How To Love Someone Who Doesn’t Love Themself


There are a lot of good people who, for reasons beyond their control, did not get enough love early in their lives. Sometimes this was deliberate, and other times it was the result of too many conflicting needs, demands, and challenges in a broken world. In the end, they were not given and could not cultivate what they needed.

I don’t want to imply that these people are a shattered few — in fact I think many many people did not start off on a foot that reinforces their own worthiness. I’m not talking about entitlement or even self-esteem, I’m talking about what Brene Brown means on a base level when she is talking about a sense of worthiness. An identity as someone that other people will show up for.

I see a lot of people who haven’t been loved enough, and I also see a lot of people who, whether or not they have been loved enough, are trying to make it right for somebody else who definitely hasn’t been loved enough. Whether or not somebody wants this from you is not the point, but you have to be careful trying to make it right for people who haven’t gotten what they needed.

We have a story culturally that love is transformative, and that love is magic, and makes many things possible. What I can tell is that what we need from love transforms across time, and a sustaining love is one that grows with you.

If you are trying to love somebody who is operating at a love deficit, whether they are a partner, a friend, your mother, or a roommate, consider these things:

You can be the best you, and you can help shape the best relationship between the two of you, but that relationship cannot be shaped to fit only their needs.

Your needs cannot be described as being the perfect fit to meet their needs. That is not a thing that exists in the wobbly asymmetrical universe we live in.

Know that you can love them, and validate them, and acknowledge what happened to them in a way that cannot fix or change it, but that the things you can do make a significant difference over time.

You may find that they have a tight narrative loop of the terrible things that were done to them that you cannot interrupt, they may have told you dozens of times either because they need someone to believe them or because if they tell you enough times you will carry the imprint of the story on your heart and they won’t have to carry it alone. TC mark


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  • aaronsbaldinit

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  • quarksire

    cool post-it! :)

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  • Cara

    And my mother didn’t love me. As a child I didn’t understand why she hit me (and my younger sisters, and our father) and was verbally abusive. By the time I was in junior high school I stopped going to hang out at other kids’ houses because I knew I couldn’t invite them over to my house in return. I couldn’t invite them to my house because they were afraid of my mother, afraid of what would happen if they were there when something set her off. But it was OK when I stopped having friends over, she never wanted strangers in her house anyway. She didn’t want me going anywhere either, having to drop me off and pick me up interfered with her busy schedule.

    She didn’t like my boyfriend and I was told to choose between continuing to live in her house & work towards my master’s degree and breaking up with him OR keeping the guy but moving out of her house, having to withdraw from school, and never being allowed to have any contact with my sisters again. It wasn’t a serious relationship and I believed I needed the master’s degrees more than the man.

    My mother didn’t love me and I spent much of my life thinking I wasn’t supposed to love myself or anyone else.

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