9 Ways You May Unwittingly Deprive Yourself of Love and Fulfillment

“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi

Do you want to let go and live life fully?

If you feel that you are missing out on fulfillment and happiness, but cannot put your finger on why, perhaps there is something deeper going on.

Believe it or not, anyone can develop an unconscious habit of self-deprivation. Usually this habit begins in childhood.

Here’s how mine developed.

When I was younger, if anyone approached and tried to attend to my needs, I’d make sure they understood that I was just fine without their help.

Interestingly, I was also accident-prone. I was always managing to take a spill, as if in hot pursuit of another skinned knee or broken bone. Yet, I cannot remember one instance when I welcomed sympathy or caring or intervention from anyone.

I guess thought I was pretty tough. Looking back, I also wonder how much I wanted to prove that I didn’t need other people. I am fine! Now, kindly leave me alone. This was my attitude.

Why? There could be many reasons.

You could call it genetics—just look at the other men in my family. Enough said!

You could say I had a somewhat cold and distant mother. I was proving to her that I didn’t need her anyway.

You could even blame the primal backlash that occurs when we exit the womb. When we make the transition from the oblivious comfort and security of the womb into a world where, by comparison, we feel deprived, controlled, and rejected, we are bound suffer some maladaptive consequences.

We could find lots of things to blame, but the point is, I developed this pattern. And I marched right into adulthood with it firmly in place.

The unintended outcome was that I rarely felt loved (imagine that). It was hard to be close to anyone and I felt disconnected, empty, and alone. I didn’t want to feel this way, but that’s what happens as you refuse to connect when people reach out.

I couldn’t have been more successful if my unconscious mind had an actual goal to keep me in a state of emptiness and deprivation.

The big AHA moment came when I realized I was attached to being emotionally deprived. Attachments are not a conscious choice, but an unwitting set up that lands us in that old, familiar place where we do not get what we want.

Amazingly, over the years we learn to tolerate it, come to expect it, and even prefer the deprivation in some strange, familiar way. It is critical to recognize when this is happening.

Here are nine signs you have developed an attachment to deprivation, unwittingly setting yourself up to feel unfulfilled:

1. You don’t express your needs.

Refusing to express your needs virtually guarantees deprivation. Millions of people allow others to ignore, take advantage, and take them for granted because they will not speak up.

2. You are overly focused on the needs of others.

Focusing solely on the needs of others at the expense of your own is actually a disservice to yourself and others. It typically leads to resentment and emotional martyrdom.

3. You feel guilty when you do something for yourself.

Guilt or “selfish” feelings when you meet your own needs is a sign that you don’t believe you deserve to have them met, as if it were wrong.

4. You can’t take compliments.

Not accepting compliments graciously (inside and out) is a way to deflect them, depriving yourself of the need to be appreciated.

5. You are attracted to emotionally unavailable or self-centered people.

A sure way to not to get your needs met is to attract emotionally unavailable or narcissistic people into your life. When you commit to these kinds of people, you set yourself up for a lifetime of emotional deprivation.

6. You expect disappointment.

Expecting disappointment keeps fulfillment at a distance. Going into situations anticipating disappointment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

7. You don’t know what you want or cannot define your purpose in life.

This is so common! People usually don’t think of it this way, but not knowing what you want or even trying to figure it out is a way to avoid your purpose. Living with a sense of purpose is a huge need that brings meaning and fulfillment.

8. You shy away from intimacy.

When you avoid close relationships or shy away from deeper connections with people, you miss out on this fundamental contribution to happiness and fulfillment.

9. You cannot enjoy the moment.

Letting go and having fun in the here and now is an important way to experience fulfillment and reduce stress. It is a huge need! Staying in your head, remaining preoccupied or self-conscious robs you of the opportunity to enjoy your now.

Each of the above examples leads us straight into deprivation, even though we did not consciously choose to go there. It is important to shine the healing light of awareness on this issue and begin to question whether or not it is appropriate to continue doing this at this point in life.

