Not respecting your limits and boundaries leads to giving yourself away, that is, putting what you want and need below the needs and desires of those around you. Among the people you know, including yourself, which ones get their wants and needs met most readily? Make an impromptu list of your acquaintances and their wants and needs, both tangible desires, such as a new car and a well-paying job, and intangibles, such as receiving respect, being heard, and having opinions valued. Are there any people on the list who always get what they ask for? Are there some persons who are more than likely to get what they want? Where do you rate by comparison? If you place yourself near the bottom, you’re probably giving yourself away.
Maria lived for nineteen years with an emotionally abusive husband. She endured being put down privately and publicly and learned to “laugh it off.” Having been raised a Catholic and holding staunch no-divorce views, she felt she had no choice but to accept her fate; thus, she gave herself away and came to loathe both herself and her husband.
We may give ourselves away in big chunks (not returning to school or work because it would inconvenience someone, or not speaking up when hurt or annoyed) or in small chunks (taking the brown banana). Eventually, both big and little chunks tossed aside result in living a life that is not our own. Please take a look at the following list of questions. If you can answer yes to any of them, you’re probably giving yourself away to some degree:
Facets of Emotional Dependence
1. Does fear limit your life?
2. Are you often filling the wants and needs of others without having your own needs met?
3. Do you say yes when you’d like to say no?
4. Are decisions difficult for you?
5. Are your close relationships unsatisfying?
6. Do you lack self-esteem and confidence?
7. Are you your own worst critic?
8. Are you overtired much of the time?
9. Does your life have little joy and spontaneous laughter?
10. Do you often swallow your opinions when they differ from others?
11. Do you regularly feel unloving and/or unlovable?
12. Do you wish your life were different?
Please don’t be discouraged if you answered yes to one or more of the above questions. Most women probably would because we have been so thoroughly trained by society to deny our own lives. Thankfully we are eminently capable of retraining ourselves to adopt more loving and appropriate beliefs and behaviors. And that’s what The Courage to Be Yourself is all about: relearning the art of being fully ourselves and, therefore, fully present to life and to those whom we care about. I wrote this book because I needed to unlearn what I’d been taught and give myself permission to stake a claim on my own life.
Women who give themselves away have a hard time making decisions because they’re afraid of being wrong or appearing stupid if they make a mistake. When I separated
from my former husband, I needed to buy a car. I looked at several but felt confused by the choices. I asked my estranged husband for his advice—an okay thing to do if asking as an equal, but I considered his opinion more valuable than my own. My intuition was screaming, “No, no, no!,” but I ignored it and bought the car he chose.
That car and I were enemies from the very start. By not heeding my inner voice, I gave myself away—and got a car I could hardly live with. If I’d had the courage to move through my fear of making a mistake, heeded my inner voice, and made the decision for myself, I would have come away feeling better about my integrity—and probably have gotten a better car.