As we have seen, we already feel loveable, but to actually feel it we need to fuel it. It doesn’t take much love to fuel it, provided we are open to receiving love. Love is all around us as ‘generosity of spirit’. Some people are so open to receiving love they imagine being loved when the love isn’t there! (Have you met people who simply assume they are loved by others? Who take it for granted? They are fortunate people; they are so open to receiving love they can fuel their self-love with ease.)
‘Isn’t the love from a close family member or lover important?’
That love can be enjoyable and ever present, but when we feel loveable we don’t actually need that love. (Unless we’re younger than twenty.) We can enjoy it, even treasure it, but we don’t need it. Just feeling loveable is enough to keep the ‘inner flame’ healthy, because feeling loveable allows us to receive the love we need from anywhere. That’s all we need to add to our core happiness.
‘There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was: the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy.’
Brené Brown, from her TED talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’.
There is one important thing to remember: if you don’t feel loveable (don’t have self-worth) it’s not because you haven’t achieved enough, or are not appreciated enough, or not loved by anyone, and it’s not because you are not worthy . . . it’s because you are not open to receiving love.
Until you are open to receiving love you will struggle to fuel the self-worth you were born with and still possess.
So, don’t look in the wrong place if you lack self-worth: don’t assume you have to achieve more, or have to be a better person, or have to find someone to love you . . . and don’t think you have to prove to the world you are worthy of love. All you have to do is focus on becoming open to receiving love, whether or not you think you are worthy of it. Whether you are worthy of love is irrelevant. If you prefer, be a ‘love thief’: accept it even if you don’t think you deserve it. Just take it. It’s not about whether you are worthy of love, it’s about you accepting the love that you are given. There is an infant deep within you that knows precisely what to do with the love. It has the capacity to soak it up and feel worthy of every little bit it receives. All you have to do is be the conduit and let that love in. Once you’re in the habit of letting it in, the rest will take care of itself.
Stephen Chbosky once said, ‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’ He’s right, and I’m asking you to accept the love, whether or not you think you deserve it. That will be the difference.
Let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are broken, out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room.’
Importantly, you will find it difficult to be open to receiving love, so don’t be critical of yourself if you can’t. In the past you would have had good reason to ‘close up’. It might have helped you feel safe. Old habits are hard to break. Just keep trying. Remind yourself that it’s not about you or your past, it’s about feeding the new-born infant within you. It’s about fuelling the peat fire, and warming your cottage up again.
How can we open ourselves to receiving love?
The few ways below form an important key to satisfying our deep need to belong, and adding to our core happiness.
1. We can aim to from now on, be open to receiving love.
Just by having that intention – by making that choice – we will begin to drop our defences.
2. The keys in the assertiveness section are invaluable! Applying them will significantly make it easier to ‘let love in’. Why? Because when we apply assertiveness techniques we are giving ourselves respect. We are sticking up for ourselves, and telling ourselves we are worth sticking up for. That, in turn, helps us come to believe that we are worthy of love. That makes it easier to let love in.
3. Let’s accept compliments graciously. Don’t bat them away. Each time we bat a compliment away – ‘Oh, thanks, but that’s not really true’ – we are telling ourselves that we don’t deserve the compliment given, that we are not worthy. What a debilitating message!
Conversely, each time we accept a compliment – ‘Thank you very much!’ – we slowly become accustomed to the vague possibility that maybe, just maybe, the comment has merit, and that perhaps we actually do deserve the recognition. There will come a day when we do choose to fully accept the compliment, when we think to ourselves, ‘yes, I guess that compliment is valid’ and that’s the day when we have let the compliment ‘in’. We have let the love ‘in’. For is not a compliment a form of love?
‘But Mark, I feel uncomfortable accepting compliments. If I accept the compliment the person giving it might think I’m vain, or self-deluded.’
That uncomfortable feeling is what you’re fighting against. You’re stretching your comfort zone. Your job is to accept the compliment, not determine its validity. Even though you feel uncomfortable receiving a compliment, accept it graciously. ‘Thank you,’ is sufficient. It will get easier with practise. Then you’ll be letting love in!
If you continue to bat compliments away you will get even better at rejecting love. That’s a habit all of us need to stop.
If you find yourself batting a compliment away, retract your statement and thank the person. ‘No, I change my mind. I will accept your compliment. Thank you!’ ‘
But what if the giver of the compliment does think I am vain or self-deluded for accepting it?’