My self-deprivation tendency, to act too tough to accept help and love, is much softer these days. I’ve been working on it. In the process, I have discovered a whole new world of support—people who are willing to love and be loved, to support and be supported.

This new world has always been available; it was just hidden behind my attachment.

Look for the signs of a deprivation attachment in your life. You may be surprised at what you find!

About Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is co-author of The AHA Solution: An End to Self-Sabotage. To watch a free, 20-minute webinar on psychological attachments and how to end self-sabotage in your life, click here.

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  • Twin2

    I feel you have hit the nail on the head with your post. Can you recommend any books on this subject?

  • Richie Boone Anderson-Grant

    I’ve been a giver, giver, giver all my life, letting everyone take advantage of me-Now I’m a widow-9 yrs and I am still so alone, trying to find “MY” path-when I got to #7, it proved to me that I needed to work harder to sort this out as I cant find my purpose anymore. Thank you so much for this article!! I refuse to be a “Door Mat” or be ignored anymore!

  • Ashley Shott

    This really hits homes with me in a lot of ways. I didn’t even realize how this all starts from childhood in wanting to be so independent and not wanting to ask for help from anyone! I’m still like this a lot of the time, yet I am always there for other people. Quite the eye-opener, thanks Mike!

  • Vanessa

    Fantastic article Mike, thank you so much. I identified strongly with most of the 9 points and like Richie have made an identity out of being a giver / doormat who rarely says what she needs or wants and always puts others first. I wonder if, for me, the issues come from being adopted as a baby. Perhaps I feel the need to “earn” the care of others by putting them first – as a result of feeling vulnerable and at the mercy of parents who “chose” me and could therefore, in my subconscious, “un-choose” me. Much food for thought, thank you again for a great article.

  • dinokitt

    Look into the possibility of one or two narcissistic parents. These sound like the symptoms of children of parents with some form or another of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I suffered my whole life thinking “I” was the problem. I found out through therapy and deep conversations with my siblings that we all felt unfulfilled and unloved, except for the “golden child.” The common denominator was our mother, who we knew was “different” but we didn’t know why. Now we do. That knowledge helped tremendously with my recovery. I was always reading self-help books and making changes in my life but I still felt there was something missing. Now knowing how narcissists operate, I was able to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

  • Anonymous

    So now, how does someone like that turn this “energy” around?

  • Rich Harris


  • Mike Bundrant

    The best place to begin is our free, 20 minute video:

  • Mike Bundrant

    Awareness that as an adult you are unconsciously seeking the continued cycle of deprivation is the key. Then CATCH yourself doing it!

  • Mike Bundrant

    Hi Vanessa, attachment to deprivation can come from so many places! In fact, just being born into this world is often enough…

    The key is to see how you are still doing it:)

  • Mike Bundrant

    Yep – you are welcome!

  • Mike Bundrant


  • Mike Bundrant

    Yes – being raised by people who cannot connect is enough…more importantly, recognizing how we are still attracting and clinging to these kinds of people is the key to ending the cycle in adult life.

  • Yogesh

    Thank you so much for this!! All of the above points are so true for me. Thank you for this article!!

  • Adriana

    Great insight! it’s so simple, yet so important and can be so relevant to one’s life! Thank you!

  • endlesskn0t

    Thanks, Mike for sharing and putting words to what I couldn’t explain. I always knew early on in life that I was self-depreciative, just didn’t recognize it this way — identifying strongly with all nine points, really puts things into perspective. The tendencies developed over long periods of time, and since I seemed to be the constant in it all, I always thought I was the problem. I’m the oldest out of four, two are from my mom’s second marriage. We all seem to have “issues and attitude problems” and found it stemmed from a common link. Our mother was wrapped up in her own world. I was always trying to make her happy, hoping to be accepted, to be noticed, to no avail. So the more I tried to “fix” it the more I tendencies developed. I knew she wouldn’t appreciate regardless of what I did, and yet I would still try over and over. Took me a long time to seek help because after years and years of suffering, I really believed it was who I was. It’s a vicious cycle that dims light, makes it hard to see past the fog, but once you start reaching out, break the cycle and take back control, things start to open up and good feelings will come again. <3

  • Catie

    for #7, about life purpose, are you saying that if you’re trying to figure it out, you’re purposefully depriving yourself of love and fulfillment? I got a little confused on this.

