We are betrayed when someone we trust (or assume to have no malevolent thoughts towards us) acts in a way that deprives us of something, puts us in danger, or harms us; or fails to act in a way that benefits us (especially when it is within their power to do so).
One of the most notable stories of betrayal is the Kiss of Judas: A kiss that revealed the identity of Jesus to those seeking to hurt him, and marked the beginning of the torment and death of Jesus.
Another example is the mating behaviors of Praying Mantises, where the Female heartlessly devours the head of the male after he had released his seed inside of her. This is perhaps the harshest form of betrayal that occurs daily in the animal kingdom.
But, betrayal isn’t always far-fetched – they are not always things to read about in books, or see on TV – betrayal occurs every day and, to varying degrees, to everyone.
You might even have a fresh memory of a betrayal – it may be from a colleague, friend, or family member. They may have said something to someone which made you look bad. They may have failed to say something when they should have. Or they may have done something that hurt you deeply – it may be a cheating partner or a loved one who mislead you.
Betrayal in all its shades hurt. And, as they say, “the worst thing about betrayal is that it comes from the people you trust”.
But, what if there was another form of betrayal, more sinister and hurtful? A form of betrayal that drags on for years, until all that is left in life is regrets, hurt, and bitterness.
What if you could betray yourself?
What if you have betrayed yourself?
There is no doubt that you love yourself, and would not think to harm yourself – you love yourself so much you would blink, duck, and run all in an attempt to protect yourself.
No one can genuinely claim to love you more than yourself. Yet it would seem as they also say, “betray comes from unexpected places”
Female Mantises are infamous for attacking and cannibalizing their mate during or after sexual encounters
Can We Betray Ourselves? [What Does It Mean To Betray Yourself?]
It is easy to look at a naked (yet beautiful) flame and tell that it can hurt, that a lion can attack, or that an enemy could strike when you are not vigilant. You are cautious of such. You brace for them. And, even when they do succeed in harming you, you quickly get over the hurt. Because it never really gets to your heart.
But, when harm comes from the people you trust (or least expect), it pierces into your soul and hurts like hell. You may even find it difficult to breathe, sleep, or focus. It may feel like the world has conspired against you. It may cause you to question yourself (“am I that gullible and naive?” you may ask yourself). For a brief moment, your world would crumble. But, given time, you brush it off by convincing yourself that they were never truly your friend and that you would be more aware next time.
But betrayal isn’t always external. We too betray ourselves.
Every day we betray ourselves in small matters, by laughing when it isn’t appropriate, failing to maintain eye contact, or staring uncontrollably at something that interests us. How is it betrayal? Acting this way makes people sometimes get mad at us, doubt us, or get an upper hand over us (in negotiations and games for example). Little by little, day by day, we do things that set us back.
Then, there are other more costly forms of self-betrayal: like when we try to stay up all night to do an assignment but fall asleep midway, or when our immune systems go rogue and attack our cells, or when our organs simply fail us and we die. Sure, these sorts of betrayals (or backstabbing) are unintentional and unavoidable.
And, of course, we can always say to ourselves that those self-sabotaging acts were beyond our control.
But what happens when we do things that harm us, despite it being within our control?
What about the more sinister forms of self-betrayal that occur subtly, daily, yet intentionally?
…the sort of betrayal that we wrought upon our Future Selves, by our present actions and inactions
…the sort of betrayal that has kept us where we are in life today…
How Does A Person Betray Themselves?
Imagine you were free from the shackles of time and space so that you could transverse, observe, and be in the Past, Present, and Future all at once.
Imagine you could see the exact result of every action you take or failed to take.
Imagine you were looking at your Present Self now. When you do this, you would see that your life today is the product of all your Past Self did: From the muscles, confidence, knowledge, scares, up to the wealth and experiences you now have is all thanks to the decisions and activities of your Past Self.
It is not uncommon for people to say they wish they had done something better in the past, right?
