It is Ok to want to be loved

I think current self-development literature is often counterproductive towards those with low self-esteem and feelings of unlovability. Namely you can read from everywhere how you need to love yourself first, how other people cannot be solutions to your self-esteem issues and how in general you should just work harder on yourself if you feel that way. Let me tell how these sentiments have impacted me.

First, they have made me feel ashamed for wanting to be loved. You feel as if there is something so deeply wrong with you for not feeling it inside you and for seeking other people to love you. Second, they have me be stuck with guys that were either totally unavailable or ultimately did not love me. I just assumed that me feeling unloved in these relationships was my deep personal problem and maybe, actually these guys did love me, I was just too needy. Furthermore, since I was notoriously broken and had this deep ingrained issue of not being able to provide for myself, what other people did, maybe I did not even deserve a loving man?

It is easy to stress on self-sufficiency and the need to love oneself and not be dependent on someone else’s love if you have had a good loving family. It is clear that if you felt support throughout your childhood, you also developed self-compassion, empathy and healthy self-esteem, so you probably do not need to seek for these feelings in other people. However, coming from that position and telling to people that spent their childhood feeling unloved, that they should not look for other people to feel loved is pretty short sighted. It is almost like telling to a five year old kid that they should just love and provide for themselves and be more independent and not rely on their parents. Usually that was how these kids that felt unloved got treated. They got told that their dependency needs as well as ingrained wish for love from their parents was inappropriate or downright bad.

So here is my suggestion as to what people that have felt unloved their whole life need. Instead of telling them to learn to love themselves, I think we should tell them that they in fact did miss out on something big. It is OK for them to feel unloved and look for love, because they in fact were never coddled and loved. There is nothing and absolutely nothing wrong with how they are feeling, because it is rather an accurate representation of reality. Hence, there should be no shame around feeling unloved. It should be acknowledged that there is a strong reason why someone does feel unloved and there is a strong reason for them to look for love outside. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved by other people, because most people that judge you for being needy or feeling unloved had the very same desires, the difference is just that those desires were met.

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Social anxiety and female competition

So social anxiety is something I have suffered from my whole life. Mind me, most of the time I was unaware that I was suffering from it, because I thought it was normal to every time when one is going to the party try to suppress the overwhelming anxiety. Try to tell to yourself that everything will be OK. I also thought  it was normal to always want to have some friend or boyfriend with me, as emotional support.

Let me tell you, this is not normal. This is not how most people feel. This is ultimately also not how I want to feel. However, I still feel that way.

Do not make a mistake of assuming that I am a bad communicator. I think I am actually quite good, socially. It is just that every time I go to social event, I remember my early and teenage years of relentless bullying and it my mind, it will all just repeat itself.

I really do not have good ten minute advice on how to combat the situation. Believe me, I, myself, am surprised that I still struggle with it, even after all these years of therapy. However, being aware of it, I will try to work on this next.

My anxiety is mostly about girls. I know, how to handle guys. Not a single guy has ever bullied me. I usually get along perfectly with guys (unless they are my boyfriends…..Ok that was a joke). But girls….

Take the last event that I participated. I was joking around with some guys and they made it more sexual than it needed to be. However, I caught all these judgemental looks from other girls. Well, mind me, the first girl was already judging me because of my profession, telling me that what I do is pointless. I mean, why? I still cannot understand what makes someone tell to the other person that their day job is not worth anything….

But the problem is, I feel threatened by the looks and by the words from these girls. It reminds me of my school years. I know that if one girl takes a disliking towards you, they will be able to collect a lot of their friends and convince them to hate you too. It is that simple. It never works like that with guys, but with girls the pack-mentality is just so much stronger. Plus, I seem to somehow be good at making girls my enemies and even after 30 years, I have no idea why and how. There is always this one girl at the party that takes an instant disliking towards me.

So, parties for me are stressful because of girls. If it was a party filled with guys, I would go there without a care in the world. I really struggle to see how come, my ’enemies’ are always girls. I don’t think it is because I am super charming or hot, there is something else at play here. I am not even sure if the solution to my problem would be to work on the reason girls tend to dislike me or to work on me caring so much and being intimitated by it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have good female friends. I am not one of those people, who hangs out only with guys, thinking that girls are stupid. In the latter case I would understand why other girls might dislike me, but currently it really is a mystery.

