If healing was easy, we’d all do it. I’ve often said “Everyone wants to be happy until they realize what being happy means giving up.” Our toxic beliefs are like teddy bears our inner children are holding onto, fairytales we adopted that maybe once saved our lives as children but are now crippling us as adults.

Here are some of my favorite things I was called to give up this year in the name of my personal growth:

1. Surrender
I’d say submission, but the truth is I can still practice submission in BDSM as long as I define and maintain personal boundaries. Unfortunately the thrill of BDSM for me was in seeing how far I could be pushed without being broken, which meant I formed an addiction to mindless obedience. That became a problem when nobody, myself included, knew (or cared) when I was getting hurt. And I realized I had to stop expecting that other people would set my personal boundaries for me if I was valuable enough to them.

2. Seduction
I can still practice seduction as a skill set when I deem it appropriate, but I can’t adopt it as a lifestyle, because when I’m constantly calculating which 7 or 8 moves to make next I’m blocking myself from emotional intimacy. Those calculations become shameful secrets you have to keep from someone because it’d be embarrassing if they knew how much you were plotting ahead to get them to want to keep being with you. You can’t be present with someone when you’re constantly living in the future. (And I’m an Aquarius so that’s an issue as it is.)

3. Service
Obviously I can still do nice things for people. But as a service-oriented submissive I prided myself on anticipating people’s needs before they even asked for them, to the point where my brain was a scrolling matrix of everything going on in the room at all times, and that behavior doesn’t leave room for anyone to show up for me. Nobody can do anything for me if I’ve already anticipated everything; there’s no room for them to make any moves. And ultimately that blocks me from receiving. Furthermore, if I find my value in the service I can do for others, I’m essentially saying that I have no value just being, which means I attract people who don’t value me for who I am apart from what I can do for them.

4. Polyamory
While I don’t have to practice strict monogamy, it became clear that polyamory functioned in my life as a way of avoiding having to ask someone to give up having sex with other people in order to be with me because I was secretly afraid I wasn’t worth it. I felt that if I allowed a partner a far above average degree of sexual freedom then maybe I wouldn’t be abandoned. Essentially, I had to give up the praise and safety of being the “cool girl” and allow the shame that some authentic part of me is a little bit ball and chain. Sorry.

5. The Victim-Blaming Defense
People everywhere hate this one. If anyone called me into question as to how I allowed my abuse or assaults to happen, I would immediately condemn them for victim-blaming. But eventually I realized that the common denominator in my mistreatment was me. While I wasn’t to blame for it, I definitely allowed it to happen, and if I wanted to change my future I was going to have to take a serious look at how I had been complicit in the relationships and environments that produced it. Without beating myself up, I had to take responsibility for drawing better personal boundaries.

6. Toughness (Desensitization)
As a survivor of abuse, I found power in not letting anything affect me. There was a megalomania in my being unbreakable, eternally gracefully enduring. People could torment me and I wouldn’t bat an eye, like Harley Quinn laughing when Batman tries to choke her. Unfortunately that same desensitization that made me seemingly invincible and badass also made it impossible for me to tell when I was getting hurt. So I had to allow myself to tell people to stop, and thus risk being a pussy in my own eyes because I felt any objection on my part was a sign of weakness.

7. Arguing with People on Facebook
The very realistic, very trauma-induced belief that everyone who says something negative about you in an online forum is actually advocating for your murder doesn’t sound like it’d be something you’d want to hold onto, but keeping silent when some douchebro makes a shitty comment on your vulnerable share requires a blood-boiling amount of self-control. However, engaging every fuckface in the comments is simply giving your power away and failing to acknowledge that you’re far more influential than they are and you therefore look ridiculous taking their bullshit to heart. When I react, I don’t look like the authority I am. So now I have to just let them be wrong all on their own (or at least school them politely).

8. Comparison
Comparing yourself to others feels like a safe way of protecting yourself from rejection: if you can just anticipate where you measure up and where you don’t, maybe there won’t be any unpleasant surprises. However, the person who loves you because you have expensive shoes doesn’t love you at all, and none of the accomplishments under your belt mean you deserve to be with the person you want. But not only does comparison cause unearned entitlement, it also blocks you from receiving the things you’ve deemed yourself NOT deserving of. Ultimately you can aim for achievements but you can’t control the gifts the universe plans to bestow on you, and the energy of comparison keeps you in a constant battle against unworthiness that’s going to halt your potential because it deems unworthiness a real enemy to be defeated rather than understanding it as the illusion it is.

9. Caretaking
In the past I took on a lot of broken people and called it altruism. I wanted so badly to help them heal, but by overnurturing them I was actually complicit in their victimhood. This one is hard, you guys: this means standing by watching your loved ones suffer and knowing there’s nothing you can do for them. You can offer care or resources but they have to want it. And it’s heartbreaking whether they refuse to take those steps at all or whether they insist on taking them on their own while you watch them stumble, but you can’t carry their crosses for them. Helping someone without their permission is one of the most damaging things you can do to a friendship or relationship, disguised in the best of intentions, because it’s an attempt to make them smaller than you. And ultimately it just enables you in avoiding your own work.

10. Rescue
My core wound came from nobody rescuing me from my childhood abuser. All my adult life I unconsciously sought to make up for that oversight, striving to be more and more precious and desirable so that someone would deem me worth saving. From an early age I can remember my core erotic narrative springing from the trope of the princess in the ivory tower, of Buttercup waiting for Westley to come for her. The trouble with that is that if you are constantly seeking rescue, you will keep unconsciously manufacturing scenarios from which you need to be rescued. And then your safety, your wholeness, is dependent upon the actions of another person, and you’re fetishizing your own endangerment. I had to make a choice that broke my heart: I had to accept that nobody was going to save me except myself. On some level, that meant I had failed – I had not, ultimately, been precious or beautiful or valuable enough to merit someone saving me. I stayed in the tower and nobody came, how embarrassing. But I finally had to decide for myself that it only meant that I am being saved for something better, and even if I’m not sure what that is yet, the only way forward is a leap of faith.

The point of this post is… I don’t want to hear your fucking excuses, ok? I’ve given up all of these things within the course of less than a year – and I’ll probably think up more to add in later. Don’t bitch to me about how life isn’t fair to you or how badly you want to stop being miserable if you’re not willing to make the same kinds of sacrifices I have. You have to want to be whole more than you want to be comfortable, more than you want to cling to the teddy bears of your beliefs. You’re always welcome to take your healing just as far or as fast as you want it, but accept that you are making a choice and that you’re not a victim of fate.

“Don’t let your past define you” sounds great in theory, but theory isn’t good enough. You have to practice it too.