Monday, November 23, 2009

Lovableness, Not So Easy for Some of Us

I admit it. I search the Internet for peculiar things, like the answer to an exasperating issue of mine: How to stop feeling uptight around people I think may think I don't measure up.

I know: It's none of my business what people think of me, if they believe I'm not smart, funny, or good enough. If I am doing all I can to be the best person I can be, all that matters is what I think.

As I said, I know all that. Intellectually. But it must be true that the longest journey is from the head to the heart, because just when I think I have beaten this thing it sneaks back in like crabgrass.

I am sure of something, though: When I carry a question inside me, a power greater than I am knows it. It's like a secret prayer, and the universe has a way of answering in the most unlikely places. Of course, it may not be in the form I expect. It could be a 15 year old named Pumpkin Soup.

I don't know Pumpkin's real name, only that she tossed her message, "How To Be More Lovable", into the Internet sometime during December 2008. I discovered her when I typed "uptight and uncomfortable in the world" into my Yahoo search bar. Maybe that sounds sort of desperate, but I probably was at the time—and Pumpkin seemed like she was, too.

Pumpkin described her friends as "huggy, touchy-feely people," who had given up on hugging her--to say goodbye, hello, and congratulations--because, she thought, she was stiff and awkward.

"My failure to be lovable and huggy and la di da about the world," she wrote, "also is probably the reason I have never had a boyfriend…since I am not hideous looking or anything."

I, too, am not hideous looking or anything, at least not on the outside. Inside can feel like a whole different story. I'm also not as rigid as I was a decade ago--"as tightly strung as piano wire," somebody said—but I can still feel uncomfortable when it comes to hugging people. The first time a stranger attempted to wrap her arms around me I was as receptive as a two-by-four.

Intellectually of course, I understand the root of my up-tightness: It's about not feeling safe. To be with someone, holding hands, hugging or even talking, I need to know that person won't hurt me, physically or emotionally. It's natural to feel uptight around someone who's verbally abusive or has the flu. It's my insecurity mechanism kicking in, warning me of unhealthy situations.

The trouble is, that same mechanism kicks in when I'm with someone I think thinks I don't measure up. I know it's my instinct trying to remind me the fittest of a species survives—which a thousand years ago was a useful tool but obviously isn't necessary today. I'm not going to lose my food and shelter because somebody thinks I'm not “enough”. But what I could lose—and this is what keeps me in the prehistoric ages with gut-clutching discomfort—is a friendship I really want.

So this lingering, low-grade up-tightness—this feeling, as Pumpkin says, of being unlovable—must be fear. Fear that others can't accept my imperfectness—which in my twisted little brain translates into total solitude (if, that is, I am unlucky enough to outlive my husband). And since I happen to be allergic to cats, dogs and basically anything furry with two or four legs I mean really alone.

But all humans are imperfect; even Mother Theresa and Gandhi were imperfect. So if people will not, cannot, do not accept me the way I am—especially when I continue to devour self-improvement meetings and books like M&Ms to try to be “better”--then I have to let them go. Because if they can't accept me, they can't accept humanness; they can't even accept themselves.

And this I do know deep where it counts (I just forgot for awhile): Everyone is worthy of being loved because the Great Spirit of all Things doesn't make mistakes.

How to be more Lovable?

Pumpkin, bless your sweet little uptight heart, we're already lovable enough.

QUESTION: The last time you felt uptight around someone, were you consciously aware of why?

(Not sure how to leave your name or pseudonym with your comment?  See the post above left.)


  1. Gosh, this sounds just like me. I remember one time when speaking with a counselor, she asked me if I knew what I looked like as a baby; from there she wanted me to mentally take the "baby" and place her on my lap and tell her how much I loved her. I couldn't do it, it's been 15 years and I still cry when I think of how I couldn't love that tiny baby. So, I empathize deeply with Pumpkin and yourself, knowing, I, too, am unloveable.

  2. Victoria, I love your name! And thank you for taking the time and care to write to me about something so personal.

    I know you and I are lovable because it is our inherent nature to be lovable. No matter what.

    Not one of us is a lost cause.

    Not ever.

    Lovable means "being worthy of love" and all living creatures are worthy of love just because they exist. As I said in my blog, the Great Spirit of All Things doesn't make mistakes. Period.

    But how do I know, I mean really know, that I am worthy of being loved? I know because if I can love others, then others can love me. Each of us is proof of what others can do as well.

    But what if I need actual physical proof of my lovableness—say, because I am being extra hard on myself, so I feel like a failure as a human or a sister or a daughter or a wife? Then I think of examples in my life that have shown me this proof. And I don't mean proof like the love of parents or siblings. I mean entities with whom I share no blood connection but who made the choice to love me not because I was their sister or daughter but because I existed. And among these examples are my husband and my pets.

    Animals are wonderful indicators of our lovableness—and our forgivable-ness. I had four beautiful cats and one dog over a 20-year period of my life, all of whom were rescued from the pound or a shelter. They gave me this proof every single day of their sweet lives. I saw it in their eyes how lovable I was, just by being me. I also saw the amazing connection we had without speaking any words.

    That connection showed me how we are all connected to each other. All of us.

    My babies have all passed away, but I still hold them in my heart and honor them with my prayers of gratitude. They showed me that I was capable of loving others—and how lovable I am, too.

    Love, peace, and healing, Victoria, in this brand New Year!


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