Do You Have Trouble Feeling Loved?
Feeling loved is such a universal need but as you get older sometimes you downplay its significance. Maybe you think you don't need it anymore. After all, you’re not a kid anymore.
But that's not true. John Bowlby, an expert on attachment, says that we never outgrow the need to be loved, especially in our primary relationship. If you're single, your BFF or close friends fulfill a similar need.
This blog shows how to embrace the love in your life. As simple as that sounds, when you come from a family of addiction, mental illness or dysfunction, accepting the love isn't easy or natural. In fact, sometimes it's actually painful.
The key to feeling loved is pretty simply. Purposely let yourself feel the love people have for you. There are several ways to do this. You may not realize that by rejecting a simple compliment or not accepting support you're actually missing out on love!
What Family Taught You About Love
If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, healthy love wasn't consistent. That’s partly why I became a therapist - because doing my own personal growth gave me the life I wasn't taught to have.
First, let's go back a bit. We learn how to love in childhood from our care-givers. Family members demonstrate what love is which impacts what we learn. When there is abuse or neglect, love can be confused with pain.
Unfortunately, this leads to dysfunctional relationship patterns like people pleasing, neglecting your needs for someone else’s, or picking partners that hurt you.
When you look back to your family of origin, what did you learn in terms of expressing and receiving love?
Specific things that impact our ability to love:
As a child were your needs met consistently without being made to feel guilty or ashamed?
Were you shown affection regularly?
Were you told that you were special and unique from your siblings?
Did your family openly express love verbally to you and to each other?
Were the people in your family able to accept compliments without making a joke or it?
If some of these were missing, you are not alone. Growing up with any type of dysfunction or neglect, often teaches you that love is painful because it was hard to get or it came with strings attached.
Healthy Parental Love
On the other hand, healthy parental love goes from the parent to the child like a one way street. This means that the child's needs often (but not always) come before the parents' needs. For instance, when a child’s needs are shoved aside because of the parent’s overwhelm or personal desires, the child feels devalued - like their needs don’t count.
In a healthy family this is done willingly. The parents do not look to their children to meet their own needs or solve their problems. They have their own support system independent of the child.
Growing Up with Unhealthy Love
If you weren't shown healthy love it has a major impact on how you do relationships. You may have trouble giving and receiving love. For instance, compliments are uncomfortable when you can’t accept love. You might make find some way to make light of the kind words.
When accepting love is difficult you may focus more on taking care of others. Receiving love might even feel selfish to you. Often this goes back to childhood beliefs that you should always contribute but never receive.
If you feel more comfortable giving than receiving, codependency develops. The need for love doesn't go away simply because it's uncomfortable. Click here to read more on What Is Codependency?
What It Means To Love
Receiving love means opening yourself up to be vulnerable. There is always a risk of getting hurt or rejected. But we cannot live happily without it. Love is a choice. You get to pick who you let into your heart. Learning who to trust is an important relationship skill. Click here to read more about How to Identify Relationship Red Flags.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
If you are struggling in your primary relationship, treasure your friendships.
If you are estranged from family, find a community for support.
If you are isolated, take a class or join a support group to meet new people.
If you are lonely, get a pet for companionship.
If you are depressed, get some counseling.
If you are struggling in relationships, try Al-Anon.
Creating the Love You Want
Think about the people in your life that made you feel special. How did they treat you? What made you feel like you could trust them? In order to recognize healthy love, start with your most treasured relationships. What about them makes you feel loved?
Healthy love looks like:
A healthy respect for each person’s values and opinions.
A commitment to weathering the good times and the bad.
When people make mistakes, you can forgive and move on.
You don't put all of your emotional eggs in one person's basket.
You understand that everyone has a bad day and you don't take it personally.
You support each other's interests even if they are different than your own.
These are a few qualities that show dependability and commitment over time. It starts with you. You can create healthier relationships by letting yourself feel the love people have for you.
How to Start Loving Yourself
Learning how to love yourself takes effort. It doesn't happen easily when you come from a family where love was scarce. Developing self love requires three things.
A willingness to love yourself - mistakes and all
An ability to receive love from others
A willingness to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually without delay
Treating yourself with respect sets the example for others to follow. For more help read How to Build Self-esteem From the Inside Out.
Embracing the Love You Have
Love connects us to each other and gives us hope. You deserve to have love in your life. Find ways to embrace the love and affection that you already have. Think of that trusted friend, or helpful neighbor that is reliable and supportive. Practice sitting with that love in your heart. That is a gift that you can give yourself!
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