It came from childhood — this belief I held so deeply about myself that I couldn’t understand it as anything other than ‘What Is.’ By pure definition, I KNEW that my value was intricately tied to my ability to make others feel whole.
I was a Hole-Filler.
I drew people to me who had vacant spaces where love should be, and I shoveled myself into those holes, sweating and aching with the effort it takes to fill the unfillable.
Now, perhaps one may look at this fruitless occupation and say: How absurd to think that YOU were responsible to fill a sense of lack in someone else?
Or perhaps you are also a self-proclaimed ‘Fixer,’ and you see a bit of yourself in this ludicrous job description.
I spent my life attracting ‘broken’ people — and by this I mean people who deep down perceived themselves to be unworthy of love. (Spoiler alert: None of us are ‘broken!’ Some of us have simply forgotten how to be whole.)
I brought these people to me by my subtle energetic billboard that read: I will fill the hole inside of you!
And my message answered the silent want-ad in their subconscious that was begging: I need something/someone to love me, so that I will finally feel worthy!
And then together we danced our codependent dance — me cramming translucent validation into their ever-morphing vacant space; them finding more ways to prove the existence of this ghostly gaping lack. Neither one ever satiated; neither one ever whole.
Because the reality is: No one can fill the emptiness in another. It’s got to be an inside job.
And once someone starts realizing this — that their holes can only be filled by themselves alone— those holes start shifting and fading… Because they were self-created in the first place.
The emptiness we perceive in ourselves are the places where we believe we are unworthy of love. These holes are dug early in life, when the love from our parents or caregivers is fragile and conditional, oftentimes revoked.
We internalize that pain and label ourselves ‘unloveable.’ Then the hole starts forming. Each time something happens that validates this sorrowful self-assessment, we allow the hole to grow larger and our worth to grow smaller.
At some point the hole becomes unbearable, and we seek out things to fill it — approval of others, sex, addiction to substances or work, extreme behavior or exercise. These things give the illusion of filling our holes — a temporary salve. Unfortunately many of them have the corrosive side-effect of creating shame, which only serves to deepen our emptiness. The more behaviors, substances, people we throw into our holes, the emptier they become.
As a Hole-Filler, I would give more and more of myself into the other person in an attempt to reverse this trend. Each time I poured myself into their hole, I felt validated as well: I had done my job; I had proven my worth.
The imagined holes within us are places we set aside long ago for the missing love, not unlike saving a seat in the cafeteria for that friend that never shows up. That seat is not really ‘saved,’ you were just telling everyone that!
Once we let go of the need to hold onto these holes inside of us, they simply vanish. We look inside ourselves and realize that we were ‘WHOLE’ all along.
I write this overtly now, like as if I knew what I was doing. But I was never truly aware of my participation in these codependencies until quite recently. I tended to shift the blame to others for my dissatisfaction, for my eventual exhaustion or energetic depletion. I was blind to my active participation in these dysfunctional dynamics.
Going back as far as I can remember into childhood I was playing out my part in these stories — as a friend, a lover, even as a beginning teacher. I found people who had holes, and I (tried to) fill them.
Looking back, I can recognize the people in my life who frustrated me because they wouldn’t “let me” fill their holes. They clearly had them — gaping ones, often — and so naturally I was drawn to them, my shovel at the ready. But they did not want to play that game with me, and resisted my efforts to soothe their emptiness. I am aware now that they were filling their holes in different ways — with alcohol, work, or exercise. I suppose people have a preference to their methods of hole-filling. Personally, I needed the codependent variety in order to have MY needs for validation met!
Now I am ready to relinquish my duties as the filler of holes. I will no longer take on the responsibility for making anyone else feel “OK.” (And I can admit it: I NEVER had the power to fix another person anyway!)
I don’t need to look anywhere outside myself for personal validation. I am perfectly worthy as I am.
My husband (the hole-haver) and me (the hole-filler) have recently come to an almost-simultaneous epiphany about the dynamics of our 10-year codependent relationship. As I have blinked awake into clarity of my lifelong need to “fill,” he has shaken himself into an awareness that the inner hole was always under his control. In fact, he says, the empty places within him were nothing but self-created illusions.
My self-important services as The Fixer were immediately rendered inert. When we stopped participating in our codependent roles, we could finally stand together as two fully empowered people. And it is freaking amazing.
©Skye Nicholson 2021
The poem above is a nod to releasing the energy of an ex-boyfriend — not particularly special in the long line of hole-havers, except that he was a narcissist. That relationship had an especially toxic effect on me (in the wonderful way that narcissists do), in that it started to dissolve a place of emptiness and unlovability within my own self.