When I was in graduate school one of my assigned texts was Emotional Alchemy by Tara Bennett-Goleman. In it, Bennett-Goleman, offers up a way for us to work with our maladaptive thought patterns which she calls “schemas.” Among the schemas she identifies are:
Deprivation: “the belief that one’s needs won’t be met.”
Subjugation: “the belief that in an intimate relationship one’s own needs never take priority.”
Mistrust: “people can’t be trusted.”
Unlovability: “the sense of being somehow flawed and unworthy of being loved.”
She says “The paradox is that schemas revolve around compelling needs but lead us to think and act in ways that keep those needs from being fulfilled.”
When I read about the unlovability schema it was like I was reading about me — like she was writing just for me. At that point I’d spent most of my life with a deep, yet vague, belief that I was unlovable. Despite growing up in a loving two-parent home. Despite self-identifying as a strong, self-assured, smart woman. Despite the fact that many people loved me…I felt, at my core, unlovable, not enough, and that I was too much.
Little did I know then that most other people, at least in the Western world, shared my predicament.
Is this you too?
If it is, I want you to know that it’s entirely possible to wake up from this illusion and it doesn’t have to take a lifetime. I use the term illusion because that’s what it is – a mirage that looks and feels as real as real can be, and yet it’s a trick of the eye. You can come to know beyond all truths that you need not change one thing about yourself to be worthy of love.
Here’s how I did it:
I fiercely practiced loving myself. Every day. When it was hard. When it was easy. With teachers. On my own. When I was skinny. When I wasn’t skinny. When I was single. When I was partnered. When I was employed. When I was unemployed. When I felt radiant. When I felt wretched. I committed to opening my heart to myself through it all.
“Once upon a time a girl prayed for true love. Her prayer was answered. She learned to love herself.” Monique Duval
It wasn’t overnight. It wasn’t the result of one healer or one book.
It was cumulative the way that Michael Phelps became a gold medal swimmer not in one summer, but over countless hours in the pool over many years.
So, how does loving ourselves show us that we’re lovable by others?
Because if we can love ourselves, it goes without saying that someone else can.
If we don’t love ourselves, how can we possibly trust that another can?
It’s like a mathematical proof. If X is true then Y must also be true.
X is whether we love ourselves unconditionally.
Y is whether another can love us this way.
If X is true then Y must also be true.
Similarly, I believe it defies the laws of physics for a person to be simultaneously not enough and too much. I realized at some point that I couldn’t be both and that’s how I knew what I felt was a misconception.
On a recent episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass Martha Beck wisely shared that “the most judgmental thing you think about the thing you’re most ashamed of is the lie that is most holding you back…Find the place where you are most ashamed…Opposite of that statement is the best truth for setting you free now.”
Back then my most judgemental belief was that I wasn’t lovable. The thing I was most ashamed of was my ‘not enoughness/too muchness’.
It wasn’t true. Not then. Not ever. So I set about setting myself free.
Do not wait for another to show you that you are enough. You will die waiting. It will never, ever, ever work. When we look to another for confirmation of our own enoughness, there will always be uncertainty in the back of our minds. We can never trust another’s love if our own foundation is shaky.
I like to think that this is fantastic news!
While we don’t have control over others, we do have domain over ourselves and our lives. We can commit to this practice. We can live ourselves into the awakening and awareness of our innate lovabilty and enoughness. This is also fantastic news because experience shows us that people treat us like we treat ourselves.
A final note on how I define love:
In this world there is big love (not of the HBO polygamy variety) and there is small love. Big love is ever expansive, making room for all that arises. Big love is unconditional. Big love is that of a mother to her newborn baby. Big love receives life and us with open arms. Small love, which we see and experience all too often, lives on the surface. Small love likes it when things go it’s way and moves on when things don’t. Small love has an agenda and a host of preconceived ideas about how things (and you) should be.
When I talk about loving ourselves, I’m talking about big love.
How do I know beyond a doubt that I’m lovable? Because I love myself. Therefore it must be possible.
Want to know if you’re lovable? Set about proving it to yourself from within. Start now.