Love me love me
Say that you love me
Leave me leave me
Just say that you need me
— the Cardigans, Lovefool
This summer I came close to living something I had dreamt of for 30 years. A man I’d loved, from up close but mostly from afar, came back into my life and suddenly, for the first time since high school, things felt possible.
And then they didn’t.
Then a few months later I got an email containing these words:
“I would have loved you, but you cling too tightly to your past and don’t see your own true self worth.”
There are three statements in there. In fact the entire email could provide therapy (or introspection) material for years. Ouch.
But today I’m going to try to look closer at his last statement: the suggestion that I don’t see my own true self worth.
A trusted friend, with whom I then shared the email, ended her response to me with these words:
“One thing that he said that I wish were not true is that you don’t see your own true self worth. Of course you deserve to feel loved and honored and special by a partner for a lifetime. I hope you can embody the energy in your statement and project the fact that you are amazing to the Universe so that the person who is waiting can find his way to you…”
She was sending me nothing but love and support. Yet something in me gets extremely squirmy with this talk. I get uncomfortable when other people underline such things they observe in me, even though in both above cases they are doing so because they want me to be happier, and feel better, more whole.
My first reaction is that something in me (ego) feels deficient, or imperfect, or ashamed.
Ashamed at my own struggle? Ashamed at not having figured it all out by now? Ashamed as if I’m not smart enough or sharp enough or grown-up enough to have achieved perfect balance? (You can hear the defensiveness creeping in already.)
Concurrent with not feeling grown-up enough is feeling small. Smaller than the others?
My second reaction is a realization that I understand the words “don’t see your own true self worth” but that they are not connecting to any meaning that translates to sensations, or feelings, or deep understanding inside me.
This seems to be a spot to start digging, n’est-ce pas…
My third reaction, arising now as I write, is that, in the true spirit of putting others’ needs before my own, I have so often been guilty of putting others’ judgements before my own. He thinks I’m X? She said I’m Y? They must be right…
An external opinion or judgement tends to throw me off kilter in a heartbeat. So I know I must also beware of giving others the power to know me better than I know my own self.
Or are others’ judgements only so powerful when they hit the nail on the head?
Or is it because they are joining forces with my inner judge (the maleficent voice within me that may already be stirring up harsh and hurtful energies or being ungenerous with me)?
To return for a moment to reaction #2 —that non-understanding of what it all even means— where do I begin?
Merriam Webster says it’s one’s sense of one’s own value as a human being. Not the value itself, but the sense we have of that value.
This is something I can see in others. I see and receive the light they emanate from within.
I guess I haven’t had much success thus far with perceiving that light that comes from inside me. Or sometimes I see it and feel it but for some reason it doesn’t translate to that sense of my own worth.
But I think the real stumbling block is the idea of “value”. As soon as things get quantitative, I get triggered.
Karen Froehlich commented on this blog a few days back:
One thing that helped me was learning that you don’t need to *do* anything to be worthy of love.
Is she saying that I would be just as loveable (or worthy of love, including my own) if I didn’t do any good deeds? If I weren’t a “good person”? If I didn’t try so hard to do the right thing? Or if there were no way to “measure up” to myself or to anybody?
The comparisons my sister and I picked up and internalized over the years have not been beneficial. No one was ever trying to say one of us had more worth than the other, but for whatever reason, we each became fixated on what the other did better, or had more of.
Pedestals were a key building block in my family. I don’t think anyone was doing it on purpose. Placing each other up there was our way of saying, “I think you’re really cool, I admire you. Let me worship you for a sec.” And don’t get me wrong, it feels glorious, for a minute. Except it’s lonely up there. And there’s always a pedestal nearby (with a family member perched on it) that’s taller. Also, pedestals can fall, and that can be painful.
As soon as I start thinking about “value” I thought about praise, and merit, and about pedestal culture. I think I’ve got some more unravelling to do around these ideas.
This post is reading as scattered as I’m feeling. Not much in terms of dénouement so far. But there’s no point in hiding it. I am struggling. That’s the point of this project. I’m trying to figure it out and make progress, and that ain’t likely gonna happen in the time it takes to birth 4 blog posts. Just like recovery is a process (I’ve learned this through my job at the amazing, inspiring Allies in Recovery), so is learning to love oneself. I figure.
Several wise friends have pointed out over the years, including very recently, that I am Love. So each time I find myself chasing after Love, I should remember that I already am Love.
I really like how this sounds. But for the time being, it’s yet another idea that remains perfectly abstract to me. These are ideas that I’ve encountered late(r) in life and they clearly haven’t been assimilated. I will keep on the quest to get to the heart of it. And I know a few people who will help me.
featured image: whosdenilo via unsplash