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Do You Have Fear of Abandonment? (Signs and Ways to Overcome It)

Do You Have Fear of Abandonment? (Signs and Ways to Overcome It)

There are some people that will have affairs because of their fear of abandonment. That may make zero sense to you, but here is why — they have such a deep fear of abandonment in their current relationship that they pursue outside relationships simultaneously, so that they have a back up relationship in case something happens with their current marriage or relationship.

In this article, I will look deeper into the cause and consequence of having the fear of abandonment and how to overcome this fear to lead healthy relationships again.

What is fear of abandonment

Bustle.com examined research on the topic of fear of abandonment and infidelity and stated the following:[1]

People with abandonment issues and lower self-confidence are more likely to cheat.

This is obviously not a healthy way of dealing with fear of abandonment. It is harmful to the person who is being cheated on and also is mental torment for the person trying to manage and keep both relationships afloat. They are putting their relationship at stake, living a lie and obviously not dealing with their fear of abandonment in a healthy manner.

Signs of fear of abandonment

People with fear of abandonment can exhibit a variety of behaviors. Many of these behaviors are destructive to relationships, so the fear of abandonment should be recognized and dealt with appropriately for the sake of the relationship and both individuals involved in the relationship.

Below are some signs that someone has the fear of abandonment:

  • Feel jealous often.
  • Perceive others of the opposite sex as a threat to their relationship.
  • Give too much or go overboard in the relationship.
  • Have thoughts about their partner or spouse leaving them.
  • Demand unrealistic amounts of time with their significant other.
  • Have difficulty in completely trusting their partner or spouse.
  • Look more at the faults in their spouse or partner than positive attributes (again this is about pushing away the person or failing to trust them completely).
  • Have a hard time being alone if a relationship ends. Always look out for the next relationship or significant other to replace the one most recently lost.
  • Have feelings of resentment if their significant other does an activity without them such as going out with friends.
  • Feel unworthy, less than or unworthy of love.
  • Have lower self-esteem/ self-confidence.
  • End relationships before the other person can so that they have control over the potential abandonment.
  • Move too quickly in relationships because they are fearful the person will leave the relationship if things don’t move to the next level fast enough.
  • Stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships because of the fear of being abandoned or alone.
  • Feel jealous of platonic relationships that their spouse or partner has, such as with work colleagues.
  • Are controlling of their significant other, especially when it comes to their time and interaction with others.
  • Overanalyze the relationship on a regular basis, often nit picking on the negatives or problems rather than focusing on the positive qualities within their partner and relationship.
  • Will pursue relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable.
  • Cheat on their spouse or partner.

An individual does not need to have all of these behaviors to have fear of abandonment issues. Some people with fear of abandonment issues possess only a few of these behaviors. However, having even a few of these behaviors is unhealthy and detrimental to their life and relationships.

There are also some people who will sabotage their own relationships by pushing away their partner or spouse. They may have undesirable behavior in order to test their partner. The result in these situations where the behavior escalates enough is that they were right, their partner left them. Unfortunately their spouse or partner leaving them was of their own doing because they were pushing things too far and subsequently pushing away the other person.

How to handle the fear of abandonment

Many people have fear of abandonment issues because they were abandoned earlier in life. It could have been a previous relationship, but likely the source is from childhood. Abandonment in childhood, for example, such as having a parent or both parents not participating in the childhood rearing, can cause deep seated psychological issues.

The key is recognizing that the fear of abandonment exists. Below are some tips on how to handle your fear of abandonment issues so that you can lead more healthy and fulfilling relationships.

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1. Recognize that you are worthy of love

The underlying emotional battle with almost all who have fear of abandonment is their feeling that they are not worthy of being love. Their fear of abandonment likely stems from abandonment that happened sometime during childhood.

Because someone they were attached to left them (for whatever reason) and they subsequently were left feeling that they were not fully loved. The brain of a child thinks something along these lines “if he/she loved me then he (or she) wouldn’t leave me”. Leaving in the mind of a child means they were not fully loved. Even though this is likely not the truth, it is how the more simplistic mind of a child works.

As time goes on, they begin to wonder what it was that made them unlovable. Were they not pretty enough? Were they not smart enough? Were they not good enough? These thoughts can take root and carry into adulthood. The result is an adult who still feels that there is something about them that makes them not worthy of being loved completely and truly.

They often believe (subconsciously) that once in a relationship they need to control things so that the person doesn’t leave them. They will try to control their relationships and their significant other based on their fear of abandonment.