  • Tim

    Thanks for the post. Like many of the people who have responded, I can really relate to this, too. I always felt like issue 7 would solve my answers. If I just had conviction that I was living a life of purpose, then I wouldn’t be so concerned with the needs of others. My problem is that I feel joy or sense of purpose when I am helping others. It’s like a trap. Now I’m at a point where my own needs were neglected and it’s hard to feel good about myself again. Am I depriving myself because I feel my purpose in life is to help others?

  • Mike Bundrant

    So glad you appreciated the article and have seen the dead end of trying to please people who cannot be pleased – seeking acceptance from someone bent on rejection.

  • Mike Bundrant

    Good question. Trying to figure it out is different from avoiding finding and embracing a purpose. Figuring it out is different from blocking yourself. There is a point at which the work of identifying our purpose becomes self-indulgent, spinning our wheels, blocking ourselves and remaining in the dark. If you suspect you are resisting your purpose or making it too complicated (it’s really not that complicated), then this attachment may be involved.

  • endlesskn0t

    I cope by practicing mindfulness and meditation. It’s not easy some days, but the key is to keep with it. 🙂

  • Mike Bundrant

    Finding purpose in helping others is wonderful. I think you may be depriving yourself when you neglect your needs, simply, or use others as the reason you don’t take care of yourself.

  • Mahesh Sahu

    Thanks Mike for sharing this beutiful article. I find this article very relevant for myself. I have indeed tendency to avoid help and avoiding sympathy. It would have been more complete if you may have suggsted the way for reducing this attitude.

  • Gaye Jackson-Pappas

    Wow, talk about hitting the preverbially nail on the head. Everyone of these described me. All things that I guess I knew about myself but never acknowledged before now. Do I have some hard work ahead of me. Thanks for opening my eyes, this has explained so many things in my life.

  • Jayt

    I had not considered that even as obvious as it really is. I ended a relationship this year with a man whose unspoken mantra was “It’s all about me, baby!” He spun conflict out of think air like a magician. But through him, I have learned I need to love me more and observe my own pattern of doing things. I have always known that with my mother it is “about her” as well, but I never named that phenomena. It took you pointing that out to give me my aha moment. Thank you.

  • Mike Bundrant

    Nice work.

  • Mike Bundrant

    Sounds like you are ready, Gaye! I’m excited for you…

  • Mike Bundrant

    You’re welcome — in short, increased awareness = increased choice. Catch yourself doing the above, realize what it is all about…consider your options.

  • Anita Chapman

    This feels like a strange question to ask, but could this be caused by an over-attentive mother as well? I got a lot of mixed signals in childhood and early adulthood, and most of these items are long-term issues for me.

  • Mike Bundrant

    Its’ a great question, Anita. Generalizing here – overattentive parents can deny kids the autonomy to figure out how to meet their own needs. When you aren’t given the space to make mistakes and figure things out on your own, when appropriate, you don’t learn to meet your own needs. Is that helpful?

  • Anita Chapman

    Oh yes. Right on the mark, thank you.

  • I completely relate to this article! In fact, it’s interesting that I am reading it tonight because this is an issue I am currently working on. It’s really tough to be vulnerable when you have been brought up to feel like your needs and feelings weren’t relevant. In fact, I related to almost everything you said in this article and thank you for sharing it!

