What Would Happen If You Assumed You Are Loveable?

teddy bear

We all start out being dependent on someone for love, needing to get love to survive.  Then, in the process of growing up, new needs emerge—-the foremost of which is to feel lovable, independent of other people’s judgments.

We feel a need to rediscover our separate self, our likeable, huggable, lovable self.  But how does someone who has only received conditional love begin to feel lovable?  It seems impossible for someone who never got unconditional love to be able to give unconditional love, to one’s self or to others.

From birth, we are all needing love and giving love1.  We are not just empty shells waiting to be filled.  There is love within us from the moment we enter the world.  We do need love from others, but not to fill us.  Rather, we need a special kind of love to uncover the love within that was always there.2

Love Yourself Unconditionally

You can’t fully love another person until you fully love yourself.3 So how do you do this?  You have to stop judging yourself.  And stop seeking other’s approval of you.  Instead of judging parts of yourself as good or bad, you can see yourself as just a unique human with weaknesses and strengths. You are loveable because you are this unique person, this whole and real person.  What is it that you, specifically, don’t accept about yourself?  Try this short assessment by filling in the rest of each sentence.

  • I regret …
  • I failed to…
  • I shouldn’t have…
  • I wish I were….
  • I need….
  • People would say I am….
  • I am…
  • I am proud of…
  • If only….

Do some of your responses indicate you regard yourself as only conditionally acceptable?  Are you starting to realize how harshly you judge yourself and how much you rely on the approval of others?  Can you change your negatively biased self-referencing beliefs to more helpful ones?

For example, can you tell yourself you did the best you could do at the time and forgive your mistakes?  Instead of dwelling on the past, can you pull your mind back into the present? When you let your mind go back into the past you see yourself as you were in the past and discount who you are now, in the present.

Can you accept that you do have some weaknesses but those are what make you a unique person so you don’t have to hide nor become defensive about them?  Each of us is a unique individual, with our own set of strengths and weaknesses.  That does not make us better than nor less than another person—just different—and we are usually loved for that difference.

Can you accept yourself just as you are now, unconditionally, free of any qualifications, and show that vulnerable self to your loved one?  Being vulnerable means willing to be open to yourself and to your partner.  If you look back at your responses to the above questions you might see what you are defending against when you respond to your partner.  You may assume that you should not let your partner see those weaknesses because then you wouldn’t be loved.  Yet, to have a lasting love, you must trust that your partner’s love for you will not be affected negatively when you reveal your vulnerabilities.4 The irony is that, if you tell your partner about your weaknesses directly, you will find that your partner will usually feel much closer to you.

Can you see yourself as having a lot of love inside to give your partner because you no longer judge yourself so harshly?  Then you have developed compassion towards yourself that spills out as compassion towards your partner (and, quite possibility, towards everyone).

See Yourself as Separate from Your Partner

Can you see yourself as separate from your partner with your own strengths and weaknesses?  This view of yourself is crucial because you may not always have your partner to supply what you don’t supply for yourself. So many of us separate or are forcefully separated from our partner before we have had a chance to develop a separate sense of self. Then the struggle is all the harder, but we can still find the love that helps us grow. This love is within ourselves.

When you see yourself as a lovable and loving person separate from your partner, you have the basis for developing a relationship that is no longer based on dependency nor isolated independency. You are more interested in giving love than in getting love.  Each of you give love and receive love but you are not desperately needing to get love from each other. You now have a relationship based on interdependency—two people who see themselves as existing separately and together.

  1. Cozolino, L. (2014). The neuroscience of human relationships: Attachment and the developing social brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company. pp. 97-98.
  2. Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-Centered therapy. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 137-142.
  3. Fromm, E. (1956. The art of loving. New York, NY: Harper Colophon.
  4. Kernberg, O. F. (1984). Object relations theory and clinical psychoanalysis. New York: Jason Aronson. pp. 185-240.

 

Why Judge?

overanalyzing

               Judging is a great destroyer of relationships, and it can destroy your self-confidence as well.    Yet we all do judge others.  When someone looks or behaves differently than we expected, we judge that person negatively.  We expect others to be like ourselves, do what we want them to do, or have the same standards that we have.  When they don’t, we push them away with a disapproving look or a criticism. 