The first step in overcoming the fear of abandonment is to recognize that they are worthy of love.

Accept that you are worthy of love.

Everyone is worthy of love. There is no such thing as a perfect person. We all want to love and to feel loved. We all have flaws. Therefore love involves two flawed individuals. Each is worthy of love and being in a relationship.

You are worthy of love, flaws and all. It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to love you because that is unrealistic. However, there is someone out there for everyone. When you find that someone, remind yourself that you are worthy of the love and attention you receive. Reciprocate and care for the relationship. However, don’t allow it to become your identity or the center of your worth.

Become emotionally self reliant.

Your identity should never be solely tied to a relationship. It is part of who you are but it is does not define you. Make sure you can embrace these thoughts and know that you can be okay if you were to become single or alone. You do not base your worthiness on being in the relationship. Instead you are worthy because you are YOU and nobody else can be a better you.

Becoming emotionally self reliant may not come easy if you have been emotionally dependent in your current or past relationships. Therapy can be helpful if you are having difficulty in being emotionally self reliant. Becoming emotionally self reliant does not happen instantly, so be gentle with yourself in the process. One day at a time, and keep reminding yourself that you are responsible for your emotions and you are still an individual even if you are in a relationship.

Remind yourself as often as you need that it is not another person’s job to make you feel emotionally secure. Your emotional security comes first from you. You are an individual first and a partner second. Take ownership of your emotions and feelings. When fear starts to surface address those feelings rather than turning them into the unhealthy behaviors mentioned above such as jealousy, giving too much in the relationship or being preoccupied with thoughts of your significant other leaving you.

Being emotionally self reliant in a nut shell is taking responsibility for your emotions and doing so in a healthy way. It is no longer looking to your spouse or significant other to make you feel secure in the relationship. It is not their job to make you feel secure in the relationship. They cannot take away your fear.

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You must deal with your fears in order to be emotionally self reliant. Handling the fear often involves understanding where your fear is rooted.

2. Understand your fear to handle your fear

Where did your fear of abandonment begin? What happened in your life that has made you feel this way? Were your fears at that time warranted? Are those fears carrying into your current life and relationships? Questions like these can help you understand where and when your fear began and how they are currently affecting you.

If you have an understanding of where and how they began, you can also begin to understand that they are not helping you at this time. These fears in some instances can never be fully erased, but dealing with them by uncovering the source and development of the fear can help you better dispel the fear when it arises. When you know the root of this fear is the cause, the fear is no longer helpful to your life.

Journal about your abandonment

Journaling about your abandonment is one way of uncovering all your feelings, emotions, and thoughts on this issue. If you are able to get them out on paper, you are helping your mind process through these fears and emotions. If you get emotionally stuck in this process or find that it is not helping enough, then find a therapist who can help you. One way or another you need to uncover and process these emotions in order to understand the root of your fear.

Understanding the root helps you recognize that it is no longer needed or helpful in the functioning of your current relationships, because it has caused unhealthy fearful actions. Here are some questions you can address while journaling.

  • When did you first recognize the issue that caused your fear of abandonment?
  • Have there been multiple times you have felt abandoned in life? If so, what were those experiences and how did you deal with them?
  • Did you feel that your abandonment was your fault?
  • What messages, false or not, did you tell yourself about the abandonment (particularly about the cause)?
  • How has the abandonment earlier in life affected your relationships, both currently and in the past?
  • What behaviors can you recognize that were caused by your fear of abandonment?
  • What behaviors would you like to make yourself more conscious of in order to change them in regard to acting out of fear of abandonment in your current relationship?
  • What things can you do today to stop unwanted behaviors that are based in fear of abandonment (for example: instead of demanding time with your partner when they want to be with their friends, you call friend to hang out)?

You can address one question or several during an single journaling session.

3. Accept that some level of fear may always exist.

To have fear is to be human. You may never fully eliminate your fear of abandonment, but you can have control over your reactions to the fear.

It is important to recognize when you are having those fearful moments in your relationship. For example, those moments of fear that cause you to want to control who your spouse is looking at, where they are going or what they are doing without you by their side. You have to recognize the unhealthy patterns of thought and understand where the root of that fear is based. Doing so can help you recognize that the fears and the subsequent thoughts to control your spouse or significant other are not healthy for the relationship.

Channel the thoughts into positive self talk. Tell yourself you are worthy of love. Also remind yourself that your worth is not based on a relationship. You can be okay in a relationship and you can be okay alone. Acknowledge the root cause of the fear and tell yourself it is no longer needed because it is not helping you function in a healthy manner in your relationships.

