I have a habit of chasing people who do not like me back.
There are a million possible explanations that I could blame this phenomenon on. There’s my (not so secure) attachment style. My flakey Myers-Briggs personality type. My competitive nature, which loves rising to a challenge and squashing goals that seem out of reach.
But at the end of the day, I think there’s a single unifying factor that keeps any of us going for the people who withhold the affection we desire from them: Just not believing ourselves to be worthy of actual love.
I have spent my whole life trying to prove people wrong.
For as long as I can remember, I have been driven by the desire to attest that I am better than my hometown, better than the people I grew up with, better than every person I ever perceived to be looking down on me.
The desire to prove these people wrong became an insatiable drive that catapulted me towards many of my greatest successes in life. But it also became my primary method of motivating myself. In a strange, twisted way I almost craved rejection or the feeling of being underestimated. It gave me something to rile against. It gave me a new challenge to rise to.
Over the years I had subconsciously taught myself to devalue anything that came easily. I only wanted what I had to fight for. I only wanted what I couldn’t have.
But here’s the problem with functioning this way:
You succeed at all the petty things you set your mind to, but you forget to let in the things that actually matter.
Like companionship. Like intimacy. Like the kind of love that flows freely between people who aren’t just there to compare their successes.
Because here’s the thing about hinging your entire self-worth on proving other people wrong about you: Most of the people you’re ‘sticking it to’ don’t actually give a damn about you.
Does that old college classmate who scoffed at your ideas spend their evenings Googling you and salivating over how far you’ve come? Probably not.
Does your ex sit around at night crying over your Instagram? It’s unlikely.
Are most of the people you’re trying to ‘prove wrong’ actually people who want the best for you and just didn’t understand what ‘the best’ meant for you when you were twelve or twenty years old? You know what – probably.
At some point or another, you have to accept that if you’re spending your life trying to prove yourself to others, it’s probably your own approval you’re lacking.
You’re the one who doesn’t feel good enough until you rise to that new challenge.
You’re the one who secretly thinks that you won’t amount to anything.
You’re the one who only thinks you’re good enough if so-and-so thinks so first.
You’re the one you’re trying so desperately to prove wrong about you.
And so maybe – just maybe – it’s you who has to give you a chance here.
It’s not your mother, your father, that bully from the third grade, your high school English teacher, your ex-boyfriend, your mother-in-law or your boss who you need to square things off with.
It’s that little voice inside you that, at some point or another, started telling you that love is a conditional thing. That you only deserve it once you’ve accomplished X, Y and Z. That you’re not good enough until you get there. And that ‘Good enough’ is a constantly shifting target.
Maybe the reason why you’re so attracted to people who do not want you back is because their narrative fits nicely into your inner monologue of ‘You need to try harder.’ They’re confirming what you want to be true, which is that if you simply better yourself and try again, you’ll achieve what you want.
Being loved by someone who didn’t want you to change would be confusing. You’d assume they were mistaken. Or misguided. Or simply flawed in some way, for wanting to accept you as the unfinished product that you are.
You want someone you have to prove yourself to – because that’s the only way you know how to feel good about yourself.
But what if you stopped and reevaluated that narrative?
What if you allowed yourself to question why ‘Good enough’ is allowed to be a natural state for other people, but is a steadily moving target for you?
What if you asked yourself why someone can’t just love you despite your flaws? Why they can’t love you for the grit you put into combatting them?
What if you realized that your attraction to people who you feel like you have to prove yourself to is just a way of keeping yourself down – keeping yourself feeling unworthy and unfinished, because you’re comfortable there?
Because it’s easier to be an unfinished product than it is to show up to your life and say “I’m here. This is all I have. And I deserve happiness, too.”
What if you were able to recognize that the moment you feel the need to prove yourself to someone is actually the moment you ought to walk away? Because that person isn’t challenging you. That person isn’t asking you to change. That person is just triggering something inside of yourself that is looking for any excuse to feel unworthy.
And feeling unworthy isn’t going to get you anywhere worth going.
It might push you forward. It might egg you on. It might bring you to professional success or other surface-level accomplishments.
But it’s never going to bring you to the place that matters most – which is the place of inner acceptance.
The place where you are finally able to accept real love and give it out unconditionally.
The place where you are good enough for yourself and allow others to be good enough for you, too.
The land of the secure and the honest.
The land of people who are already enough.