Hey, you. You there.
Aching for connection and a touch that doesn’t sear the surface of your skin? Searching for belonging, but instead feeling like a puzzle with a piece missing? Yes, I’m talking to you.
You are worthy.
I know you don’t feel it—you who have never felt a touch that went any deeper than the surface. How many hands have stroked your soft skin and yet failed to notice the pulse of blood beneath the surface, the ache for something more than physical desire beneath your bones? How can you believe in your worthiness when the hands that have touched your body have never felt your essential presence? How can you understand your deep, intrinsic worth when the hearts that encountered yours left you battered, bruised and broken?
Words like knives have cut into your skin until you believe they shape your name, your soul. You trace the etchings with a trembling hand as you try to fall asleep. It’s always too much or not enough. Or it’s always someone else.
You are worthy.
I know you don’t feel it—you with your loyal heart who has known so little loyalty. How many souls have come and gone and left you so depleted? How can you believe you are worthy when all of the love you have given away has been taken like a token, a souvenir tucked carelessly into a pocket and lost somewhere along the way? How can you believe in your own worthiness when the ache of loneliness is the lullaby that pulls you deeper into sleep and closer to the nightmare that says, this is it, this is all?
You are worthy.
The sky is filled with more darkness than stars tonight, and I feel the cold wind on my cheek. Cold fingers type the words, and yet my heart is warm in recognition. We struggle for belonging and connection, and yet those of us with bruised hearts have so much trouble accepting ourselves as worthy of the love that comes our way. Often, we self-sabotage, taking away the chances that come to us because we don’t know how to accept anything but mistreatment.
In the last couple of years since my divorce, I’ve had time to evaluate the choices I’ve made. I look back at the patterns in relationships, and I see how easily I have accepted being treated as less-than. I more easily understand how to handle the games and rejection and the hot and cold behavior of narcissists than how to handle simple kindness and affection.
I have been Pavlov’s dog for so many years, trained to respond only to the angst of a relationship and baffled at any treatment that names me as worthy of love or affection or kindness. How strange it is to long for something that we can barely fathom!
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I am not alone. I can feel the whisper of unworthiness under the words of friends. We try to figure out why love comes so easily for some, and we question if we are deserving of love at all. We resurrect ghosts and dig deep for all of the faults we’ve perceived, trying to find a rationale to justify how unworthy we feel.
Sometimes we don’t even know that we feel undeserving until the moment kindness comes our way and we find ourselves baffled by it. We’re turning it this way and that, trying to see the game or find the catch. How do we accept what we’ve never been freely given? How do we understand that we, too, are worthy of affection, love, kindness and every good thing?
We can stop attributing other people’s rejections to our own faults. Other people are living out their stories, manifesting their own perceptions and problems. When they leave us, it often has little to do with something missing in us. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of timing or chemistry. Sometimes their journey is just not heading in the same direction as our own.
It’s easy to say that we were too much or too little. Instead, let’s try saying, “This one thing didn’t work out, but I am worthy. I am worthy even in the face of rejection.”
We can begin to recognize all of the characteristics that make us special. We spend so much time criticizing certain traits or features of ours, and yet we discount all of the aspects of ourselves that are unique and wonderful. If we want to begin to feel worthy of love, we have to learn to both accept and love all that we are. No one else can do this for us.
We can recognize our worthiness of love by no longer accepting anything less. When others treat us poorly, we can walk away. We don’t have to be trapped in the cycle of playing out relationships with people who treat us like we are disposable and easily replaced. We don’t have to play games or wait around while someone toys with our emotions. Instead, we can learn to say that this type of treatment is no longer acceptable.
We can burn the bridges that lead to the past. No more second chances. No more waiting around for someone to change (because they won’t). We don’t even have to make a statement or let the other person know. We can simply stop revisiting those relationships in our minds. There is no justification for being treated poorly, so it’s time to stop wishing we could rewrite the ending of the stories of our past.
We can stop defining ourselves by our relationships. I’m a daughter. And mother. A sister. A friend. A colleague. A lover. But I am not limited by any of these titles—I am more than my relationships to other people. We can be single or coupled, but these labels do not define our essential selves. We’re not more because we’re coupled, or less when we’re single. We’re not more or less worthy based on anyone else’s interest or attraction.
Instead, we must realize that we are always worthy of love, even when the timing of the universe is such that we find ourselves enjoying a space of solitude.
It’s strange how our experiences begin to define us. When we’ve allowed neglect and mistreatment to enter our lives, we begin to internalize and accept these as our dues. We begin to believe that we will never experience anything other than that, and we slowly shift our thoughts toward the darkness of those thoughts.
We believe that if we’ve never been well treated, we never will be—and don’t deserve to be. These thoughts undermine us, and we so often self-sabotage relationships by over-thinking every small detail or displaying our insecurities.
Feelings of unworthiness often manifest as insecurity. We find ourselves reading between the lines for clues of where we stand, and even when we’re treated well, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re always waiting for the tide to turn—to be ignored or belittled or treated like we don’t really matter. We’re second-class citizens in our own minds, and have difficulty trusting any behavior that deviates from the patterns we’ve learned.
Despite all of these feelings, we are tasked with remembering our worthiness if we ever want to break away from the cycle of fear and anxiety that follows us. For some of us, we’ve never felt worthy, and have to begin the work of loving ourselves from scratch. For others, we have to unlearn all of the mistreatment to find that core of worthiness we’ve pushed aside. But it’s essential that we find it and hold it close.
Because we are worthy of every good thing.
Yes, even you—aching for connection and a touch that can detect the subtle pulse of blood beneath the surface and the ache for more than physical desire beneath your fragile bones.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Callie Rushton