I see it all of the time.
A woman finally pushes back her defenses to enact some positive change, and she starts questioning her every impulse, way of interacting, and motive.
Before you know it, she is convinced she is seriously broken…
You’re Not Crazy but Self-Development Can Be a Tangled Can of Worms
What I tell women in this situation is: Take a deep breath! You are almost certainly not crazy.
And then I do my best to explain:
When you have spent so long keeping the process by which you meet your needs on autopilot, out of your view, looking at it for the first time in unfiltered form is going to be very jolting. There are going to be unflattering discoveries. If you are brave, you are going to see aspects of yourself that appall you: the tendency to be manipulative; desperate reliance on external-validation; deep fears of unworthiness, etc.
And your instinct at that point is going to be to become hyper-vigilant; you’re going to want to identify, analyze, and eradicate every tainted corner and inch of yourself! (You also may want to throw your head right back in the sand, but that is another post).
Your Needs are Legitimate
Wanting to improve yourself is admirable, but over-dosing on it from a place of panic puts you at risk to feeling like you are hopelessly broken. Please keep in mind: All of your crazy behaviors come from good places. You’ve just been trying to get your needs met, and you went about that in the best way you knew how. Perhaps you saw your parents behaving in certain ways. Maybe your temperament pre-disposes you to certain patterns of behavior.
Here are some examples, although these are by no means exhaustive:
Crazy Behavior Underlying (and Legitimate) Need
Passive-aggressiveness To feel moral
People pleasing To be liked and appreciated
Angry outbursts To protect oneself
Validation addiction To feel loved
Controlling behavior To feel effective
Pretentiousness To have social status
Compulsive interupting To be fully expressed
Reassurance seeking To feel secure
Extreme perfectionism To feel proud
Whatever the case, your M.O. was instinctual, unexamined, and it definitely didn’t check in with your morals or make sure not to violate any of your values. It also didn’t think very far into the future, and that is probably why you ultimately chose to examine it in the first place: It was causing problems and holding you back from where you want to go and who you want to become.
But it is critical that you not panic, nor throw the baby out with the bathwater. Your crazy behaviors come from good places. Your job now is to become fully conscious of your core values and needs. And to create a comprehensive plan of action that incorporates the input of all of them, including your morals.
What you definitely do not want to do is to become so upset at your discoveries that you stop identifying with core aspects of your true self and start denying your basic needs out of guilt and self-disgust. You have to remember: Your crazy behaviors come from good places.
Once you become conscious of your most fundamental desires, needs, and values, you have the gorgeous opportunity to stop compulsively attending to whichever of them screams loudest in any given moment and instead to design an elegant, long-sighted solution that accommodates each one.