I can't tell you how often I hear from my clients that "I should be further along in my healing process," especially when it comes to relationships.
Sophia is struggling with this:
More from YourTango: The Trap Of Feeling Responsible For Your Partner
"I'm finding my new relationship extremely challenging. After three years of being single, I thought I'd be further along with self-esteem challenges, but no! I can so easily find myself feeling needy with my partner AND abandoning myself—behavior that feels frightening and shameful. Suggestions on how to soothe myself in the moment? I do EFT and Heartmath exercises that help, but am still really struggling. Thanks!"
Sophia, even though you may have done much inner work during the three years you were single, being in a relationship triggers old fears of rejection that were never likely triggered during those three single years. You can do a ton of work on yourself—learning how to take loving care of yourself in many different ways, but taking care of yourself in a relationship is a whole other thing.
When someone becomes important to you, any unhealed issues from your early relationships with your family of origin will become apparent.
Sophia, this is not so much about self-esteem as it is about your beliefs regarding what you need in order to feel loved. The fact that you so easily find yourself feeling needy—which comes from abandoning yourself—indicates that you believe it is your partner's love that will give you your sense of self-worth. While you might feel worthy in many ways when you are not in a relationship, your self-abandonment within your relationships makes your self-esteem plummet, and scares your inner little girl.
On top of this, you are judging yourself for abandoning yourself and being needy, which is what is causing the shame. Then, you try to take away the fear and shame with various techniques, which only causes your little girl to feel more abandoned.
There is nothing wrong with EFT and Heartmath exercises to self-soothe, but if you use these instead of doing your "Inner Bonding" process, then you are using them to try to get rid of your feelings rather than learn from your feelings.
What you need to be doing, each time you feel needy, is to be open to learning about how you are abandoning yourself and why. In your question, I can see that you are abandoning yourself by judging yourself, making your partner responsible for your feelings, and then trying to get rid of the feelings. Your wounded self has some good reasons for rejecting yourself in these ways, and this is what you can explore in your Inner Bonding process.
Please let go of harping on "I thought I'd be further along with self-esteem challenges." Relationships are challenging for the very reason that they unearth all of our unhealed issues, giving us the opportunity to heal, learn, and grow into more loving human beings. Welcome the challenges as opportunities to learn about your beliefs that are limiting you—particularly your beliefs about what creates self-esteem.
The truth is that high or low self-esteem is the result of how we treat ourselves. When you judge yourself, and then ignore your feelings or try to get rid of them, you create your feelings of unworthiness. The feelings of emptiness and neediness then result in you making your partner responsible for filling up you up—filling the emptiness that you've created with your self-abandonment/self-rejection.
All this changes when you devote yourself to practicing Inner Bonding every time you feel empty, needy, frightened, and/or shamed. Through your practice you can discover your false beliefs that lead to your self-abandonment, and you can shift out of self-judgment/self-rejection into self-compassion and self-love. This is what creates self-worth, and enables you to share love with your partner rather than keep on trying to get love.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her new 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week home study eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox"—the first two weeks are free! ! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
More from YourTango: The Circle of Love: The Highest Experience in Life
More personal development coach advice from YourTango: