Monday 6 December 2021

All this sacrifice and for what? | steps to healing

In a conversation with a co-worker, they mentioned how other people at work like me. Which they then corrected to "most people". 

For the rest of the chat, all my mind was fixated on was the fact that not everyone likes me. It made me feel sad to think that there are people around me that don't like me. I started thinking - why not? what's wrong with me? what did I do wrong? I bend over backwards for others. Often ignoring my own needs to make sure they have a good day so what more can I do?! Round and round the spiralling went. When the conversation was over, I thought "I don't like every single person I know so..." which then lead to me criticising myself for being a 'mean person' for not liking every single person 100%. 

But why did I take it so personally? While I am a flawed and unperfect person taking such things so personally is a daily occurrence for me. And this is - as I'm sure you can imagine - painful and exhausting. In the back of my mind I have always had a thought that if you do good, you are owed good. It started from a young age as - Treat others the way you wish to be treated - but it then morphed into some kind of self-torture. Where, if I am not exhausting myself, neglecting myself or making sure everyone is happy other than myself, then I am a bad person. 

How can a good person be gifted with good things? Where is the penance? 

I have wanted to know for so long why I am the way that I am. That’s a pretty vague way of putting it but in truth, I have struggled my whole life with thinking the way I do, and I’ve never known why. Logic dictates that if you’re repeating a behaviour/thinking style that is having an undesirable effect on you and your life, you change it. But try as I might I’ve never been able to get to the root issue.

Heaven’s reward fallacy.

"The "Heaven's Reward Fallacy"
manifests as a belief that one's struggles,
one's suffering, and one's hard work will
result in a just reward."

What is it? In basic terms, it is a cognitive distortion. And a cognitive distortion is – "Research suggests that people develop cognitive distortions as a way of coping with adverse events. The more prolonged and severe those adverse events are, the more likely it is that one or more cognitive distortions will form." While I do suffer from other cognitive distortions, Heaven’s reward fallacy is definitely the one that affects my life the most – and not in a good way. I had an amazing childhood. I felt loved and had all the makings of what a child loves. However, I was witness to another person's inner struggles and suffering. While living with poor mental health is difficult, seeing someone you love more than anything go through it feels so much worse when you are a child. Things I heard and saw affect me to this day. It was traumatic and the healing is ongoing. I began to take it personally if I weren't able to pull them out of their dark times. I would feel failure when I did everything I could possibly think of to show that person love and to see it solve nothing. I think this was the beginning of a belief system starting: Give 100% to everyone around me and don't focus on myself. That's what 'good' people do. 

"Heaven's reward fallacy -
expecting all sacrifice and self-denial to pay off,
as if there were someone keeping score,
and feeling disappointed and even bitter
when the reward does not come"
- Beck 1976

Sacrifice and self-denial are old companions of mine. They have been with me for as long as I can remember. Even as a child I would struggle with thoughts that if I do x, y and z, then that means I am a good person. I have always felt the need to seek out the 'proof'. When I have been in abusive relationships there was always an undercurrent of me feeling like if I endured all this pain, something amazing will come my way. If I am still kind, understanding and loving to people who treat me like shit, then that proves that I am a good person and therefore will be rewarded positively in some way. How dangerous. In all seriousness, I have tolerated such disgusting behaviour from people just to confirm to myself that I am in fact a good person. 

Before knowing about Heaven's Reward Fallacy, there was a part of me that felt it was religious in nature. I grew up feeling that I was drawn to Christianity and would carry that out in the form of prayer, repentance and stringent ruling. Around the age of 27-29, I became less drawn to Christianity. I'm not sure why, but it just seemed distant to me now. That was followed by guilt and shame as I believed that I couldn't be a 'good person' without a God or religion in my life. I now realise that this was because I felt I needed someone/something to hold me accountable. To judge my actions, lack of and even my thoughts. To keep a scoreboard. There are things I have done/said and afterwards, I think: "why the hell did I do that?!??" or "how could I have done that??!?". And I think that comes down to 1) my lack of connection with myself and/or a higher being and 2) not to seem like I'm playing the blame game but, Heaven's Reward Fallacy had skewed my view on absolutely everything that I have had no freedom to be just a 'normal', flawed human being. 

"No amount of self-improvement
can make up for any lack of self-acceptance"
- @antiloneliness

I have given so much of myself away for a belief that doesn't even sit right with me. 
In truth, I don't give to receive and I don't expect others to go above and beyond for me. Doing the best you can, trying to be a good person is enough, surely? And to be honest, wouldn't we say that if someone is striving to be their best self, isn't that reward enough? They can look at themselves in the mirror and feel pride and happiness in the knowledge that they are the person they want to be. As people, we aren't perfect - far from it! and that is okay. It is something that I find very hard to accept. I hold myself to an excruciatingly high standard where perfection is achievable and what I allow as the bare minimum. Heaven's reward fallacy has made me my own worst enemy. Making me believe that my good enough, isn't good enough. 

I feel that I really need to allow myself the awareness and understanding that trying is more than enough. Nothing and no one is perfect and doing my best is perfectly acceptable. I can only imagine what my life would look like if it weren't controlled by guilt, shame and punishment but having spent my whole life up until this point living this way, I feel I owe myself the opportunity to live life minus the obsessive belief that I don't deserve any good in my life without massive self-neglect. 

Thank you for stopping by, I really appreciate it xoxo

As always, sending you love and kickassery 😏💪💋💖


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