“Self-betrayal is the result of conditional love — we learn to deny parts of ourselves in order to be loved, not for who we are but the version they approve of. We are supported or accepted when we met their approval, but our parents removed their love when we didn’t perform in a way that met their expectations. We deny the parts of ourselves they didn’t approve of, and we became the version of ourselves that we knew they would value. Thus begins the disconnection from our authentic self.”
Dr. Nicole LaPera
The authentic self is the self before the conditioned self. The self before we learned to perform for others in order to get approval.
We smartly choose to abandon our authentic selves in order to get love, acceptance and approval. It’s a matter of belonging, of survival. A child does not have the position or the ability to really advocate for themselves. So it makes all the sense in the world that we adapt to the environment.
But it comes at a cost. This abandoning of oneself takes a toll on a person.
It takes energy to suppress authenticity and to live by someone else’s expectations. It’s a grind. It’s not deeply fulfilling. There is also an uncomfortable lingering feeling of being inauthentic. It is an itch that can’t be scratched by shopping, promotions, or other distractions. Fulfilment and peace can never come to someone who doesn’t know how to be themselves.
There will always be that uncomfortable rock in the shoe.
Receiving conditional love also has people being in adult relationships a certain way. “I can’t be myself in relationship. I have to be someone different than who I am.” Holding up a facade is hard word. Not feeling like you can be yourself inside your marriage, might have you blame your partner for not letting you be yourself.
If you received conditional love, that will also be the way you tend to give love… with conditions. So, you will likely be watching your partner’s behavior and either subtly or directly asking them to change.
The person who gives conditional love thinks that if someone else changes, then they will feel better. This is the motivation behind it. You see, they don’t feel okay, they feel unworthy and uncomfortable themselves… but don’t really understand that that is on the inside. So they externalize their discomfort and convince themselves that if you change, they will feel better.
Parents do this to kids too. Obviously. It’s how it all begins.
Have you noticed how a lot of disagreements in marriage are around wanting the other person to be different? Doesn’t this sound conditional?
Also, if you were conditionally loved when you were young, you will likely choose a partner who also conditionally loves you. It’s familiar. It’s what you know as love. A conditionally loving marriage for example will operated in a similar way. It will demand that you act a certain way in order to be accepted.
If you act outside of expectations (even unspoken expectation) you may upset your partner. This upset from a partner is often enough to trigger you back into compliance to the expectations. Emotions are very powerful in this way.
So, in relationship you can continue to trade your authenticity for approval, because it’s what you know how to do. It’s what is safe.
And… you’ll likely be doing the same thing to your partner. Asking them to trade their authenticity for your approval.
You can see how conditional love leads to a whole host of problems: enmeshment, codependency, disempowerment, disagreement and dissatisfaction.
So this is a fairly heavy and depressing. Yes.
Until! You realize you can extricate yourself from this way of treating people and being treated.
Yes you can. You can do it from either side. You can recognize yourself in the one who is holding expectations and conditions on others, or you can recognize that there are conditions and expectations being placed on you.
You can break the pattern from either side.
Here are some things you could try in order to stop living from expectation and start living authentically.
- Be curious about the expectations that were placed on you.
- Understand how you were conditioned to act in order to receive love and acceptance.
- Allow yourself to be sad that you had to make that choice. Grieve it.
- Forgive yourself for not being true to yourself.
- Forgive those who put you in the position of having to chose acceptance over yourself.
- Be aware how you still act in order to get acceptance.
- Be aware how you feel when you don’t feel accepted.
- See where you put expectations on others.
- See where you externalize your okayness.
- Work on feeling okay and safe without controlling people or needing their approval
- Learn about yourself, be curious about who you really are
- Do new things, experiment
- Read about this topic of authentic self
- Get into conversations about this. Ask questions of others.
- Spend time around people who feel authentic
- Support your partner’s authentic expression
- Support others in their authentic expression
- Spend time around people who support your authenticity