We’ve all done it. Selling yourself out. Saying and doing things that go against your inner values. Self-betrayal can start out as small acts of disingenuousness. Like those little white lies you tell to cover up what you truly believe.
Those times when you don’t honor how you really feel. Saying “yes” when you really mean “no”. Saying “I’m fine” when you’re really not okay. Not speaking up when you feel that someone has violated your rights. Self-betrayal can take a toll on your self-worth and self-esteem.
It all starts in childhood when we are taught that inauthenticity pays off. It’s so much easier to sell out just to make other people feel comfortable, then it is to be who we really are. We put others need before our own. We long to make our parents and friends love and like us. In the process, we betray ourselves when we try to be someone we are not simply to fit in.
Why We Betray Ourselves
If you’re like me, you probably find it much harder to grant yourself grace when you’ve done things you know you shouldn’t have. I find it much easier to forgive others who have betrayed me than when I’ve betrayed myself. It’s as if I almost expect others to not live up to my expectations. But, when I don’t live up to my own standards, I really beat myself up.
My most recent incidence of self-betrayal happened when I stayed with a job I hated just to pay the bills. My intuition told me that there were greater things in store for my life if I would’ve just moved on sooner. But, I kept the position anyway because it was “safe”, only to be downsized a short time later.
Why do we do things that violate our personal values? The number one answer is fear. But jealousy, old temptations, and bad habits can also lead us to compromise ourselves.
5 Ways to Move Past Self Betrayal
- Realize that everyone screws up from time to time. I like to remember the Maya Angelou quote, “When you know better, you do better”. Recognize that you did the best that you could do with the information you had available. Be kind to yourself. Dust yourself off and move on.
- Get to know your true self. What makes you happy? What motivates you? What scares the hell out of you? Understand the core of who you are. That way, in the future, you’ll be less swayed to compromise you own value system.
- Re-evaluate your values. It’s stressful to live an incongruent life. Our behavior shows us what we truly believe. Say you cheated on your significant other. Maybe you thought that you valued fidelity. But, in actuality, your behavior didn’t reflect that belief. In the future, you may decide that you want more flexibility when it comes to your relationships. Decide how you want to live your life.
- Develop your own set of ethics. Many times we find that our value systems are imposed on us by others. It might be gleaned from our parents, life circumstance growing up, from our friends, or from the society in which we live. Create your own sense of what’s right and wrong and build your own moral code.
- Learn to never say never. I find that when I say what I will never say or do, I box myself in to a corner. It’s as though I’m inviting lapses in my personal integrity. I don’t know what the future holds for me. So, I’ve discovered that it’s best to keep all my options open. Keep an open mind about all of life’s possibilities.
Donya Molock is a freelance medical writer, journalist, and psychiatric registered nurse. Visit her blog Inner Psyche, a personal development site for women.