This is a theme of a lesson I've struggled with in my own life frequently and that I feel has finally started to make sense to me in more than just the intellectual sort of reasoning way that things make sense. However, I've also noticed recently that it is something that other people around me seem to be struggling with so I thought I'd share my understanding of it.
This is what makes sense to me at this moment and I'm going to write it as though it is fact, but it is really my perspective on something that can't be concretely proven as fact at all so if you disagree (or even if you agree) please feel free to comment or reach out in some other way and we can talk about it.
So this is what I've realized lately. When it comes to love you can only choose to do two things: 1. give it 2. accept it.
That's it. You can't earn it and you can't force others to accept your offers of it.
Saying this can seem confusing and scary at times because it seems to take away control over a very essential component of your life. It feels out of control because in a way it is saying that if no one loves you then there's really nothing you can do about it: you can't change it, it's hopeless, etc.
But this isn't actually true. You can choose to give love to yourself and receive it from yourself. I know that's not the most comforting thing to hear, especially when you are feeling particularly vulnerable and lonely. However, trying to earn love creates a particularly painful trap.
Here is what happens when you try to earn love:
1. You start off contemplating about what makes some people more lovable than others. You come up with a list of actions and/or characteristics that make others inherently more lovable and see how you are faring in comparison to that list.
2. You try to implement the components of that list. You try to be nicer, give more, be friendlier, etc. etc. etc.
3. People notice and respond. Or they don't.
4. If people don't respond you think you've either made the wrong list or failed to live up to your list adequately. You try again.
5. If people do respond you are temporarily happy. You feel like you figured it out and have a sense of worth and security and you feel like you've earned it so you don't have to feel guilty about enjoying it. Yay! This is what you wanted, until...
6. The temporary joy and security wears off and people go about their usual business. The anxiety comes back and you realize that the only way to feel good again is to do those things more and get more of a response. The problem is that the more you do something the more others tend to expect that you will do it and the less they will respond. This problem is coupled with the feeling of being used and underappreciated. You start to see that people love what you do for them but secretly wonder, do they really love you? If you stop doing will they still love you? The answer you fear is "no."
So you try to work extra hard to store up "earned love credits" (like a savings account). This way you tell yourself that if at some point you can't continue to do whatever you are doing to "earn" love, people will still have to love you because you've stored up savings. This, however, is NOT love. It is obligation. People don't like to feel obligated, especially when it comes to emotions and an undercurrent of resentment builds in both directions.
7. The undercurrent of resentment creates more anxiety and distance. This makes you feel like you have to work harder for love but also leads to anger because, why do you have to work so hard? Why don't others work this hard to earn your love?
So you either try harder or stop trying all together (or somehow do both).
I'm done with my list now, you get the idea. The point is that trying to earn love doesn't work because love is not a commodity that can be earned. It is something given and gained freely. It is contradictory to earning. You can earn respect, admiration, and other forms of accomplishment. You can't earn love.
The person who is loved the most in the world by the largest number of people is not worth more than the person who is loved least. Love has nothing to do with worthiness. Love is about two choices that every individual makes in any given moment: to give and to receive. That's it. If more people choose to give love to a particular person then that's all that it means, not that the person is worth more just that for whatever reason that number of people have chosen to express love for that person. If that person chooses to reject all of that love it won't matter how many people express it because that person will not feel it anyway.
Since you can't control who people choose to give love to there is no point in trying to convince the world to love you. Everyone makes that choice based on their own unique combination of preferences, beliefs, emotions, etc. You can't change it, it is theirs. Does this mean you are powerless? No.
It means you've been trying to learn the wrong lesson.
Control what you can, release what you can't. If you don't feel loved then remember there are two very powerful and important things you can control: 1. you can control whether you accept unconditional love 2. You can choose to unconditionally love yourself and/or others. If you choose to love yourself unconditionally and you choose to accept your own unconditional love you will feel loved. You you close down either one of these pathways then you will be dependent on other people to make you feel loved and lose the control you have over it.
Is this an easy thing to learn to do? No, not particularly-- especially if it is counter to your core beliefs and values about what love is and what it means. Is it hard? Not particularly, once you choose to do it you just practice it.
Are there patterns that other people tend to find more likable in others? Sure. But those don't matter because in order to feel truly secure in love the love needs to be for you regardless of any pattern you live up to and you need to receive it regardless of whether you feel worthy or not. We yearn to be loved for who we are, flaws and all. Trying to live up to a set of characteristics or actions is self-defeating because it builds a component for others to respond to but doesn't give them the chance to even choose to love all of you only for you. It also makes it easier for you to direct your own love only to the part of you that can succeed in that list and as you reject the part that fails to match up you choose to not love yourself and that is where you lose your power.
Basically, all this is to say that it's okay to have flaws and it's okay to know that and to love yourself anyway. You can't control whether other people love you or not; it doesn't matter if they do or not. It matters that you take control of what you can control. If you allow yourself to give love and receive then you will have the full experience of love and the emptiness that longs for that will start to shrink.
Again, I've stated this like a fact but it is just what I've learned based on my own experiences, struggles, and observations. Hopefully it's helpful in some way.
Thanks for reading.