  • I completely relate to you, Anita! My mother was cold and kind of self involved during my childhood – but at the same time, very clingy and controlling – so, I’m a whole lot of messed up! I think both things send some really confusing messages to a child.

  • Tim

    This has been my favorite and most relevant post. I have come back to it a few times. Thank you again. I am glad to hear that others go through this problem, and I like how you put the onus right on yourself for depriving yourself of your own needs. That’s what I need to do also. Stop being a damn martyr and take care of some of my own needs. I want to find that Zen-like balance of loving self and others without that ego taking over and without the guilt of thinking I’m a bad person for not thinking of others all the time. Your advice has helped me quite a bit. I think some life changes are in order for me.

  • mel

    seems like the link isn’t working…

  • Cassie

    Feels like you wrote this about me. Get out of my head please. Lol. I dont really have a purpose and I focus on others needs before my own. But the worst is probably me attracting guys who are self centered. Those kind of guys who will never really let love in nor show it to people they claim to care for. I really need to work on standing up for what I deserve and what I want, as soon as I figure out what that is…

  • sweet

    I always focused on others needs because no one was ever there for me.
    Self centred men that leave because the going gets tough instead of trying to work things out.
    Ive never known what i have wanted. Some are true and some i have over come, i have learnt to take a compliment. Struggling just now though.. Im 44, kids are grown up and im left wondering where my life is going. A short relationship ended and im struggling to get over it. Have a guy thats interested and my head is mush because i feel like i dont know me anymore. I was such a happy person before him and dont know how to get her back. hence i have been on this site all day. Good read though.

  • Heather Ferreira

    I would also add to Tim that no, when you feel your purpose in life is to help others, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are depriving yourself. The trick is to do what my boyfriend has suggested. It’s from the airlines. It works.

    “Always place the oxygen mask over your own head before working to place oxygen masks over the heads of others.”

    You must love and help yourself, whole-heartedly, first, and then you have the resources to help others. If you put this in reverse, you are not loving yourself, and therefore cannot truly help others.

  • Kristian Hausch

    If you want to watch the video without giving your Email (like I did):

  • Krysta

    Thanks I really needed clarification on this issue. It’s the first time I have opened my eyes to the fact I neglect myself and don’t feel comfortable unless I deprive myself. For me this was a childhood issue from growing up with violence drugs neglect and learning very young to not be “weak” haha or whatever it was I thought I was doing. Patterns were created and now I have the wonderful learning to reclaim my personal power and feel empowered 🙂 it’s wonderful so wonderful to recognise this pattern because now I have the truth it’s like I am set free. I am in the middle of getting my confidence to stand up for my needs and leave a beautiful man who I love with all my heart, simply because Its not healthy for me. I am so grateful to have this challenge as scary as it is, because when life gives you something that makes you afraid, it’s your chance to be brave and courageous !!! Good luck to everybody. I hope you are all growing, changing and looking after yourself. Make sure you follow your true path because if you don’t now, when the fuck will you? Hehe enough said :p

  • Richard

    This is my experience in so many ways. And as a single male in my 40s not knowing how to change it’s very difficult. it’s true these things become patterns or habits, but having lived those patterns for so long it becomes comfortable, even though it is ultimately very lonely and the opposite of the hopes once held for your life. Wish I could change that.

  • Hi Mike, thank you for this : This post has opened up so many doors that were shut for me before seeing this. As a result I will be doing the following :
    – committing to myself that I will voice my needs to others
    – knowing that I am able to ask for what I want and not feeling guilty
    – when it feels like I am not being treated fairly, I will speak up instead of hiding in the shadows
    – knowing that there is a difference between expecting disappointments versus letting things go and releasing control
    – when I am around self centred people, I will continue to put myself as a priority
    – trying to understand my reactions better – and why I often jump to help people in need. Instead, stop and think whether I am rushing to do that in order to “buy” other people’s approval.

    Thank you !

