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  • Writer's pictureBrooke Byers, MA, LMHCA

Self-Love Isn't Self-ish

Are you stuck in a fawn response?

In my work as a therapist, I’ve noticed some clients are resistant to the concept of self-love and self-care. Unfortunately, some see a love of self as synonymous with selfishness. If I’m honest, I once thought the same thing. Well into my adulthood, I believed it was selfish to focus on myself instead of prioritizing and pleasing others. Little did I know, I was living in a constant “fawn” state. Maybe you’ve heard of the fight, flight and freeze as common trauma responses. However, have you ever heard of the fawn response? In response to a real or perceived threat, some nervous systems are wired to go into a fawn response (also known as “please & appease”) as an attempt to avoid conflict altogether. Hint - You can recognize a fawn response when you notice yourself or others in a constant state of people pleasing in order to avoid conflict.

Fawning was certainly a big part of my story. For years, I was so focused on loving and doing for others, I completely neglected myself. I had so much shame about using my voice and developing any personal interests that I ultimately neglected my own feelings and needs. Continually putting others first caused me to disconnect from my true self. As a result, I experienced profound emotional, mental, physical and spiritual neglect, which actually led to not having a self at all. If there is an absence of self, how can one love and care well for others from a healthy place? When shame is in the mix, loving ourselves (and others) well is extremely hard to do. In the past several months, our Grey Sky Counseling team has written a lot about the deceptive power of shame and the necessity of telling the truth.

Shame wants us to believe that we don’t measure up and are less than when compared to others. Shame convinces us that others are way more important and/or we’re not good enough, smart enough, good looking enough, fill-in-the-blank enough. Worst of all, shame would have us believe we’re not worthy of love. Ironically, shame illuminates our need for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is almost impossible to do in isolation. Thus, I think it’s high time we learn to embrace a new script about ourselves, and do it together. In my personal and professional work, I have learned how empowering “I AM” statements can be. Likewise, when merged with toxic shame, they can be incredibly dis-empowering. Just for today, here are several “I AM” statements you can adopt as your own in an effort to develop a power-full self-love.

I AM worthy of love.

I AM worthy of a healthy self.

I AM worthy of care.

I AM good enough.

I AM worth fighting for.

I AM capable of using my voice for good.

I AM created with feelings that illuminate needs and deserve to take action.

I AM important.

You may have some resistance or hesitancy about these at first, and that’s ok. The process of learning to love yourself takes time and breaking patterns of people pleasing won’t come naturally. You don’t have to do it alone. You don’t need to do it alone. If you’re feeling stuck, I encourage you to talk about this with your therapist, partner or close friend (someone who has earned your trust). Stay tuned for this week’s Basecamp Newsletter for some of our E3 ideas to encourage, equip and empower you on your journey toward healthy self-love and care.

Deer Photo Cred: Scott Carroll (@scottcarroll on Unsplash)






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