“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, ‘The Four Loves’
Why do some people have such a hard time believing that they are loved? Or that they are lovable.
I was having a conversation with a friend, for anonymity’s sake I will call her Molly, she shared with me that basically even though she has every reason to trust that she is well loved there is a part of her that refuses to believe it.
She doesn’t know why she has these trust issues, if that’s what they are. She has been loved her entire life by very loving people.
Yet she continues to doubt.
She told me that she’s afraid that she could sabotage her relationship because of these feelings. I admitted that I understood all too well because I have experienced them myself.
I’ve had those same fears at times.
So…how do we overcome our insecurities?
Say you fall in love, and you’re sure this is “the one”. All your instincts tell you that you’re right. Your inner voice sounds certain, finally, certain.
You’ve got a subconscious checklist and the majority of wants, needs and desires are being ticked off. This is what you’ve always hoped for.
Things progress as planned and everything comes together fairly neatly. Time passes and the two of you remain paired up. All seems well.
You walk the walk, and talk the talk, and do all the things that lead everyone to believe it’s going perfectly. You do this because you want it to be working; that aspect hasn’t changed one bit. And it probably is working.
But somewhere inside you is a voice that is at odds with all that good. A part of you, an inner voice, is intermittently sending signals that you should doubt your happiness.
You get the feeling that no one could or would genuinely love you. Best case scenario you must be quite a challenge to love.
Worst case, you’re truly unlovable.
Where does this leave you?
In Molly’s case, as in so many others’, she truly gives the impression that she’s in a really happy, loving relationship. Most everyone she knows talks about her and her partner with happy-envy and admiration.
They really are quite inseparable and seem to have tons in common. To an outsider looking in they really have what many people only get to hope for.
So, why is Molly constantly plagued with little fears?
She says she really wants to figure out where these insecurities come from. Then possibly she could find ways to put them all to rest and move past it. She’s afraid if she doesn’t get over this thinking she may lose what she has.
Reading that, our first thought might be that Molly must be crazy to jeopardize everything. We might tend to judge her rather harshly, but is that fair?
What makes some people seemingly sabotage their own joy?
And of course to use the word sabotage, that’s just one spin on it. Self-doubt can make a person, historically more prevalently a female, feel, as well as appear, more fragile. Truthfully though, we are all a little fragile sometimes.
Maybe we don’t need to know where exactly these feelings come from. Maybe it’s enough just to acknowledge them.
Also we don’t necessarily sabotage our joy. Vulnerability may play a significant part in it, too. When we feel vulnerable we may have our little fears surface, or resurface.
But vulnerability is not simply weakness. I mean, how true is this:
It strikes a chord with many of us because we just want to feel connected to someone. We want to overcome our fears of feeling vulnerable and instead feel connected to others.
It’s like that old show on VH1 ― Behind the Music that started in the late Nineties. Every time I used to watch an episode that was the backstory of some musician, singer or band that had never appealed to me, by the end of it I’d have to rethink everything I’d previously perceived.
Finding out what they went through, go through and whatnot makes them real. In its own little way I would feel a connection to them. This always fascinated me. It was a love-hate kind of thing, but I was amazed how often it happened.
Why is it so hard for us to believe it couldn’t be true in our own lives?
I admit it, when I feel vulnerable I am extremely uncomfortable. The ironic part though is that I want to make myself vulnerable. It is where we’re most creative.
I’ve also recently been expected to be brave and courageous as I fought my way through a medical recovery, but in order to do so I had to let myself be vulnerable. Otherwise I would have closed myself off to the help and therapy that I needed. If I had not done so, I would have allowed me to become locked within my own body and self.
It must be akin to some stage fright. If a performer is mildly afflicted with it they may have trouble going on in front of a crowd. If they allow themselves to be vulnerable they can carry out their act, and create something. If they don’t…well, they may have to slink off the stage, unfulfilled.
They have to allow this vulnerability in order to be real.
Acting roles in film and television get lauded when an actor pulls off a rawness that brings a character to the screen that we can connect with. It’s all about vulnerability and connection.
And so is love…
So that’s just it, being in any kind of loving, connected relationship involves allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. And that can be hella scary for us.
And not just romantic relationships, either. Parent-child relationships require this too and it can be an enormous task for the parent OR the child, whether or not you’re both adults.
One of the biggest obstacles to being vulnerable in a relationship is undoubtedly the fear of losing it. Once we’ve connected with someone there are a variety of ways they can be taken from us: they could move away, they could disappoint us, shame, betray or hurt us to the degree that we have to end our relationship, and of course…the big one…they could die.
Molly admits she has been having a difficult time giving in and letting herself be vulnerable lately. She’s still not entirely sure why this has been the case, but she accepts that by keeping it bottled up, keeping her walls up, she is not connecting with her mate or with herself.
Just because we know that we need to love ourselves definitely does not mean that we know how to do it. And I think that we get confused when we hear that we can’t love others until we first love ourselves.
We know that we can love our children, our partners, our parents, family and friends; even when we’re not too sure how we feel about ourselves, don’t we?
Yes we can, it’s not about loving others only after loving ourselves; it’s about learning to love ourselves and each other, from each other. And this learning comes from a place of, you guessed it…vulnerability.
Much like that feeling we hear first time parents describe over and over, that feeling of awe at how they never imagined how much they could love someone until they held their child. Of course this is an extremely raw and vulnerable moment, and they learned deeply about love from it.
We…Molly, myself and anyone else who might be feeling similarly…need to be willing to let down our guards, get vulnerable and raw and uncomfortable, and accept that not only are we loved…we are loveable.
Relationships are sometimes hard! They can take immense work; they are similar to tending a garden. You don’t always reap what you sow, but that’s the idea.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed:
For love is sufficient unto love.
― Kahlil Gibran, ‘The Prophet’
Raina K Morton March 3 2015