Finding My Way Back to Lovable
In traveling down my own path of healing past pain to hope to happy, I recently learned the true meaning of and the difference between the words ‘loved' and ‘lovable’.
It was one of those crazy ah-ha moments where all the years I spent wanting to be loved but never feeling fulfilled finally made sense … and, for just a moment, I could see a glimpse of how life could be different.
I stopped feeling lovable when I lost my Mom … when she died so suddenly, so too did the permanency of her unconditional love.
After she died, and because it was such an unexpected loss, I no longer felt whole, confident, and strong (all the things my Mom helped me see within myself). I no longer felt good enough and that I mattered which lead to years of beating myself up for not being thin enough, smart enough, strong enough or worthy.
So my thought was that if I could just be ‘loved' and keep that love permanently, then I would once again have all those gifts Mom gave me … as well as a guarantee that they would never go away like she did.
In my teenage years after Mom was gone, my Dad used to say that I was the person who never wanted anything to end. Back then, this meant the time I spent with friends and other special high school moments.
In my adult life, my not wanting anything to end included many of the same things but also expanded to romantic relationships. I wanted to be loved so badly and to make sure that love always stayed just so I could feel lovable. In my romantic relationships (and even in some friendships) it meant pouring everything I had into someone, taking on the identity of the other person, allowing my own wants and needs to get lost, taking care of (and oftentimes rescuing) the other person and doing whatever it took to make someone happy. And yet, in doing these things, I was still not guaranteed the permanency of the love and this even sometimes resulted in being taking advantage of because I valued myself as the giver.
Crazy enough, this quest for permanency even expanded to vacations. I would go on a vacation and I remember being so sad when the trip came to an end, so much so that I would insist there was another vacation planned before the current one ended, just so I could have something to look forward to. Instead of enjoying each moment of the time away, I was counting down the days until it would be over. And when it was over, I would be depressed … sometimes for a long time. How crazy is that?
Funny thing was, no matter how much I was loved, no matter how many vacations or special moments there were, it still wasn’t enough and certainly didn’t guarantee the person wouldn’t leave, the special moments wouldn’t end and time wouldn’t run out.
I still felt empty … kind of like a bucket with a small crack in the bottom and no matter how much you continuously fill it, the water still slowly runs out.
It took me 46 years to realize that no amount of being ‘loved’, or permanency of that love, can make me feel ‘lovable'.
Fabulous … now what???
So a new quest began … only this time it was more like a journey … of which I started on the inside of me and worked out.
I think it’s easy to blanket-statement it and say that this whole feeling lovable thing means I just need to love myself but, to me, that sounded a bit trite.
I think that feeling ‘lovable' involves so much more than love.
Feeling lovable involves self-compassion … and practicing it … often multiple times per day. My go-to place is to put myself down … whether it’s negative spoken comments in a conversation, negative internal thoughts or my incessant need to apologize ALL THE TIME, even when I have done nothing wrong.
Feeling lovable involves gratitude. Yes, gratitude. I found that if I am able to state the things I am grateful for each day, I can see the good in myself too.
Feeling lovable involves finding peace within yourself. Yes, I get it, this one is a bit cliche but it’s true for me. Practicing yoga helps me find peace in myself … it quieted my mind (even if it is just for an hour) and makes me focus on my own will, determination and physical strength.
Feeling lovable involves saying things I like about myself each day. OK, I know this one sounds REALLY far-fetched … but it works. Saying five things I like about me, whether it’s aloud to a friend, in the bathroom mirror or writing them down helped me see the gifts I have and how i am showing up in my own life and in the lives of others. Note: this did not feel natural at all when I started and I often fought against doing it, but in the end it has changed how I feel about myself … and I actually miss it when I don’t do it.
Feeling lovable involves embracing and celebrating my strengths (like my Capricorn-like stubbornness and determination to roll my sleeves up and dive into any project) and letting go of my self-perceived weaknesses. And maybe, just maybe, someone else I know and love is strong where I am weak … and how cool would it be to lean into their strengths?
Feeling lovable allows me to stop overcompensating in my relationships and helps me find a better balance.
For me, the difference between loved and lovable means that someone else doesn’t fill my bucket … I need to do that. I need to repair the crack at the bottom, I need to fill it up with all the goodness I have inside and then, and only then, it will stop running out.
I have also learned that in taking care of myself, in celebrating who I am and embracing the real me for all the world to see, I am also honoring Mom. I am celebrating all the unconditional love she gave me, letting go of the need for permanency and enjoying being present in each precious moment I have been given.
The journey of finding my way back to lovable continues … one powerful step at a time …
So much love,
P.S. Thank you so much for reading! Have you struggled with feeling lovable too, does my journey resonate with you? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.