Why The Sacrifice Of Self Is Not An Act of Love

Equality in Relationships


We live in a world in which most people strive to earn or experience love while completely misunderstanding what love really is. While being stuck in various misunderstandings about love, we often become disillusioned, disappointed, angry, resentful or hopeless. We may feel like we give but do not receive. We may experience the pain of unrequited love, of unheard longing.

Some of us suffer in relationships by being attached to beliefs about our inferior worth in comparison to our partners or about what roles we are expected to play. Sadly, all these assumptions and thoughts are the very things that get in the way of experiencing what we were born with, what is always there underneath it all: love.


Love = Intimacy + Presence

Love thrives on mutual connection, presence, responsive attunement, honesty, reciprocity and individuality. Being in a loving state of mind means being connected to our true self. It means being present and truly intimate. It’s realising that what we yearn for is what we are made for and what we already are.


“What true intimacy requires is a coming together of two differentiated selves that are authentic in expressing themselves, their needs, preferences, beliefs, values, feelings etc. and letting each other connect without hiding parts of themselves.” Marlena Tillhon


What Gets In The Way?

Intimacy requires closeness that is only bearable when we are willing to be seen and known for who we are. It is a state of willingness to be seen as vulnerable, open, transparent and naked in addition what is obvious.


“True intimacy is an exchange of tender energy between two people who love each other deeply.” Barton Goldsmith


When we come from a place of shame, we hide parts of ourselves. From that place no intimacy is possible. We may run strategies on how to get someone to like us, approve of us, love us not realising that this is impossible while we are hiding. We are usually unconsciously setting ourselves up to fail.


No You, No Love

Many make the simple mistake of ‘losing themselves’ in relationship. This does not mean to actually lose yourself, but rather to disconnect from yourself in order to connect to someone else. This may be a pattern we learnt during childhood that we now unconsciously repeat, but which stands in the way of us experiencing true intimacy with another being.

When we are connected to ourselves, we are present. We live in the moment and have peace of mind. The second we go into our heads and indulge our thoughts, we are no longer present and experience a temporary sense of disconnection. We often look outwards and blame people, places and things when really we are experiencing what disconnection from ourselves in the present feels like.

And if love requires presence, how can we feel love, how can be feel our innate connection when we indulge the dramas and horror stories in our heads? And what if we don’t even know what stories and lies we innocently tell ourselves?

Here are some of the lies about us and relationships that we wrongly believe and express in our actions and reactions. It is these lies that stand in the way of us experiencing love and intimacy whilst pretending they are the solution to finally getting the love we crave.


The Lie of Toxic Shame: “If I hide how unlovable I am, will you love me?”

When we perceive ourselves as unlovable, we have a lot of unhelpful conditioning that’s in the way of us seeing the reality of us. We have a lot of unhelpful conditioning that prevents us from connecting with others because shame makes us hide. We hide parts of ourselves we fear our partner may judge or reject. And when we hide, there’s nothing authentic there to receive love.

In order to hide, we also have to guess what others find acceptable and unacceptable. We may guess wrong and act in ways to please the other while actually acting in unloving ways towards ourselves and possibly our partner. This self-censoring often leads to anger and resentment towards our partner even though they are the unknowing part in the game we play based on believing a lie of the mind. Feelings of disappointment and resentment usually lead to an acting out against our partners so the person we originally wanted to feel close to becomes our threat and is treated in unloving ways – whether that’s in our thoughts or in our behaviours.

When we feel unlovable, we may also act inferior to others, we may subjugate, people-please or self-subjugate. From this position we easily enter imbalanced and unhealthy relationships that will reinforce the unloving lies we are ruled by.

The solution is not finding someone else to prove you wrong and love you unconditionally. The solution is seeing the truth of you. It is seeing beyond the lies and exposing the abusive conditioning that is in place. When we see the truth, we can no longer truly believe the lie.


The Lie of Self-Sacrifice: “If I give you your fantasy of me, will you love me?”

Toxic shame leads to hiding. We hide to avoid rejection. But avoiding rejection does not equate love. It does not mean that we feel loved just because we have managed to push parts of us into the darkness to avoid being seen. We always know that somehow we manipulate what we present to others so how could we possibly feel accepted and loved when it’s not all of us that is known to the other?

Love is not about loving selectively. It is about loving the whole. It is about having being fully present to love and receive love. Whenever and whatever we hide will be a block to connection, love and intimacy. We must not work hard at finding, earning or getting love – we must put effort into uncovering the lies of the mind and actively opposing them so we can experience what is always there.

When we hide parts of us or disown our needs and feelings, we censor ourselves, we diminish ourselves, we limit ourselves – and our experience of relationships. Sacrificing the self means we cannot be fully loved. We have to show ourselves so we can be loved. We have to be present. By sacrificing our needs or wishes, we sell out and make it impossible to experience connection and love. By doing so we even refuse connection with ourselves and  loving ourselves. We are being dishonest. Love requires presence and honesty. We have to show up, be there and be honest about who we are and what we need to flourish in relationships and life.


The Lie of Self-Neglect: “If I am going without to give to you, will you love me?”

Love is mutual and reciprocal. We cannot claim to be loving when we are not loving towards ourselves. Any kind of self-neglect or self-abuse is unloving and the greatest barrier to experiencing connection, love and intimacy.

Self-neglect is not noble. It does not make us strong. It does not make us more wanted, liked or lovable. Instead, self-neglect deprives us from getting what we need and gives others the message that this is how we want or deserve to be treated.

By depriving ourselves, we also deprive others. We deprive ourselves of the care and attention we need and we cannot show others how to show us that they care for us. Humans do not just have a need to be loved but also to love. We want to love others and we want others to receive our love. We deprive others of valuable information about us.

Self-neglect ultimately also leads to disappointment, anger and resentment. We go without and get more and more depleted. Not because it is what our partner asks of us, but because we choose to based on the misunderstanding that if we wait patiently, someone else will come along and give to us.

This is a passive and disempowered position. It is a childlike view of human connection and reciprocity. It also goes against common sense because how much can one give from a state of deprivation and neglect?  


A True Act of Love

These are just three of the ways in which we mistakenly damage our relationships by trying to hide, censor and diminish ourselves.

Relationships are not standalone things that exist to provide us with something magical. Relationships are the result of our input into their creation. We could say that we use the word ‘relationships’ to describe the space and connection between two people. Without those two people their relationship would not exist.

Creating something is an active and ongoing process. It requires our input. It requires us to take part by giving ourselves to it. So experiencing a fulfilling relationship is not something we have to passively hope and wait for – it is something we create. It is something we give ourselves to. It is something we open up to. It is something we show up for. It is something we do out of love – for ourselves and others.

So look for the lies in your mind that tell you to censor yourself, make yourself smaller, deny your needs, put someone else above you because you are not lovable or worthy … find them and finally realise that they are not true. Don’t stay entrapped in thought-created lies about yourself that keep you from experiencing our true nature: one of connection and love.

It’s not something we need to earn. It’s something that is already within us.


Marlena Tillhon

Marlena is a progressive psychotherapist and relationship coach and passionate about helping people connect with their innate wellbeing.

Blog Comments

Thank you for this beautifully written article! I have hand-copied this article in my journal to read again and again.

Thank you for your kind words Joann. I hope it will help you love yourself and let others love you for who you are.

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