Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Julius Caesar was betrayed by Brutus and uttered the famous words, “Et tú, Bruté?” History is riddled with betrayals, including each of our personal histories. But what about self-betrayal?
It is deeply hurtful when we are betrayed by those we love and thought were our friends. Yet, as painful as that it, there is a deeper betrayal still. It is called . . . betrayal of self.
I had never heard the term until I was in my forties. Wanting to learn more about self-betrayal, I looked for a definition. I suppose it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that self-betrayal wasn’t in any dictionary.
Why would it be when most of us were taught to betray ourselves? It wasn’t called that, though. It was called “being nice.”
Being nice meant stuffing our feelings, rather than express them and risk causing friction. It meant inviting people to our birthday parties we didn’t want to invite, to avoid hurting their feelings. Sometimes it even meant we had to downplay our talents so others wouldn’t experience the discomfort of envy.
Don’t get me wrong. There is real wisdom in being considerate of others. Yet, if taken too far, we can end up learning lessons that provide a fertile seed bed for self-betrayal.
If stuffing our feelings is the nice thing to do, we learn outer peace is more important than inner peace. If considering others’ feelings to the exclusion of our own is the nice thing to do, we learn duty to others trumps duty to self. And if excelling at something isn’t nice, we learn it is better to hide our gifts from the world than to outshine others.
Sadly, these are the lessons I learned in the course of growing up. Through the years they became ingrained in my subconscious seemingly without my consent. As a result, I entered adulthood believing the feelings and needs of others to be more important than the feelings and needs of self.
As you can imagine, this belief did not serve me well. It didn’t lead to a happy life. Instead, it led me to betray myself in my relationships by enduring abuse and settling for crumbs. And all the while, I thought it was the right thing to do.
Living four decades in self-betrayal nearly killed me – physically and emotionally. Despite what I had learned, “being nice” was certainly not “being nice to oneself.”
I would never have treated a friend the way I learned to treat myself. Learning to honor myself, instead of betray myself, has been a long time in coming. I haven’t mastered it completely, but over the last few years I’ve identified seven principles that help me stay on track.
7 Principles for Overcoming Self-Betrayal
- Be your own best friend (and then others).
- Champion your own cause (as well as others).
- Be connected to and supportive of yourself (and others).
- Listen to your heart, your head and your gut (your three brains).
- Create a life that feeds your soul (and nurtures others).
- Pursue your dreams (and encourage others to dream, too).
- Make your life a statement, not an apology.
Overcoming self-betrayal can be a huge task, but I’ve learned to take it one step at a time, one decision at a time, and one moment at a time. My awakening started with the hairbrush epiphany that changed my life. Where it will take me is both a mystery and a grand adventure!
Each one of us was created with enormous potential, but it’s up to us how far we will go with it. I believe you deserve to live the best life possible, so I have a question for you. Will you give that to yourself?