Self-Betrayal and Barriers to Empowerment
In my support of women’s authentic empowerment, I’m always exploring what gets in the way of that empowerment, both within my own journey and those of my clients — and it almost always relates to self-betrayal.
What is it that keeps us from speaking our truth, setting clear boundaries, taking risks toward our dreams, and fully trusting ourselves?
One of the biggest barriers to feeling empowered is people-pleasing, often at the cost of self-betrayal.
Pleasing others is certainly not a bad thing, but our patriarchal dominance history has many of us pleasing others at the expense of ourselves.
Why is it so difficult to step out of people-pleasing?
Many of us are terrified of disappointing or being a disappointment to others.
Let’s explore disappointment, and see if we can reframe this intense fear so that it stops causing us to betray ourselves.
Fear of Disappointment
How often do you feel disappointed?
If we really think about it, most of us are disappointed daily to some degree or another.
How often is the disappointment you feel due to disappointing yourself?
That’s a question we rarely think about, and more specifically, rarely care to admit.
I’ve wrestled with fear of disappointment much of my life, often bringing more self-betrayal.
I grew up believing it was not ok to disappoint others, and that to do so meant that I as a person was a “disappointment.” I believed that if I was disappointing, I was also hurting those I disappointed.
Can you relate?
Fear of disappointment isn’t only due to familial upbringing. Systems within our patriarchal culture have us believing we’re unworthy, small, a “sinner” or insignificant if we don’t conform to the expectations of society. The pressure to conform blocks us from feeling free to be ourselves and step into our empowerment. Conformity keeps us in the self-betrayal we’re trying to move away from.
When you add to that the fear of disappointing or hurting others, we can feel almost paralyzed.
The Freedom of Choice Comes at a Cost, but Hopefully not the Cost of Self-Betrayal
Human beings have the unique freedom to choose.
Animals are not consciously choosing in their actions. They operate out of instinct. Human beings have the gift of Ego Consciousness, which gives us the power to reason, objectively observe, and choose our path in freedom.
Ego Consciousness isn’t fully available until the age of 21 or so, and from there continues to be refined as we work to strengthen it throughout our life.
The healthy adult Self chooses and discerns with this Ego Consciousness. We can choose from the lower ego, more controlled by our instincts, sympathies and antipathies, or the Higher Ego capable of choosing for the greater good of Life with Love and Wisdom.
Our entire adult life is formed by our choices. Yes, difficult things can happen to us beyond our control, things that disappoint us, but the freedom of choice is in how we respond to what happens in our life. In that freedom to choose, we can find our empowerment.
While we have this amazing gift of freedom, choice cannot happen without disappointment.
This bears repeating…
Choice cannot happen without disappointment.
If we long to live as a truly free, empowered being, free to choose in the unfolding of our life, we must be willing to accept disappointment.
Whether we’re choosing which shirt to wear, or which flavor of ice cream to eat, or which road to take, there will be disappointment.
We might disappoint ourselves by not being able to enjoy the flavor that’s not selected. We might disappoint another by not wearing what they’d like us to wear. And if we consider all of life as having a certain amount of “consciousness,” we might even entertain the idea that the path we don’t take might be disappointed that we didn’t choose it.
The point is that something is sacrificed every time we make a choice, and if there are any “frustrated expectations” caused by our choices, there will be disappointment. Let’s just make sure we’re not perpetuating self-betrayal in the choices we make.
In its most simple definition, to disappoint is to “frustrate the expectations or desires of.”
We all have expectations, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be met or that someone is required to do so. Others may have expectations of us, but that doesn’t mean we are obliged to meet them.
One’s expectations are not another’s promises.
This is SO critical to understand.
Too many of us live life based on expectations, whether it’s our expectations of life, expectations others have of us, or, most often and most unfortunate, expectations we think others have of us.
Given that expectations don’t equal promises, and people are not typically even aware of the expectations at play in most scenarios, it’s no wonder we so often experience frustration that expectations or desires aren’t met.
Let’s unpack disappointment a bit more.
Disappoint can be broken into dis (reverse/opposite of) + appoint (to point/pierce).
In disappointment, we’re opposing or reversing what’s been pointed to. We could think of this as moving from something we’ve been wanting or expecting (the point of focus) to the reverse or opposite of that, which would be whatever we were not focused on.
In disappointment, we move from point to periphery.
The periphery is the many perspectives or ideas represented by the circle around the point or center of focus.
I’ve written many articles speaking of the feminine quality of diffuse awareness (i.e. attention on the periphery) and the masculine quality of focused awareness (i.e. attention on the point).
When I realized that disappointment was a feminine quality with its shift of focus to the periphery, I immediately understood why so many struggle with it.
Feminine qualities of uncertainty, darkness, questioning, and certainly disappointment have been considered unacceptable for centuries.
In our patriarchal culture, we want answers, clarity, conformity and to achieve the goal at all costs. When the eye is always on the prize (point), anything on the periphery is dubbed unacceptable or even detrimental.
We often judge those deeply focused on their goals as being “selfish,” or we might fear being selfish if we were to be so focused toward our own dreams and visions.
This perception of selfishness comes from our fear of disappointment, and often results in self-betrayal.
You might be disappointed by a friend that isn’t available as often as you’d like because their attention is on achieving their dreams. You might be afraid to move toward your own dreams out of fear of missing out and/or disappointing others in the process…ultimately betraying yourself.
While we may be free to choose, true freedom only comes when we can accept the disappointment that comes with that choosing. More importantly, true Soul freedom comes when you stop disappointing and betraying yourself all the time just to please others and avoid disappointing them.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t care about others. I’ll say more about that in a moment. It simply means that we actually prioritize, focus on, and appoint our vision toward our dreams and stop betraying them.
