I find it hard to believe that there are people out there who admire me. Even writing that sentence feels conceited. Wow, humblebragging much? It’s a bit like Beetlejuice in reverse – if you say it, it will make it go away, and then it will be all your fault for messing it up!
However, it is true. There are people out there who admire me, and who want to be more like me, and I know that I’m not the only one who feels confused when they encounter this: Wow, I’m not a voice in the desert? My words…matter to people? I’m inspirational? How is that even possible?
The answer will vary from person to person – no doubt you will have your own reasons for not being able to receive love or admiration. But for me – brain chemistry and personality quirks aside – the answer boils down to: because I have no way of telling what is real and what is not.
When your reality is denied from you, again and again, it’s natural for you to become mistrustful and defensive.
Oh, you thought I liked you? You ugly c**t, who do you think you are?
Nobody wants to be your friend, because you’re pushy and nasty and mean. They just won’t come out and say it.
Yeah, you’re cute, and we should definitely have sex, but I have a girlfriend. I didn’t mention it earlier because I didn’t want more drama in my life, you know?
It’s incredible how common such comments are; how casually people use them. It’s incredible how they also like to turn around and act surprised when you find it difficult to believe a good thing after that. Growing up in a snake pit gives you trust issues? You don’t say.
Unfortunately, giving and receiving love is one of those things that nobody can help us with – we have to be the driving force behind our own healing. If we find it hard to believe the good things about ourselves, no amount of kindness, love, positive reinforcement, or forceful flattery on the part of others will help. You may find your dream partner, your perfect job, and a legion of fans – if you are stuck and defensive, every word of praise will sound like a lie in your ears.
So what do you do?
First, acknowledge that the bad stuff happened. No matter how nicely the insults were delivered, they were insults nonetheless. Call it what it is, and stop gaslighting yourself further.
Once you do that, put the blame where it should lie. You did not provoke the abuse, you did not invite it by simply existing. If someone was an asshole to you, it was because they gave themselves permission to do it.
Then stop giving those people your energy. You’ve got a badass life to live. If they want to have a relationship with you, that is something that depends entirely on them.
Speaking of behaviors, when you’re trying to figure out if a person is genuine or not, pay attention to what they do. Genuine regard is felt, as well as heard. Someone who admires you, who looks up to you, who loves you will act like it. Talk is cheap, complacency and deceit are hard to keep up – so when someone’s words match their actions, it’s probably because they’re genuine.
Most importantly, accept that you have choices too. One of the things that keeps people stuck is the feeling of helplessness, of being in the passenger seat of your own life. And yes – sometimes we cannot do anything to prevent a bad thing from happening to us. But we do have choices on how we deal with it – unpleasant choices, perhaps, but choices nonetheless. We can ask for help. We can cut off toxic people. We can surround ourselves with the kinds of things and friends who nurture us. We can acknowledge we made a mistake. We can rebuild.
What we can’t do is expect other people to give us so much love that we cannot help but accept it.
That’s not how it works. That’s never how it works.