What confidence can and cannot do?

In the world of self-help literature, I often stumble upon these cookie-cutter suggestions which lead you to think that all it takes is to be confident. As if there is this magic quality that successful people embody – confidence, and once you get there, you will be successful as well. I am not going to discuss here the fact that confident people usually embody other qualities which have made them feel confident in this particular sphere, rather I am going to give couple of examples from my life which illustrate how merely confidence does not cut it. Examples could apply to many areas of my life, but I chose to use dating in this particular post.

I am a rather sarcastic person and often use teasing in my communication with guys. Unfortunately in my particular country of residence, sarcasm and teasing tend to scare guys. Now over the years I have become more confident about myself and my humor which leads me to use it not more frequently, but perhaps more assertively. What do you think is the effect on my dating life and on the numbers of guys I can score?

When the first example was cultural, then lets also give a personal case. I have always been somewhat dreamy, inattentive and walking in the clouds. The difference is that these days I do not feel the necessity to constantly apologize for my inattentiveness. However, there are plenty of guys that cannot tolerate such characteristics in a woman. No, these guys have not started to like me any better after I stopped apologizing for my inattentiveness. They will still be judgmental about me. I also doubt that they will respect me more only because I these days feel better about myself.

My point here is that confidence can only get you so far. In certain contexts confidence can be counterproductive. You must all know someone who is crossly over evaluating their abilities in a certain area. What confidence can do, is make you feel more relaxed and less obsessed about other people’s opinion, however, in the context of dating, it will not automatically make you attract more dates. Often times there are certain other qualities which are extremely valued by the majority of men (frequently depending on a particular culture). So the lack of these qualities will probably make you the minority taste. If you are confident, it probably will not matter to you.

The problem is, a lot of unconfident people view confidence as something that allows them to compensate for their lack of confidence. This is a very confusing sentence, so let me try to clarify it further. If you lack confidence, you are immensely invested into how other people perceive you. You think that if they only liked you, you would feel better about yourself. My point here is that, confidence will not automatically make other people like you. What confidence can do, however, is making you invest less meaning to other people’s opinions. So there might not be a huge impact on your social life, but there might be a vast impact on how you feel internally.

Rejecting the people that like you and chasing people who do not accept you

For years I have watched the photos and the behavior of popular self-confident girls.  There always seemed to be some inescapable gap between me and them. I wanted to be one of them. I did not even want to be friends with them, I wanted to be them. Most importantly, I wanted to be someone else, not me.

I have come to the conclusion that this has resulted from my mum never approving me. Her constant criticisms and statements such as – “I wish this girl would be my daughter instead” or “Sometimes I wish you had never been born” or “When I was your age, I was much …..(smarter, responsible, prettier etc.)” led me to feel like there was something wrong with who I was. Not with my behavior, just with who I was.

The people that actually liked me, well, assumed that they were losers like me.  Unconfident, ashamed of themselves, not really measuring up for someone else than me. So they had to accept me. Any guy that actually accepted and genuinely liked me got dismissed because of aforementioned dialogue in my head. I only wanted guys that did not see me as sufficient, because well, that meant they had a decent taste and could choose someone better.

I spent years trying to become someone else. This criticism that other people gave me was in my mind treated as the truth not a particular preference of this person. Naturally I chose as my partners and even my friends people who similarly to my mum were never happy with me. So I spent so much energy trying to keep them satisfied (because I never even entertained the possibility of them being happy with me).

It is somewhat weird that I am starting to wake up to the feeling that I was always an OK person and there were always people who genuinely liked me. Granted I believe that I had many problematic behaviors, but as person, in my core, I was OK. Naturally because of therapy and because of having worked with a lot of my natural weaknesses, I am a better person today, but the whole premise of my self-development and the idea of turning myself to a different person was wrong.