In that sense, whenever it was within the power of the Past Self to do something and it refused to do it, or worse, did something counterproductive, it fundamentally betrayed the Present Self – it betrayed you – you betrayed yourself.
But, before you start hating your Past self, realize that you – the Present Self – are also responsible for the well-being of your Future Self.
Don’t think all the blame can be ascribed to that little mistake you made 5 years ago.
This thought experiment is not an excuse to throw your hands up in the air and shift the blame to naive Past Self. Far from that.
This is a call to duty.
Because you (right now) are still that Past Self in the eyes of your Future Self. And, you are no longer naive. You have gained experience. You have seen the result of mistakes and poor choices. You now have a duty to yourself – your Future Self.
If you think there was/is a mistake, wouldn’t it be wise to fix it now? would you rather wait till your Future Self starts cursing and loathing you as well?
You are not free from responsibility.
If you do not do what is right (or expected of you) your Future Self would protest – why did you do this? Why didn’t you do that? Why have you betrayed me? I had trusted you had my best interest at heart, but here you are doing absolutely nothing to support me (even hurting me), despite the urgency of the matter.
And life is an urgent matter – important and fast fleeting.
And you can betray yourself (your Future Selves – the persons you would be in the next minute, hour, day, week, month, or year) by your actions or inaction…
How Can I Betray Myself [21 Ways You Betray Yourself Daily]
When you realize that you are not just one, but multiple individuals – the baby, child, teenager, adolescent, adult, elderly, and even dead – you will realize that all of your actions (or inactions) affect you somewhere along the timeline.
When this is clear to you, then and only then would you see that you gravely betray yourself daily by…
- Associating With Bad Freinds: Countless cliches capture the severity of this betrayal, and one of my favorites is that “you can fuck up your entire life by associating with the wrong crowd”, or like Will Smith puts it, “Don’t be hanging with no Jank ass jokers that don’t help you shine”. Every moment you spend with people who don’t push you to be better or achieve more, you are betraying your Future self. Would you allow a dear friend to associate with people who you know would corrupt and damage them? I think not.
- Consuming Toxic Contents: Your mind is like a garden, and it is what you sow that you reap. If you wish to live a life of happiness, you won’t get it by listening to the News, gossip, and inciting content on TV or the Internet. You cheat yourself out of future happiness by filling your mind with toxic, or useless information. You need to observe an attention diet and ensure only the helpful, edifying, inspiring, motivating, and riveting content gets into your mind.
- Failing To Break Bad Habits Or Addictions: This is not easy, but the sooner you conquer those the better for you. Habits that limit your performance, hurt your health, or destroy your relationship with people are doing you a disservice. Sure, it might feel pleasurable, or easy, but it is nonetheless harmful. Break them ASAP, and your Future Self would thank you.
- Yielding To Fear: Fear can be useful, but fear can also be limiting. You must learn how to do what is best for you even when it feels scary. It is important to note that there is a great difference between staying clear of danger and being a coward. You don’t want to be the person who missed the opportunity of a lifetime simply because they were afraid of failing or embarrassing themselves. In the modern world, failure is seldom a matter of life or death. In this civilized world, there is much more to gain from being bold than being cowardly. Irrational fear is Stifling your future. Break free
- Not Embracing Your Imperfections: TV and Social media has bombarded us with so many perfect angles and filters that we don’t even appreciate what is real anymore. Sadly, most people don’t embrace their imperfection – they want to sound like Beyonce, or walk like James Bond – without realizing that those people (though awesome in many regards) are equally flawed. The thing that happens is that most influential people are so good at embracing their imperfections and faults that they even get loved for that (think Peter Dinklage from Game Of Thrones). Let go of the desire to be flawless and shine as you are.