               What’s more, we judge ourselves as harshly as we judge others.  We assess whether we are living up to our standards.  When we determine that we are falling short, we beat ourselves up.  Not so good for feeling self-confident.

               So why continue to judge?  Because we think we can control other people (or even ourselves) through our judgments.  We become impatient when a person is walking in front of us too slowly. We say, “Why don’t you ever listen”, when we want someone to listen to us.  We conclude that a person’s way of parenting is not the way we think it should be done.  We become angry when someone expresses an opinion we don’t agree with.  All of these judgments just make us or the other person feel bad. 

               To not judge just switch your focus.  Instead of seeing someone with your eyes, see them through their eyes.  They see the world differently than you do and that is ok.  These differences really do not have anything to do with you.  A person is not walking slowly, not listening, parenting a certain way, or expressing an opinion to purposely annoy you.  It’s just the way they see things.  So you can let them be and not react with a judgment (even one not expressed).

               Letting go of judging oneself is especially difficult but can be done if you take note of a behavior that you would have liked to take back but then not wallow in regret.  Everyone who is human makes mistakes and learns from them.  But not everyone beats themselves up because of the mistake.  Again, switch your focus to see the goodness that is still in you even when you have made a mistake. 

               Loving oneself and loving another is to let go of judgments.  A love that empathizes and accepts takes the place of judgments.

How Resilient Are You in Love and Life?

jack-in-the-box2   If you became embroiled in an argument with your partner, felt rejected by a lover, or lost a loved one, would you bounce back fairly quickly?  Or would you remain angry, mired in self-recrimination, stuck in despair?  Take this quiz to see how resilient you are. (And you might also want to ask your partner to take this quiz.)

Answer each question True or False.  If you are tempted to think long and hard about a question, or if you feel that there are too many nuances and exceptions, resist.  The most accurate results come from making a snap judgment about whether a question is true or false about you.

  1. If I have a minor disagreement with a close friend or spouse—closer to “No, it’s your turn to do the dishes” than “You cheated on me!”—it typically leaves me out of sorts for hours or longer.
  2. If another driver uses the shoulder to zoom up to the front of a long line of traffic waiting to merge, I am likely to shake it off easily rather than fume about it for a long time.
  3. When I have experienced profound grief, such as the death of someone close to me, it has interfered with my ability to function for many months.
  4. If I make a mistake at work and get reprimanded for it, I can shrug it off and take it as a learning experience.
  5. If I try a new restaurant and find that the food is awful and the service snooty, it ruins my whole evening.
  6. If I’m stuck in traffic because of an accident up ahead, when I pass the bottleneck I typically floor it to vent my frustration but still see the inside.
  7. If my home water heater breaks, it does not affect my mood very much because I know I can just call a plumber and get it fixed.
  8. If I meet a wonderful man/woman and ask if he/she would like to get together again, being told no typically puts me in a bad mood for hours or even days.
  9. If I am being considered for an important professional award or promotion and it goes to someone I consider less qualified, I can usually move on quickly.
  10. At a party, if I’m having a conversation with an interesting stranger and get completely – when he/she asks me about myself, I tend to replay the conversation—this time including what I should have said—for hours or even days afterward.

Give yourself one point for each True answer to questions 1,3,5,6,8, and 10.  Give yourself zero points for each False answer.  Give yourself one point for each False answer to questions 2,4,7, and 9; score zero points for each True answer.  Anything above seven suggests you are Slow to Recover.  If you scored below three, you are Fast to Recover and thus quite Resilient.

This quiz is from a book by neuroscientist Richard Davidson that shows how differences in the way our brains are wired affect our resiliency.  Do not despair, though, if your score shows you are not that resilient.  According to Davidson, you can change your brain’s wiring to become more resilient if you change what you are saying to yourself or if you engage in the practice of meditation. 

Davidson, Richard J. and Begley, Sharon (2012)  The Emotional Life of Your Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press.