    Namaster – Jo

  • nicko

    I’m a narcissist. And I’m a loner. And I deserve it. I’ve string my ex along for a year and a half now. I broke up with her because I recognized I was using her only for my own needs and I don’t think I cared about her that much. I haven’t been aable to let her be independent. And i don’t know whether I’m meant to feel like a boy or a man. I want to convince myself that I cared about her and that I need her. At the same time I want to feel like I don’t need anyone. She is slipping away and it is very hard to let her.

  • SelfDeprivedCollegeStudent

    Thank you so much for posting this. I only wish I found it sooner.

  • dee

    OMG I just awakened from a lifetime of this, what a realisation, time to detach from self deprivation and the emptiness that goes with it, here is to a new approach to the rest of my life, thank you massively

  • Bill

    I have all nine of them

  • Chops

    wouldn’t it just be easier to blame the freudianites?
    I wonder why the monks do these things……… ….. ….. …
    I bet no psychologist would delve into this, providing self blame as the culprit!

  • Chops

    Time to meditate. It’s all me… just meditate… and it’ll soon hopefully all go away… … …. EARTHQUAKE!

  • monta

    Hell yes!
    I only recently started noticing this pattern of one (or both) narcissistic parents. As Im a trained researcher myself, so im going to approach this situation as a research. Probably a very dangerous research for my wellbeing, but I want to find out which thought patterns are mine, where comes the boundary between me and my parents thoughts/beliefs/behavior.
    It’s a funny thing, because last year I dated two guys (not at the same time, though, haha) for whom i unhappily fell for. Then somebody to whom I told the story of the unhappy falling in love sent me an article on narcissism and what people attract narcissists. It’s been a year since that article and i came across many more articles on narcissism. I read them all, but didnt make any connection with my life experiences. I was like – naaah, it cant be, they werent narcissists. But still, such stories continued coming up. Now im in the stage where I start to realise that i not only attract narcissistic/emotionally unavailable people, but also that one of my parents (probably my mother, maybe also my father) has narcissistic tendencies. It’s a huge relief, because now that I know that im not totally crazy, I can start moving on to what I like/what I want to do and behave the way I think is right for me.

  • Ashley Young

    Thank you for this. I am married with two kids and have been feeling completely deprived of letting myself go and feeling happy. My husband and I got married rather wuickly and then had our first child even quicker. I was 23 when we met and had just gotten out of a very long controlling relationship. When I met my husband he seemed like everything I was looking for. But as the years have gone on I have found myself sad and looking back at what I could have done differently. Maybe if Inhad just stopped I would be who I wanted to be. I grew up in a broken home. We moved a lot and my mom went through men like many go through packs of toilet paper.
    Anyway, I’m at a moment in my life where I want to change. I know what I want and how to benhappy, but I’m held back by this commitment. And I really don’t want to have to put my kids through living out of a suit case like I did. But my husband and I clash now more than ever. He says he is completely content. I’m just not. The only thing I wouldn’t want to go back and change are having my girls. But Inalso know if we never had kids, I wouldn’t want to be with him.
    I’m going through some thinking now and don’t know what to do. I want to do right by my girls. I keep asking myself should I stay until they are in college? Or should they not be deprived of seeing mommy happyand with a man that they can use as an example of what they will find one day??? My husband is a great father, still needs some guidance thiugh. He love his daughters, but not a good companion at all. Then again his dad treated his wives terribly. Its a vicious cycle. And I’m stuck in the middle of all this thinking.
    Phew, glad that’s out. I haven’t told anyone this.

  • SharonP

    This article describes me perfectly. And so does your response I have two narcissistic parents with my own mother being a malignant narcissist. My own journey has left me being a little ‘different’ and I struggle to connect with others even though I desperately wanted to do so. I am constantly rejected, excluded,ostracized treated like I’m crazy at times and I am a Narc magnet. It’s all too much so I find it more peaceful to be on my own these days.