- Not Rooting For Yourself: Imagine if you were a writer and your best friends got to speak with the President about his upcoming speech (which he admitted he needed a writer to draft) but never mentions that you are an excellent writer. I assume that you would be crushed beyond words. Yet daily you fail to tell people about just how awesome you are. You don’t make mention of it in your social media accounts, interviews, or interactions with people in real life. You rather hide in your closet publishing anonymously, fearing what people might think – thinking you are not good enough, whilst you are far better than millions of people out there who are succeeding and having the time of their lives. Don’t betray yourself. Love yourself enough to be your number one fan.
- Not Telling Yourself The Truth: As much as it is important to believe in yourself, it is also crucial, to be honest with yourself. If you are failing miserably at something, are in a horrible place, or don’t know what you are doing, why not tell yourself the truth and do what’s necessary? why hang on to illusions and pain? It may be a relationship or job, it could be a project or place you stay, whatever it is, do not lie to yourself. Do not deceive nor delude yourself. Be honest and pragmatic. If you see that more effort is needed, then double down, but if all you have is blind optimism, unplug yourself and move on. If you can’t watch a friend suffer, why watch yourself suffer?
- Shifting Blame And Responsibilities: When things go wrong, do you stand up and fix them, or do you find someone to blame? How much do you hold yourself accountable for the things that go on in your life? Are you still harboring the idea that your parents, teachers, skin color, or country are the reasons you are where you are in life? Are you still being passive? Are you still leaving the job undone? Are you still leaving the troubles for tomorrow? Are you still abandoning your Future Self to figure it all out alone – to suffer for it – or are you going to help?
- Failing To Exercise: The human body would suffer if subjected to too much stress, but it would suffer more if not subjected to any stress at all (this is one of the challenges of interplanetary travel – Zero-G and no mobility deteriorates the body of astronauts). Sure you don’t want to stress your body too much, but your body needs motion. You need to exercise and use your muscles. This is not only good for your looks, heart, and brain but your mind as well. Keeping a fit body is a gift you give to your future self, but having a weak body is already an act of self-sabotage.
- Failing To Eat Right: As much as it is important to filter what goes into our minds, we also ought to carefully consider the things that go into our stomachs. Poor nutrition, alcohol, and junk food can make the body sick and lead to health issues such as kidney failure, diabetes, obesity, etc. Eating right is not only an act of self-care but of self-love. And failing to eat right is self-betrayal because you are the one to suffer in the not-so-far future.
- Failing To Study Hard: A lot of people daydream of getting a good job and having opportunities open up for them, but those who tell themselves the truth know that success and a good life require hard work and commitment. Studying hard in school brings about good grades, good grades bring a good certificate, and a good certificate greatly increases your chances of landing a dream job. So, why betray yourself by not doing what is least expected of you?
- Failing To Learn New Things Or Improve: Most people learn a thing or two (mostly from school) and then stop learning (for life). I have mostly observed this in teachers who get stuck teaching a single Class/Grade of students throughout their career. But that’s not the issue (only teaching a certain grade isn’t the issue). The issue is that the teacher ceases to learn anything new for the rest of their career. If you met and conversed with some of your former teachers after reaching a very high level of education, you would be shocked at how ignorant they were (about whatever they didn’t teach you in school), unless, of course, you too had stopped learning. This is horrifying. Not only does this put them in a very precarious and dependent position in society, but it also limits the possibilities they can have in life. And this isn’t just about teachers, it is about anyone who after acquiring a certain degree of knowledge/expertise, ceases to learn and improve. As much as what you’ve learned was important and new, the world moves fast, and you had better move along, or it would leave you behind.
- Failing To Think Things Through: Decisions that can affect up to the next 5 years (or more) of your life ought to be given proper consideration. This could be a career path, marriage, house, children, etcetera. The effects of such decisions ripple through your life and their effects compound. And even after the decision has been made, how you go execute them daily still matters, a lot. How well are you doing in the career path? how much do you enjoy each day of the marriage? how are the kids being raised? The daily decisions compound and set the ground for the future. If you feel miserable now for being in a marriage or job, what are you going to do about that to save your future self?
