Many people scoff whenever this topic comes up.
“What difference does it make now?” they ask.
“There are some people who like me now, and maybe some of them even love me.”
“So what, if I wasn’t loved as a child!?”
That’s the question I will be answering.
And I’ll tell you what you can do about it, too.
LOVED, LIKED, WANTED, ETC.
I am talking here specifically about whether you were loved as a child.
I am not necessarily talking about whether you were liked, or wanted,
or appreciated for helping the adults, or anything else.
The best way to tell if someone loves you is probably to ask yourself:
“Do they often show that they are happier just by being in my presence?”
When someone feels this way,
their face lights up and there’s warmth in their eyes.
If you can remember many times like this when you were a child,
you are very lucky indeed.
You were loved.
WHEN A CHILD IS LOVED…
When a child feels the love of parents in their very early years,
they immediately know they have value in the world.
As they get older they automatically assume they will “fit in” with other kids
and that they will be able to do whatever anyone else can do.
(Real life will show them this isn’t always true, but they’ll be surprised when they learn it.
Kids who weren’t well loved are surprised when they discover
that they do fit in and can do things well.)
As adults, someone who was loved as a child
will find it easy to believe they are lovable
and it will also be easy for them to love anyone who doesn’t regularly mistreat them.
DO YOU KNOW YOU HAVE VALUE IN THE WORLD?
If you have always wondered if you are valuable
– at work, in your relationships, at play, everywhere –
then you still need to get and absorb enough love.
You need to focus on finding people who are capable of loving
and then learn to take their love deep into that part of your brain
where you realize your own worth.
Romantic love from one person probably won’t be enough,
although it sure will help!
Being deeply valued by people who you initially think are “better” than you will help the most.
So notice the kind of relationships you have
with people who you think of as better than you.
Do you always stay far away from such people?
When they show that they value you,
do you think they are just manipulating
or that they don’t really care?
Psychologically, these people are some of the “new parents”
the world has provided for you.
Learn to believe them when they sincerely care about you and your welfare.
DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU FIT IN AND YOU CAN HANDLE LIFE?
Maybe you do have the sense that you are valuable as a human being
but you still doubt whether you fit in with others socially
– and whether you can handle life’s demands.
This happens to people who were loved enough as infants and toddlers
but who stopped feeling loved later in their young lives when things got more complicated.
Their parents’ love seemed to go away when they made mistakes
(which, of course, happened many times every day).
If this sounds like you, what you need is to do a lot of exploring
with people who accept you as you are.
While you and your friend explore new activities and strange places together
you will notice that your friend likes you and enjoys your company
regardless of whether you handle things well, poorly, or in between.
You will know you are acceptable, good enough,
and valued in your friend’s eyes – regardless.
A lover or a very close friend
can be excellent as your “partner in exploration.”
Friends in a therapy group or a good support group
can also be excellent in this role.
IS IT EASY FOR YOU TO FEEL LOVE AND TO GIVE LOVE?
Once you have absorbed enough love from people
who you initially thought were “superior” to you,
and have felt loved and accepted
while exploring the world with your friends,
you are emotionally ready
to fully absorb the love other people have for you.
And you are almost ready to begin spreading your love to others.
You might say: “But I’ve always loved other people, even when I didn’t love myself.”
And, in a sense, you are right.
You probably did love other people as well as you possibly could
considering the amount of love you had to spare.
But once you feel plenty of self-love
– and no longer fear that it will go away –
you will have much more to share
and you will have much stronger impulses to share it.
Love isn’t some limited commodity you need to guard carefully.
It’s abundant in the world if it’s abundant in you.
I wish all our parents knew this when we were born,
but I’m very glad we can learn about unlimited love at any age.