Today, my friends are genuinely weird people. Meaning, they would probably never win any popularity contests. However, I feel more accepted than I have ever felt before. I cannot say that I am completely without fear, no my relationships feel still for me fragile and I am afraid of alienating people, but at least I am starting to get the sense that the people currently in my life actually like me. This is the result of me finally choosing to surround myself with people that can appreciate me for who I am, not to people who lead me feel insufficient.

 Do people-pleasers know who they really are?

To be honest, lately I have this weird feeling that I am losing myself. There is this fear of not knowing who I am anymore, becoming totally lost in my being. I think it makes sense that I would feel that way. I think it makes sense because…..

Well, as a people pleaser I have always identified through others. Making other people happy and assuring their support made me. They appeared as pillars of support in an unsafe environment. Now that I am trying to become more independent and rely less on others I am also faced with the fact that most of my life I have actually had little idea who I was. I was whoever I needed to be in order for other to be happy. Yeah, I had some limits, but in reality, not really. I would go to extreme lengths to grant people’s approval. If most of your life has been defined by being what others want you to be, how would you even know who you want you to be?

It is quite ironic really. I probably have more idea on who my mum wanted me to be, who my ex wanted me to be or who a random man on the streets wants me to be. I don’t think I have ever asked what kind of a person I want myself to be. You know, I, without the ulterior motive of – I want to be liked by as many people as possible.

Given all this, it is no wonder that I find myself confused and feeling as if I am disappearing. I literally have no idea who I am anymore without all these judgmental people around me. Suddenly I could have the freedom to be myself except, I have no idea who myself is. Neither do I have much idea how to start looking for myself in thirties. I mean, it is not like google will give you many hits on – how to find out who you really are. So in the meanwhile I guess I will have to accept feeling and being lost…..

How to deal with guys that disappear and reappear

So, because I had an experience with a guy that disappeared and also partially because my ex had this habit, I have thought about this topic lately quite a bit. I think the most difficult for me to accept is the fact that ultimately I was not as important to those guys as they were to me. This is a tough pill to swallow and I have been trying to avoid accepting it. Somehow we always try to deceive ourselves thinking as if he – just is denying his feelings, he loves me, but does not know it ….fill in the blanks. On one hand deception serves to avoid feeling bad about ourselves in this moment, but on the other hand it is also what keeps us in denial.

I lived in denial with my ex for years. Something in me refused to admit that he just was not committed to our relationship. It was easier to think that I am over-reacting or I am needy or whatnot. Well, I was all these things as well, no doubt about that, but still it does not erase the fact that my ex was never as invested as I was.

I have one male friend who keeps appearing in my life once in a while with occasional short messages. To me his behavior has always been somewhat confusing because I am thinking – well what kind of a friendship is that? I mean what is the point?  Until today I realized. I bite every time. His messages make me feel important and I invest emotionally and write a really nice and loving response. That is why he keeps messaging to me occasionally…I mean who would not want to have some dosages of love for so little effort?

The same applies to my ex and the disappearing guy. I mean if you had a chance to get your dosage of love and even your sexual needs met without fully investing, would you say no? I mean everything would be right and nice, if I did not emotionally invest. If I managed my emotional investment the same way these guys do. I mean lets face it, a guy who writes to you a short message in every four months does not invest anything. It would be stupid of you to them treat him as dear and close friend.

So, I have been emotionally investing into people that have not done the same with me. Not at least to same extent. This is a difficult topic however, because I do not want to be a cold person. I want to be a warm person, but I need to learn how to make my investments to other people correspond to their investments to me. Furthermore, I need to understand why I am so gullible that one facebook message can somehow turn me over and I can instantly become loving and caring. I can now clearly see that I am in a habit of overinvesting and letting both my partners and friends take advantage of me in that way. But I have no idea how to correct this nor how many friends I have left at the point where I have critically evaluated my investments.

So to go back to the original topic – the way you deal with the guy that disappears and reappears, you do not get invested emotionally. He has proven you with his actions that he is not that invested. I mean if he can disappear, his investment is not that high. So, you hold yourself and do not get invested either. You do not behave like me with my friends by giving him love whenever he makes appearance again. Instead you treat him based on his actions and he has just acted like a casual distant acquaintance so this is the kind of spot he should have in your life and in your heart.

