No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Lovable: inspiring or being deserving of love or affection.
So many people carry around the unconscious belief that they are unlovable. If they grew up feeling unloved, they may not have any idea that it is possible to feel another way. They don’t know they see themselves this way, so they naturally fail to recognize how this belief corrodes every aspect of their lives.
Abuse or neglect
Traumatic childhood events like abuse and neglect instantly embed a feeling of being unloved and unlovable deep into the psyche. Especially if the act was committed by someone who was supposed to love and protect the child like a parent, relative, teacher, priest, or other trusted adult. The child may forever wonder, what was wrong with me that this person who was supposed to love and protect me, did this to me instead?
An acrimonious divorce in which children are used as pawns for one parent to punish the other or if the child feels abandoned by one parent who seems to have moved on to a new life without them can make a child feel unloved and unlovable in a deep and fundamental way. It can also give them lifelong beliefs about love and marriage that may not serve them well in the rest of their life.
But it doesn’t take anything quite so dramatic as abuse or divorce to leave a lingering feeling of being unlovable. Growing up in a hyper-critical environment where the child learns that their worth is based on their accomplishments can do it.
If children only received praise and felt loved when they lived up to certain standards and expectations, they can feel they aren’t worthy of love all the rest of the time.
When children are criticized rather than guided through life’s early challenges, they learn that being loved relies on them winning the big game, or earning straight A’s, or doing all the chores and cleaning their plates. All of this teaches them that love is conditional.
If they fail the way everyone fails over and over again throughout life as they learn how to succeed, they learn the lesson that they just don’t measure up on their own.
Love must be earned
This can lead to the belief that love must be earned through accomplishment. People with this belief often become excessively goal-focused and achievement-oriented. It can also result in people having a chip on their shoulders and being driven to prove to everyone in their world just how accomplished and successful they are.
What they are really trying to prove is that they are worthy of the love they crave. They feel that they have to constantly strive to earn and prove because they don’t believe they are lovable on a fundamental level.
The problem is that when you believe you are unlovable you tend to attract people who treat you that way. You end up in unloving relationships because you’ll tolerate the nonsense and put up with the abuse that people who believe they are lovable wouldn’t put up with. You don’t believe you deserve anything better.
A beloved child
One way to combat this feeling is to stop and think about a beloved child in your life. Do you love this child only when they perform up to certain standards or accomplish certain things? Do you stop loving them when they struggle or fail at a certain task?
No, of course not.
We love the children in our lives because of who they are at a deep-down, fundamental level. We can see that they are lovable in a way we may not be able to see with adults. We also may not be able to see this in ourselves.
Your inner child
Now think of yourself at the same age as that beloved child. What was going on in your life at that time? What kind of mistakes did you make? What kind of failures did you experience?
Think about the moments in your childhood when you felt love was withdrawn, the events that made you feel unloved and unlovable. Do you believe the child that was you deserved to have love withdrawn from them any more than the child you love now?
Hint: the correct answer to this question is no. Children do not deserve to have love withdrawn when they make mistakes experience failures. That’s called learning, something we all need to do in order to grow.
Giving and receiving love
Take another look at that child who was you. Think about the response that the child deserved and would have appreciated at the time. Think about how much you would have liked to have gotten a hug instead of a lecture. Or maybe an encouraging talk.
And best of all, love.
Think of how it would feel, as that child to receive love and understanding in those moments of failure and fear. Picture the child in front of you. Now love them. Give them all your love. Feel the love pouring out of you and washing over them.
Let yourself feel how it feels both to give and receive that kind of love.
This can help you recognize and receive this kind of love from another in the rest of your life. It can also help you recognize when you are giving the kind of deep love a soulmate relationship requires.