Disappointment Is not the Same as Hurt
The first time I moved through a situation filled with significant choice points, and chose not to disappoint myself and allow others to be disappointed, I wanted to throw up.
As I said, disappointing others has always been so difficult for me.
For some time, I wrestled, second-guessed myself, and even beat myself up. At first, all I could see was how I disappointed others due to the choices I made.
Only after a lot of exploration within my Soul did I finally realize that I had remained true to myself. I didn’t disappoint myself. I kept my focus on the point of my vision.
The moment I realized this, a whole new level of freedom washed over me.
I thought about all of the temptations I had to abandon ship, compromise myself, give in to pressure, etc.
But I didn’t.
I held true to my vision, staying with the discomfort, holding boundaries, and speaking my needs.
And, I stopped betraying myself while being so compassionate for the needs of others, understanding their disappointments without turning them into my disappointments.
I’ve also habitually felt responsible for everyone else’s emotions, often feeling like I have to fix whatever’s going on, make everything ok, or alleviate any suffering.
We are not individually responsible for the disappointments of others.
We are not responsible for the “frustrations of unmet expectations” of others.
We can be mindful of how others feel. We can have compassion for their experiences. We can love them through whatever they’re feeling, and be supportive.
However, the moment we try to take responsibility for the feelings of another, we also infringe upon their freedom to be responsible for themselves.
I spent a lot of time contemplating the many ways I’ve disappointed and betrayed myself over the years in the interest of taking responsibility for others, being liked and people pleasing.
None of this was ultimately about responsibility, being liked or people pleasing. It was simply about my story behind disappointment. In my mind, disappointment equaled “hurt.”
Yet I didn’t “hurt” anyone by holding true to myself and my values. Yes, some were disappointed, but none were “hurt.”
We confuse disappointment with hurt all the time.
To hurt is to injure or cause pain.
In disappointment, we may not reach our preferred “point” or goal (masculine), and must allow for the different needs/wants/values/etc. of the periphery.
Rarely if ever does disappointment leave a long lasting wound.
Disappointment is not always forever. It’s usually a moment.
If we select one thing now, we can select something else later if we want. If someone disappoints us in one moment, they might surprise us with so much joy in the next.
Our all-or-nothing and either-or patriarchal culture has us believing it’s now-or-never, and we don’t give ourselves the grace of process very easily. Life is a process, an unfolding, a journey, and not a destination.
Process is yet another feminine quality we ignore.
Perhaps disappointment is also a doorway to the Sacred Feminine.
Knowing this, we can trust that not all of our goals will satisfy all people, nor will all of the goals of others satisfy us. Something must always be sacrificed in honoring certain “points” of attention. It’s in the remembering of the sacrifice that we can find compassion.
Sacrifice literally means “to make sacred.”
Who are we to determine whether something sacrificed in the interest of honoring a vision is “hurting” anything? What if disappointment and sacrifice are simply ways in which we are made more sacred rather than harmed?
Every “choice” in Nature “disappoints” something. Why would it be different for us in our choices?
This is not to say we should lack compassion or be oblivious to the feelings of others. We can have love and compassion for others, taking in their thoughts and feelings without taking them on as our own.
No More Self-Betrayal: Embodying Freedom & Trusting Ourselves
Understanding disappointment, our fear of it, and that we aren’t responsible for the disappointment of others is one thing.
Fully living through the intense experience of disappointing others in order to be aligned with the point we truly want to bring, which will elate some even while disappointing others, is the only way to have the acceptance of disappointment land in your bones.
As with everything we want to embody, we must practice disappointment to become accepting of it.
Disappointment brings tremendous learning if we’re open to it, especially the learning to stop betraying yourself.
We can get better at making choices with more Love and Wisdom, as well as manage our expectations, so that fewer and fewer disappointments need to happen. We can be mindful of the periphery even while keeping our focus on the point of our vision.
We can practice responding more consciously to disappointment and how we may disappoint others, separating disappointment from hurt. This consciousness helps us to reconcile and unite the Sacred Masculine and the Sacred Feminine within us.
Disappointment is a necessary part of being free human beings.
I still don’t wish to disappoint anyone, but I finally came to see that this is simply not possible, no matter how much we wish for it.
In being willing to stay with discomfort and see it through, while holding true to our vision, we can find tremendously greater trust in ourselves.
You don’t have to betray yourself as you go after your dreams, and can stay conscious in your choices and their impact on others.
Staying conscious can be painful.
It requires a lot of effort to remain aware, discern what’s best in each moment, and stay true to who we are and what we’re here to do.
As we practice consciousness, which includes improving our relationship with disappointment, we move through challenges more easily each time.
We grow trust in ourselves and in life.
We cultivate compassion for ourselves and for others.
There’s a fine line between not disappointing or betraying yourself and not having that approach be at the expense of others. To me, the “expense” of others is hurting. We can be quite compassionate and loving, cause no harm, and still disappoint someone.
Disappointing others does not make you a bad person.
Being disappointed by another does not make them a bad person.
In the past, I might’ve said I felt “hurt” when someone didn’t do what I would like. I might’ve thought they were disrespecting my feelings. I might not have seen that they were only holding to their own needs and boundaries, and that they might be respecting my needs even if they were not fulfilling those needs…which of course they have no responsibility to do.
With deep compassion, we can feel for the disappointed and the disappointer…including ourselves…in more neutral ways that stay true to our Selves.
While we may have the freedom to choose, true freedom comes when you can do so without fearing the disappointment that comes with choice, and without betraying yourself in making that choice.
In what ways have you taken on responsibility that is not yours in the interest of not disappointing others?
In what ways have you been immersed in self-betrayal out of fear of disappointment?
In what ways are you seeing disappointment differently now?
Share your thoughts in the comments, and let’s continue the conversation.