Do yourself a good deed right now and take a moment to do an exercise. Don’t just skip over it and keep reading – this is for you. Ask yourself the question below and give yourself time to think and feel it out honestly. “What would it feel like if I was loved right now in this moment? Really loved, in the way I most want it.”
What happened for you? Did you feel warmth and notice your body relax and open up, did you feel relief, have a wave of tears suddenly rise up, feel sadness, pain, joy, anger, regret, hope, hopelessness…?
If you were honest with yourself when you did this exercise, then whatever you experienced is what you feel about being loved at this point in your life. You met the child in you who is always wanting to be loved. The feelings that came up for you when you met this child part of you will depend on what state of satisfaction or starvation he or she is in right now. Now you know. (You can go back and do it again anytime as a way of checking in).
Of COURSE we want to be loved all the time. Why wouldn’t we? Love is incredibly good for us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The funny thing is that at some point we shift from KNOWING love and it being our only state as infants, to thinking other people are responsible for giving us that loved feeling. The only way this shift could happen would be if we somehow found ourselves disconnected from feeling loved, right? If you are the source of your love, it wouldn’t occur to you to look outside yourself for that good feeling. Only if for some reason you are NOT the source of your good feeling any more would you need to seek it from somewhere else.
Each of us is a complex ever-changing system with very specific love needs. As we turn to the outside for our love needs to be met, we hope and long for others to get it right and love us in exactly the way we need at exactly the moment we need it. Pretty much like babies. The problem comes in – as many good parents can tell you – where this is impossible to do. How many of us try to meet our baby’s every need only have them cry and cry and cry… The truth is that no-one outside of yourself can love you in quite the way you need.
So what to do? Accept good-enough love? Well, from those outside us, yes, that is the conclusion; and that idea will feel awful if you believe others are your only source of feeling loved.
No-one can know what you need better than you. If you answered the question above honestly, you probably relaxed in some way when you read this second part of the question, “Really loved, in the way I most want it.” Maybe you even saw what that would mean for you – how you like your love. No-one else can know all the details of that. You can explain to your willing loved one in great detail exactly what to do, but even when they follow the instructions to the letter, they will still not quite get something. Or you might not feel completely satisfied because what you really want is that extra impossible thing – that they WANT to do it that way and came up with it themselves.
I can’t say I know exactly why we seem to learn to turn away from ourselves as the source of love and instead begin to rely on others. Maybe it is because at some point we realise our caretakers need certain behaviours from us – to stay sane while looking after us – so we adapt ourselves to suit them in order to stay alive ourselves (it’s more difficult to stay alive when your caretakers are not coping). Survival is a strong force for us humans and we adapt as we need to while we are young and dependent on others for survival. Maybe amidst all that, we think it means we are not loveable as we are and we continue through our lives seeking the affirmation of those we love.
I find it fascinating how often the very things that helped us survive our childhood hinder our thriving in adulthood. It is as though we learn a certain set of rules for life and then those very same rules trip us up in life later. We learn to earn our love by being whatever our family needed us to be. Then we try to do the same thing with our partner, our boss, our colleague – and it fails.
The hard truth is that anything you do FOR someone or something outside of yourself (that is not aligned with what you really want for yourself) is bound to fall flat and get you into some sticky situations. A baby wouldn’t put up with being touched or moved around or placed in a way he doesn’t find pleasant. He will scream and cry – unless he learns not to. An adult who doesn’t protest when he is being touched or moved around or placed in a way he doesn’t find pleasant is in trouble. Keeping quiet at those times is a one-way street to depression, anxiety, addiction, anger problems, road rage, divorce…
While it helped you survive your childhood, as an adult it is not self-loving to look to the outside for your indicators of how to behave, how to feel, what to express and whether you have worth. Your loveability is inherent. Look within.
Go back to what you KNEW as a new infant and love everything about yourself. Why would you not?