Why some people act entitled?

I am currently visiting my mother and that has given me so much food for thought. Today, inspired by a recent event with my mum, I wanted to talk about entitlement.

The event in itself was following. My mother asked me to help her with something. However it quickly appeared that she had most her days booked and she in fact had only very few times she could do the chore. Instead of telling me, OK fine, I must have made a miscalculation here, she started blaming me for never helping her and resorted to her room where she sat pouting the whole evening. This behavior just puzzled me so much, because there were so many things wrong here. I mean…..

If you ask someone a favor, in my mind you are going to be accommodating towards this person and you do your damnest to agree on a time that fits them. What you definitely do not do is to demand that they cancel their plans. Finally if they refuse, you do not go into pouting mode, which only lets the helper know that you are unable to take into account their needs.

So I concluded that there are some people that just feel entitled. Mind me, my mum does not feel such entitlement about other people, but she feels it about me. She feels that she is entitled for accommodating and nice behavior from me, irregardless of how she behaves herself.

And now comes the moment of honesty. My ex told me numerous times that I acted entitled during our relationship. I never understood what he was talking about. In my mind he had issues with people’s expectations (and he did). However, I am now starting to see his point of view. So why did I act entitled?

I acted entitled, because I thought asking people for things made me inferior. It set me to the position of one man down, so I did not do that with strangers, but in relationships, I thought I should not have to do that. This imaginary position of inferiority made me feel so bad that I would rather go around and tell him what he owed me than actually ask for things. Of course, my ex would also go around telling me constantly what he had done for me, so this did not help with my feelings of inferiority.

Anyways, based on my own behavior, I assume that people who act entitled feel extremely vulnerable when asking something from someone. In order to avoid feeling vulnerable, they would rather go and aggressively demand it, because then the other people do not see that they are actually in need of help. Instead they show as fighting for their rights or whatnot. Anything but not weak and vulnerable. I think, at least for me, understanding where this entitlement comes from, makes it easier to deal with it.

Parents that ignore their kids problems

My whole childhood went by with my mum ignoring my problems or telling me to take care of them and somehow not bother her with those. Perhaps the clearest examples were my illnesses. I had a stomach flu a lot when I was a kid and I do not have a single memory of my mum actually getting up at night and doing anything for me. Mind me, the earliest memories I have are from the age of five. At this age I was already completely independently getting up and sleeping in the bathroom because I did not want to ruin the bed. My mum still talks about the one and the only time when I actually vomited in the bed and how troublesome it was for her. Other times when I actually was shaking and sleeping in the bathroom, well she treats as normality. This is how it should work.

The situation is completely different when she is ill. She once asked me to come to the countryside and take care of her when she was ill in the middle of the night before I was supposed to move to another country the next day. Yes. She was not even supposed to be there sending me away to another country, because she had her vacation.

This habit of hers to show remarkable indifference towards my problems still shows. We do not talk about my problems. The most personal I can get with my mum is talking about my work. Overall we usually talk about her life and her work. Just like we did throughout my childhood.

If my problems became so big that they were impossible to ignore, like me considering suicide because of the bullying and finally confessing to my mum, she sent me away. She sent me to the psychologist (which was quite a good move). Mind me not the paid one, but a school psychologist which was for free. We never ever talked about the issue again. She had successfully delegated the responsibility for my problems to someone else.

I learned that no one cares about your problems. I learned that you should not even bother other people with your issues. Furthermore, I learned to take care of other people’s needs and problems and not even expect any kind of mutuality there. I also did not have any successful skills in resolving my problems, because no grownup ever bothered to give me any advice on solving them. So for most of my life my problem solving skills remained to the level of five year old.

I hate that there is a part of me that still longs and wishes that mum would care. That she would show for once interest in how I have managed with all the issues in my life. But no, she is usually there to take the credit for my achievements but never there through my hardships. I just had to write this post about my current feelings. More analysis will follow.