You may always have some level of fear because the fear of abandonment is so deep rooted and fear is a natural human reaction. But you can help yourself minimize its toll by not allowing it to control your thought patterns and behaviors any longer.

4. Stop looking to your significant other for help in squelching your fears.

In order to deal with your fear of abandonment, you need to stop looking to your significant other as your solution. If you are having fears of abandonment, you are not to place the responsibility on them to make you feel secure. You must stop the controlling behaviors that are based in fear and place the onus of your fear of abandonment back upon yourself.

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Again, you circle back to reminding yourself of the cause of those fears and how they are no longer needed for your emotional health. In fact, holding onto those fears only hinders you.

Let go of the feelings that you are not worthy. Start by telling yourself you are worthy. Self talk can help you re-establish new ways of thinking when these thoughts of unworthiness based on fear pop into your mind.

5. Use self talk to replace fear with positive thoughts.

Self talk is incredibly powerful. It helps shape the way you think about yourself. Are you allowing your self talk to wallow in your fears, doubts, and negativity about yourself? If you are, it’s time to replace any of those thoughts with positive self talk.

Your goal with positive self talk is not to focus on the relationship because that is not the cause of your fear of abandonment. Your fear of abandonment is based on feelings of unworthiness which came about because of an abandonment earlier in life. You need to replace your negative and fearful thoughts with positive self talk regarding yourself and your worthiness.

Remind yourself that you are a person of worth. Look for positive attributes in yourself that are worthy of praise that you can refocus on when you have emotions about fear of abandonment settling upon you. Dispel the ugly feelings for abandonment and fear by replacing them with positive thoughts about yourself being a person of worth and value.

6. Accept the idea of being alone.

It is okay to be alone. You do not need another person in your life in order to be a person of value. You are worthy because you are you. It is okay to be single and it is okay to be in a relationship.

If you have a relationship that ends, then look for opportunity to embrace your season of being single and what that may look like for you. Find the positive in both single and involved relationship statuses, so that you can be okay either way. Your worth is not based on your relationship status.

7. Stop pursuing the emotionally unavailable.

Some people with fear of abandonment issues tend to seek relationships repeatedly with people who are emotionally unavailable.

Instead of seeking the emotionally unavailable, it’s time to break the cycle and seek out partners who are ready, willing and emotionally able to hold a relationship with you. If you have a long pattern of these unhealthy, emotionally unavailable relationships, then therapy can be quite helpful.

8. Create a network of support.

For some individual with fear of abandonment issues, they become highly entrenched in their romantic relationships because of their habit to give too much and their demand for their spouse or significant other’s time. This causes other relationships to fall by the wayside.

It’s hard to maintain friendships with others when you are obsessed with one person to the exclusion of others. Do you talk insensately about your significant other when you are with friends? Do you think non stop about your significant other when you are out with friends? These behaviors do not help you create meaningful relationships with others.

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In order to have a balanced life, you need friends outside of one singular person. You need a network of people who can be your support system. That way if your romantic relationship fails, you have the encouragement, love and support from friends and family around you.

Make yourself open to other friendships by participating in activities that interest you. If you enjoy running, then join a running club that meets once a week. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or singing group. If you like to help others, then join a volunteerism organization such as the rotary or Junior League. These are just a few examples.

Don’t spend your time so involved with only one person that you fail to develop friendships during this season of your life because you need friends for every season of life. Your fear of abandonment causes you to fixate on your significant other and you want to spend all your time with this person. Loosen the reins and allow yourself to have time to foster friendships with others so that you and your significant other are not your only support network.

You need more people in life because you are not an island in this world. It is healthy to have friendships with others while you still maintain your romantic relationship.

9. Be mindful of behaviors that feed off of fear.

There are behaviors caused by fear of abandonment, as discussed previously. It is important to not only recognize that these behaviors have happened in the past, but to also become aware of them in the present.

Practice mindful awareness to catch yourself when you begin with these behaviors so you can stop them in their tracks. Remind yourself that you are acting based on your fear of abandonment issues and these behaviors haven’t helped you with your relationships in the past, nor will they help you in the future.

Talk to your fears and tell them you are taking control by changing you behavior today.

Summing it up

The fear of abandonment may be inside of you for a long time but by recognizing your self worth and understanding the root of the fear, you will be able to get over it and lead healthy relationships again.

Anyone who feels insecure will always be insecure if they only rely on others for security. Take control of your fear today by following my advice and you will see your relationships change.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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