Many of us walk through the world struggling with the belief that we are unloveable. Often it is hard to even figure out where this message comes from. It starts early when we are young and feel for whatever reason like we haven’t been accepted or loved by those around us. As adults, this part gets louder when things are hard, when we’re arguing with people we love, when we experience rejection, when we are struggling at work, at school, or with finances. For some of us, this voice is quiet and only shows up on occasion. For others this idea sticks with us, holding us back at every turn.
So the question for me has been: how do we fight this belief? How to we try to heal this part of ourselves knowing full well that it will never 100% really go away? It’s easy to try to deal with this belief by relying on those around us. We ask if they love us, if they still care, and sometimes we even get combative when we take something they have done or said as confirmation of our fear of not being loved. This method doesn’t seem to work. No matter how many times the people around us tell us we are loveable, if we believe we are not, it is really hard to take in what they are saying. Either we don’t believe them, or we think they are crazy for loving us.
So what do we do instead? One option is to think about the ways the people in your life are already showing you that they love you. Sometimes it is not in ways that really speak to you. If you’ve ever heard of the 5 love languages, this can be a profoundly helpful tool for understanding this issue. (https://www.5lovelanguages.com) The love languages are: acts of service, gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch. Someone may be showing you love by offering you gifts, but if that isn’t something that makes you feel loved you may find that you don’t feel like they love you. This is an illusion. They just love you differently than you might like.
Another thing that I have found helpful is to think back on times when I have felt loved and to try to call that feeling back into the present. Sometimes this means reading old texts or letters, or looking at old pictures.
Another way of dealing with this feeling is to try to show yourself love, instead of focusing on those around you. Some good ways to do this are: to listen to a guided loving kindness meditation, do some kind of exercise or bodily movement that feels good to you, engage in some sort of craft or creative pursuit that appeals to you, take a bath, or get a massage.
Another way of healing this message is to do some work on self-compassion. Often we feel unloveable when we feel we need to be something we are not in order to deserve to be loved. This belief will hold us back from being able to feel the love around us and put us in a perpetual waiting pattern. One way to work on this is through building self compassion though exercises and guided meditations like those found in The Self Compassion Skills Workbook by Tim Desmond or on https://self-compassion.org.
Learning to love ourselves is a journey and it takes time. The more patient we can be with ourselves the better.