They shouldn’t be giving you the compliment in the first place. It’s they who have the problem. If they don’t think you are bright enough to see that it’s a patronising compliment they are underestimating you. They lack perspicacity.
If the person expects you to bat away the compliment, confound them. Don’t bat it away. Don’t bat any of their compliments away. Pretty soon that person will stop giving you compliments unless they genuinely believe what they say.
Whether you think the person is genuine or not, graciously say ‘Thank you’, and pretty soon the only compliments you will receive from that person will be genuine ones. That’s something to look forward to.
‘If I begin accepting compliments I might become cocky, or big-headed.’
That’s the fear, isn’t it? By the time you have finally begun to let the compliments ‘in’, you will know which compliments you deserve and which ones you don’t, but you will be accepting them all anyway with a smile. It’s the people who lack discernment, who are praised repeatedly when young, who develop the ‘big heads’.
4. Keep a Compliments Diary.
Every time you receive a compliment put it in your Compliments Diary.
I do, and it’s pleasing to read! The very act of including a compliment in your diary will give yourself the message, ‘I earned this compliment, and I deserve it.’ That’s a good way to begin opening up to receiving love.
If keeping a Compliments Diary sounds egoistic or self-indulgent, do it anyway.
5. Be gentle with people. When someone likes you it’s because they feel good in your company. Let them continue to feel good in your company by being gentle with them, rather than harsh.
The bonus: by being gentle with other people you will learn to be gentle with yourself.
6. Act as though we love ourselves.
In her book, ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’, Brené Brown says we don’t have to love ourselves; we need merely act as though we love ourselves. That’s good enough. We may not love ourselves well, but we can treat ourselves well.
She’s right. I found a dog and couldn’t find her owner. The vet told me the Dog Pound would soon kill her (she wasn’t pretty), and I couldn’t find someone to take her. So, although I didn’t want a dog, I let her stay at my place. I looked after her well because she was in my care and it was the right thing to do: two long walks a day, plenty of pats and encouragement, quality food, visits to the vet . . . but I didn’t love her. However, I acted as though I loved her. And, because I acted as though I loved her, I came to love her.
Some arranged marriages work the same way. The participants initially don’t love each other, but if they treat each other well they come to love each other.
If we treat ourselves well – if we refrain from insulting ourselves, and make the right decisions for ourselves . . . and act as though we love ourselves, that’s good enough. It’s giving ourselves the message that we are worthy of being treated well, and giving ourselves a form of love. Each time we retract a self-insult, and each time we make the right choice for ourselves, we get closer to rekindling our own self-worth.
7. Ask people for assistance.
If we can do something without another person’s assistance, that’s great. We add to our resilience – the feeling that whatever happens, we can handle it. However, if we have done our very best and still require assistance, let’s ask for it. We can then happily ignore the voice telling us to be independent and self-sufficient, because there are times when we do need help, and it’s important to ask for it.
When we do ask for assistance, and receive it, we strengthen our bond with humanity. We are in that little boat, in that stormy sea, and we have been a recipient of that ‘terrible loyalty’. When a person assists us, they are effectively saying, ‘You’re worthy of assistance. You’re worthy.’
By accepting their assistance we have allowed ourselves to let that message in. We have fed the inner flame.
8. Admit your mistakes and your flaws.
Much of my other book, ‘The Umpteen Keys to Resilience’, is about how to become consistent, stable, and self-knowing. A chunk is about facing the truth. Truth opens wounds, the pus drains, and we begin to heal. As a result we grow more self-assured, and bolder, and come to realise we can deal with life. We gain the courage to try new things, and with our new self-confidence begin to respect ourselves in the same way we might respect someone else with qualities we admire. Then we begin to give ourselves credit, and let love in.
‘The Umpteen Keys to Resilience’ includes the following tips. Apply them.
▪ Tell the truth about yourself (unless you would be setting yourself up for persecution)
▪ Tell the truth in general, especially when you are tempted to lie.
▪ If you do fib, admit to it. ▪ If you are at fault, admit it.
▪ If you make a mistake, admit it.
▪ If you are wrong, admit to it.
▪ Apologise if an apology is due. (But only if it is due.)
▪ Declare what you think, not what is expected of you.
▪ Admit to having emotions you would rather not admit to.
▪ Don’t make excuses.