Do you feel worthy of love?

It seems such a simple thing, being loved, yet the majority of people in my life – most especially those who are feminine – feel they don’t deserve it. Or worse than that, they feel they would deserve

Or that they deserve it if they’d just ___________.

What’s your blank? What’s keeping you from feeling completely, totally, and unapologetically worthy of love?

I see so many people filling that blank in with things that seem simple, but in fact are unattainable ever-moving targets. Lose 10 pounds. Control my emotions more. Get a better job. Wear nicer clothes.

But there’s always 10 more pounds to lose, more money to make, more fashionable clothes to buy, and so when we constantly chase these things, we never really get to a place of stability.

For me, those blanks are filled with professional goals, which in turn will make me feel worthy of love.

I find myself saying things like “I don’t understand why my partner would put up with all my emotional upheavals, my grief, my sadness, my paralyzing depression. But I’ll make it up to her, if I can just make some more money, gain some more followers, change more lives, be on Oprah.”

The thing is, what my partner wants more than seeing me on Oprah is seeing me happy. While she’d love the luxury to hike all day while I pay our bills, she’d much prefer me to be in a loving mood when she comes home from her job. She’s proud of me for what I do to help others love themselves, but first and foremost, she needs me to love myself.

Yet even though I know this, I still struggle with feeling worthy of love, and that struggle damages my relationships, not just with my lovers but with my family and friends as well.

Are you damaging your relationships because you feel unworthy of love?

In her 2011 Tedx talk, sociologist, researcher, and storyteller Brené Brown says, “What we know is that connection – the ability to feel connected – is why we’re here … It’s what brings purpose to our lives.” She goes on to talk about how her research kept finding this unknown entity that kept people from being connected, and how that entity ended up being shame and fear.

“Shame is … easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection?”

Feeling unworthy of love is feeling unworthy of intimate connection.

Brown says that in her research she found that “the thing that undermines this thinking that I’m not  ______ enough [for intimate connections], is excruciating vulnerability. This idea that in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves … to really be seen.”

How is your lack of vulnerability keeping you from creating intimate connections?

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness,” Brown says, “but it appears it’s also the birth place of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

The people in her research studies who felt worthiness, were people who lived wholeheartedly, people who were “willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they are.” There were, above all else, people who were willing to be vulnerable.

How can we embrace vulnerability in order to feel worthiness?

Brown’s research found four things that help people embrace vulnerability, live wholeheartedly, and feel worthiness:

  1. To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen.
  2. To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee.
  3. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, to remind ourselves that feeling this vulnerable means we’re alive.
  4. To believe that we’re enough.

Does this list seem daunting and abstruse to you?

It did to me at first. It felt like advice I’d been given without any practical knowledge on how to follow that advice. But then I realized that number 3 was actually something I could tackle, so I asked myself this:

How can you practice gratitude and joy during moments of terror?

You know that feeling, like you’re being swept away in an emotional tsunami and you grasp onto any kind of rock for support. Unfortunately, the rocks we grasp onto when we’re upset are rarely ones of logic. Instead of sitting in vulnerability with our uncertainty, we adamantly protest that we are certain. The more vulnerable we are, the more we proclaim how certain we are.

This works in obvious ways for things like politics, religious, and philosophy. But it also works in our relationships.

How can you find joy in uncertainty?

I hate to always bring it back to death, but what is life other than the absence of death? And don’t they say that death is the only thing that is certain in life? So, maybe finding joy in the uncertainties in life is simply about taking a moment to be grateful it’s not the certain alternative.

Maybe the answer is simply to take a moment to breathe, to appreciate your breath and the life it brings you.

Then maybe after enough deep breaths, the joys of life will replace your terror and gratitude for being alive will replace your fear. After that, you’ll be able to feel so much love for being alive, that you’ll feel worthy of love simply because you are alive.

Tweetables and Shareables:

“Find joy in the uncertainties in life by simply taking a moment to be grateful it’s not the certain alternative” -@Laurenmf #BawdyLove

“What’s keeping you from feeling completely, totally, and unapologetically worthy of love?” @Laurenmf #BawdyLove

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