Love and belongingness is a core human need. What happens when this need is unmet or thwarted? We don’t feel good about ourselves. Being rejected can be heart-breaking.
According to research, the intense pain of a broken heart is part of our survival mechanism. When we feel we are being rejected or shunned, our survival instinct is to step up and reach out.
However, for most survivors with our history of rejection and abuse, this system is usually out of whack. We believe that love is all about giving without any right to receive. The result is depression, low-self esteem, and a joyless existence.
Honestly, when we usually speak of love, it most often has to do with loving someone else. Loving oneself is mostly deemed as egotistical and self-centered. Caring for ourselves first is not selfish, it is self-preservation. Taking care of ourselves must be our priority.
Love And Heart Coherence
Only recently, scientists have discovered how our heart affects and synchronizes our body functions. It is the heart that directs your brain not the other way round.
When we experience uplifting emotions such as appreciation, joy, care, and love; our heart rhythm becomes more coherent or consistent. This coherence has been linked to a sense of wellbeing both physical and emotional.
During a coherent heart rhythm, the activity in the two branches of the autonomic nervous system ANS is synchronized. Our body operates with increased efficiency and harmony.
However, these positive feelings don’t usually fall from the sky. The come about through loving and nurturing relationships.
When we feel good about ourselves and the world our heart rhythm becomes calm and relaxed. Love begets more love and gives us the confidence to go explore and engage.
Rejection And Our Heart-Brain
Rejection hurts. We actually feel the pain of rejection in our hearts. The shame, anger, and grief make us feel as if our heart is breaking into a thousand pieces.
Social rejection actually changes our heart rhythm patterns. We could die of a broken heart.
What do most people do when faced with social rejection. They do whatever it takes to get back on the acceptance train by becoming ‘people pleasers.‘ This may help in the short run but if this ongoing, it could lead to lop-sided relationships and abuse.
Most survivors of childhood abuse have been wired to be doormats, yes people or codependents. This makes them sitting ducks for further abuse.
Moreover, clinging desperately on to people who don’t value us erodes our self-esteem. How do we stop being used and abused?
Re-tuning To Your Feelings
Having a history of abuse makes us clueless as to what self-care is about. We have spent so much time caring about everyone else that we no longer think of ourselves as separate entities. We are -always thinking in the context of our relationships in view of getting our emotional needs met.
Childhood neglect and rejection left our self-esteem and confidence in shreds. We were shamed for having needs and expressing them. We feel guilty for wanting even normal things like being thanked for a job done or included in a family meal.
However, we cannot change the past or people. We can control our present and influence our future. We start by tuning in to our needs and our feelings. What makes me feel good? Or what do I really need? What exactly do I want to do?
Self-care /Self-love – Do It Yourself
Self-care is basically doing for yourself what you wish someone had done/or will do for you. You cannot heal and become whole if you keep relying on someone else supply your needs, particularly emotional needs. They are bound to fail you, which will only aggravate our feelings of worthlessness.
For me, food has been a big source of trauma. All those years living through my grandmother’s habit of hiding food deeply impacted my sense of worthiness.
I craved for what was denied. I had that unfulfilled desire for different foods. My self-care began by making or buying foodstuffs that I longed for as a kid.
Self-care is not indulgence it is about nurturing yourself when you have no one to do it for you. Satisfying your needs is nothing to be ashamed, of nor is it selfish. It is self-love.
Self-care Is Also About Protection
Knowing who to trust is crucial to our well-being. Childhood abuse makes us vulnerable to abusers because we are needy and vulnerable. Learning to read the red flags and running or cutting loose the person is vital self-care.
For me, now it is better safe than sorry. I’d rather let go of a person than put up with unreliability or someone’s intermittent goodness. My brain craves constancy and trustworthiness.
Attuning to one’s needs slowly fills that deep empty hole within us. The more we fulfill our heart’s longings the more we feel positive. Micro-moments of positivity are the beginnings of major changes.
Putting Ourselves First
Treating ourselves like we are important and valuable is a daily exercise in self-care. It may mean spending for a regular manicure or saying ‘No’ without guilt or indulging in your favorite chocolate. No, it is not about feeding your ego, it is rebuilding your shattered self.
Making self-care a habit may take time. Since we need to override our encoded faulty message that putting oneself first is selfish. I had to work at releasing the messages of my Christian upbringing of ‘loving my neighbor more than myself’
A Confident Heart, A Coherent Heart
As we learn to be our own cook, butler, bodyguard, mother or savior, we feel more in control of our fate. No longer are we desperately looking for someone to save us. Desperation is unattractive and off-putting. Neediness sends across the vibe of not being good enough.
Changing our inner wounded child feeling of ‘I am not important’ to ‘I am important‘ causes a subtle shift in how we project ourselves. We come across as confident and competent.
Confidence is calming, we are in control and our stressed hearts calm down. We feel our heart rate becoming coherent. Self-care, heart coherence, health, and happiness are all closely linked.
It is indeed true following our heart is what makes us truly happy. Nurture yourself and do things that make you feel good. Make self-care a priority.
Featured photo credit: Pixabay
Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection – Barbara Fredrickson
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being – Martin Selman
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom – Rick Hanson