Never a first choice

I have recently seen several dreams about being left out, being excluded. I think I have gone through my life always feeling like a second choice. I have not really spent enough time exploring where this feeling comes from, but I can tell you about some of my experiences in connection to this.

One of my best friends in childhood would always end up bullying me with her other friends during her birthdays. I never questioned her actions that much, instead I felt embarrassed for being in that position. I have spent feeling embarrassed and trying to hide this experience of being rejected, disregarded or devalued many many times. Thinking it is my fault. Thinking that if others find out, they too, will reject me. Like rejection was this contageous disease….

When my ex would rather hang around with his friends, it was my old feeling of rejection that came out. I thought the problem was me. I was not fun enough. My ex kept telling me that because of me, he does not want to come home. I do not make home a pleasant place. With his friends he feels at home. When a new guy told me that he cannot promise he will meet me on Friday evening because something fun might come up, I thought again – it is me, I am not fun enough.

I collect such experiences, so obviously there is something wrong with me, but probably not what I thought was wrong at the time. The wrong thing is potentially that I kept hanging around my ex after he told me that it was my responsibility to make him want to come home. Like I was his personal entertainer and he had no responsibilities in making my evenings pleasurable. The problem was probably that I did not ditch the guy after he left me hanging seeing if his Friday could be filled with more pleasant activities.

I am slowly starting to see what is wrong and what is right. But I still feel inferior. I am even trying to model my behavior around this. For instance when a guy told me about him needing to see what his Friday brings, I told him that I in fact was busy (I was), whereby he instantly needed to know what I was doing. So I am even altering my behavior, but I mostly feel like I am pretending. If people were to find out how insecure I still feel inside they would surely treat me as a second choice and exclude me.

So obviously working with my feelings is needed, not only realization that I should not be treated that way. Not only slow change in how I react in situations like that. But altering these feelings of inferiority is sort of a challenge of a life time……for me.

It is OK to feel like a loser

A magical transformation happened when I finally accepted and understood why I might feel like a huge disappointment and failure in my life. But lets start with explaining why I spent years feeling like a failure.

Everything can really be described in one word – my mum. Nothing was ever good enough. It took me years to understand how I was constantly feeling like I was a huge walking disappointment. More so, part of me strongly agreed with my mum. I agreed with her, admitting that I was not a talented child. I was not a beautiful child. I was pretty much average or below that throughout my childhood. Since I did not have any redeeming qualities or achievements, there was really no way to gain my mu approval. Not that I would not have tried. However, even though I probably was just an average child, not really remarkable in any way, my mum’s criticism made me feel like I was the worst failure ever. There are certain parents that just have hard time accepting that their children are not the bestest the brightest the smartest and whatnot. It feels like a personal letdown for these parents. They direct their hurt and disappointed feelings towards the kid, because the kid was there to redeem them. To make them feel adequate.

So obviously I failed, because I was nowhere close to remarkable. My mother’s criticism was probably not even very wrong, but the problem is – you do not get kids in order to feel better about yourself. You get kids when you are ready to share your unconditional love. But enough about that…

Anyways, I have fought with this feelings of being inadequate my whole life. I resented myself for feeling that way. I read self development books which sad that everything would be just fine if I only loved myself and I resented myself some more. Actually this is one of the most unhelpful suggestions I have ever heard – you should just love yourself. It is like telling to an unemployed person – have you ever tried…you know…getting a job or something.

But when I stopped fighting this feeling and accepted that I might indeed feel like a failure and that it is completely OK to feel like a failure, this was when magic happened. I suddenly felt more accepted than I have felt over the years. The heavy burden of always needing to prove myself and somehow become better than I am was somewhat lifted. I accepted that I could be a failure. I could have been a failure throughout my childhood, I could still be a failure, but I was OK being a failure. I had nothing to prove anymore. I could just relax into feeling like a failure……

Interestingly enough it was at this very moment I stopped feeling like a failure. Instead I felt this excitement about the future. This knowledge that I will not have to continue screening thousands of beauty products to try to make me look more beautiful or chase unavailable men to try to make me feel better. I can just sit here and accept failing….