them for being "so stuck in their thinking" that they believe they're a victim of their own circumstances.

But this is what I do.

In other posts, I've talked before about stress addiction and I think even spoke a bit about my tendency to take on more and more responsiblities because as a way to avoid experiencing my emotional reality. I've done the work to detach myself from my own cortisol dependency, and have found so much freedom in that. I sleep well, my brain is more clear, the chronic inflammation in my body is more manageable. Now that those are out of the way, I've discovered another layer in my personality. A few more of my character traits have surfaced. One of these is that age-old martyr complex.

There's nothing wrong with helping others. Ethically and morally it's unarguably a good idea to help one another out. It's called being a kind and genuine human. However, helping others has become my method-of-choice with which to occupy myself so that life is difficult for me. Isn't that an interesting one? It seems I'm uncomfortable if life is too easy.

Here's my running theory-of-self:

  1. My personality structure has been looking for ways to avoid experiencing my own experiences and emotions because it's overwhelming.

  2. I began helping others manage their emotions/heartaches because it was easier than facing my own and, being empathetic, became quite good at it.

  3. At some point in my early years, I internalized the belief that "being resilient through a very difficult situation is praiseworthy."

  4. I struggle to validate myself and look for external validation/approval, so the more things I can do to earn others' praise, the better.

  5. I also struggle with feeling worth others' time, attention, friendship. In a very real sense, I have object-permanence issues with most of my relationships.

  6. I have historically been driven to make myself useful because if I was needed I wouldn't have to face the risk of being unwanted. This is a self-belief that I've been able to unravel and pull away from, but it still shows up in small doses.

These factors, when tucked in together, can end up looking like a person who is outwardly focussed on helping others, avoids her own emtions, and habitually takes on more people-helping or support roles so that she has opportunities to prove her worth and value to the people around her, whom she is perpetually afraid will leave. And then when life is genuinely extremely difficult because I've taken too many things on, I complain about it so that others can validate the difficulty.

Disentangling myself from my habitual busyness hasn't been easy, and now I can see why. I'm using that busyness to give myself value. If I can start validating myself, talking to my inner child in the way a good parent does, I can add a little more to my self-support skills. Meaning I won't need to rely on external validation. Meaning I won't spiral into a sobbing mess of complaints each time life feels too difficult. This isn't to say that I won't sob over life's difficulties, nor does it mean I won't call up my friends to vent. But it does mean that I won't be hanging the weight of my self-worth on whether or not they validate my struggles. Humans are complicated. I'm sure glad there's enough love and grace and patience for each of us.

I am very very very much looking forward to that personal retreat I've booked, by the way. The closer it comes, the more excited I'm becoming. Five days and counting.

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