March 21, 2014

How to Love Yourself When You Don’t Know How To Be Loved.


I read Sara Rodriguez’s recent article “How To Love a Girl Who Doesn’t Know How To Be Loved” and couldn’t remember when we had been separated at birth or how she got inside my head.

But there I was, laid out on paper (well, my computer screen).

As I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking that it would mostly be women like me reading the article—those of us who were living this, rather than those who may be loving us. I felt compelled to reply with my thoughts on how we can survive that journey.

“She’s the self-sufficient, somewhat mysterious, go-getter with big dreams and an even bigger heart, though not everyone sees it at first glance.

Some might see her as cold and distant, because she needs a significant amount of alone time to keep her from feeling scattered and spread so thin that she disappears. Sure, she has family and friends with whom she loves to spend much of her time, but it’s in her nature to crave those precious hours of solitude—being only with her thoughts, completely alone in a crowd or in the vastness of a quiet scene.”

I am that girl.

But I don’t mean to be that girl. I don’t try to be that girl. The fact is, I don’t know how to not be that girl.

I also can’t know what it is like to be the other person, so it always baffles me a little bit when I get feedback from friends and family, highlighting the way they perceive me, because it rarely matches what is going on in my head.

Sure, when I look at it, I can understand what they are saying and where they are coming from, but their experience does not fit with my intent, how I am meaning to connect.

I had a friend comment, upon meeting another friend of mine, “Wow, she must really overwhelm you.”

At first, I was a bit baffled because I am a strong and independent women, not really overwhelmed by anything or anyone, but then she explained, “You hold yourself back so much and she just keeps talking and talking, trying to connect. She must overwhelm you.”

I was fascinated and a little bit dumbstruck. I am used to studying others—I am not used to them studying me. I am unfamiliar with being seen.

But, that is all beside the point. What I really started thinking about was myself and how others see me. If you have read any of my work, you will know that I strongly advocate for recognizing that each of us can only control ourselves. We can’t change or control others. So, as much as I would love to believe that the love of my life will read Sara’s article and know exactly how to respond when we meet, that is out of my jurisdiction.

So here is my list of how to work with ourselves when we are hard to love:

1.      Be patient.

We need a lot of patience with ourselves to accept that we do not follow the ‘normal’ path. Sometimes we are completely fine with this and sometimes we just want to scream at the world and ask why we were made so differently. Forgive yourself. Our differences are beautiful. This may be easier on some days than others.

Be patient with others. They are just living their lives from the perspective they understand. They are not out to get us, reject us or be difficult. They are just working from their operating system as best they know how.

2.      Talk.

Take responsibility for meeting others half way. While we may be happy out there on our own unbeaten path, we need to remember that people care about us and are trying to connect. Try to share yourself with them as best as you can. They won’t always get us, but they will still love us.

We can practice opening ourselves up to being vulnerable by sharing the parts of ourselves that may be fragile when bumped up against another person. We are so brave on our own, now try to be a little braver with someone else.

3.      Support others.

Sometimes, we can go through the motions of supporting others without really getting involved.  In order to provide meaningful support and connection, we have to be willing to open our hearts. Get involved—this is your life and it’s real too.

4.      We are whole.

Sometimes we are so whole there is no space for anyone else. Soften your edges. Yes, I know this is hard, because the edges feel fine. Probably because we don’t really let anyone poke our edges much. But, even if we think they’re soft, it’s possible that our wholeness and independence has a few prickles that we don’t see.

Make space for others. They are a different shaped whole than us. This is okay too.

I am trying to learn that it not just about other people accepting and understanding me. The more I accept and understand myself, the more I can shed light into those dark corners and become more comfortable with other people. When I am comfortable with other people, I allow them in and we connect.

I have friends I have known for 15 years and I am just now allowing them to see me. For those who don’t make it that long, I am trying to take responsibility for my role in my sometimes isolation. After all, I am in charge of my life.

We, “Miss Independents,” design our lives to suit ourselves, sometimes a little too much. We might run off and travel or move to a new city for our jobs. We are so brave, so strong, so capable… and that is all amazing.

But we can also be a bit intimidating; a bit aloof, a bit elusive.

And while it is not up to us to change other people’s perceptions of us, perhaps we can work on gentling our corners, stretching our connections and opening our souls to be seen.



How to Actually Love Yourself. Like, Actually. For Real.


Walk the Talk with Waylon Lewis / Fall in Love with Yourself:


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editorial Assistant: Brandie Smith/ Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Esra Erben/Flickr

Read 35 Comments and Reply

Read 35 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Tui Anderson  |  Contribution: 5,095