- Refusing To Seek Help: Is it arrogance? Even when drowning in responsibilities, out of time, and overly stressed, most people still won’t ask for help. But why? Not asking for help strains you and may affect the quality of results you end up having. Someone who really loves him or herself would make it a habit to seek people who they can work with to achieve grander and better results. Are you doing that?
- Not Allowing Yourself To Be Loved: Scared of Love? professing love is one thing, but denying yourself the opportunity to be loved by someone else is another. Many people go through life with the thought that people who express love towards them have evil or selfish intentions. While it is true some people aren’t genuine, someone who is honest, respects themselves, and knows what they want out of their relationships shouldn’t have a problem sifting through these fakes. If you proceed into the world with the notion that a certain group of people (be it men or women) are evil, you are certain to miss out on connecting with genuine people. Because no genius (self-respecting person) would like to hang around irrational, paranoid, untrusting, and distrustful people.
- Failing To Acknowledge You Love Something: Life is to be lived and lived to the fullest. Anytime you see something you love and deny yourself the opportunity to experience it for no rational reason, you are limiting yourself. If you like something and have the means to acquire it, why not do so. Not only would it fill your life with good memories, but it would also increase your overall happiness and sense of adventure. Imagine a kid who was grounded, so he has to stands by the side watching other kids playing video games and having fun. It is no fun, and painful. So why ground yourself?
- Failing To Admit And Confess You Love Someone: I’d tell you what hurts more than being rejected, it is finding out that the other person was also interested and was waiting for you all these whiles to say something but you didn’t, and now they have moved on. It is much better to get a No, than not asking at all. If you had a 50% chance of winning a Billion dollars and were required to stake noting (save your pride and irrational fear), would you take the chance? or would you (for the fear of losing nothing) miss your 50% chance of winning a billion-dollar for free. Yet here is a billion-dollar experience – an intimate human relationship – and you are letting it slide, and for what?
- Denying Yourself Experiences: Why are you making all that money if you’re not ever going to spend it? why be young and never have sex? Why have teeth and never eat some meat? maybe you’re a Monk, Priest, or Vegan. But, I want you to imagine how you would feel if your best friend jailed you. Betrayed, I suppose. But you’ve jailed yourself, haven’t you?
- Failing To Work hard: Just like studying hard, the results we get are mostly based on how much effort we put in (at least at first). Failing to work hard on the things that matter, means you do not care enough for what the future might be. Imagine building a business that could sponsor a life of luxury for you 10 years down the line. Isn’t it worth sacrificing a few hours of TV and Social media for that?
- Failing To Dream Big: Yes, failing to dream big is a disservice to yourself and humanity at large. We have airplanes today because some people dreamed of soaring in the skies. Then it was done. And all of humanity is grateful for the dream. If you fail to dream big for yourself, you have betrayed yourself already.
- Being Reckless: From losing a limb, reputation, freedom, to getting yourself (or someone else) pregnant, recklessness could cost you your life (sometimes literally). Only someone who hates you would gamble with your life.
What Happens When You Betray Yourself?
A good life is a result of very little things being done right. So also is a bad life a result of very little things being done wrongly.
It is like sprinkling little drops of water for a plant to grow, or springling little toxins to kill it. Sooner or later, the little drops determine the fate of the plant.
Little things that limit your joy, get you upset, reduce your mental performance, harm your reputation, deteriorate your health, endanger your life, etcetera, end up hurting your Future Self.
When your actions (or lack thereof) hurt you, there is almost no way to completely remove the hurt from your heart – especially when you’ve wasted the majority of your life already.
And, what happens when you can’t shake off the realization that you fucked up your own life? self-loathing, sadness, depression, suicide, envy, spite, murder, and their likes come creeping in.
So, let this piece remind you to do what is best for yourself. To live like someone who has a rare opportunity and a huge responsibility. To come through for yourself.
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)