Why is it so difficult to feel loved? Brené Brown divides us into two groups: “those who feel a deep sense of love and belonging, and those who struggle for it?” Bullseye for the struggle! She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame, which about sums up the journey from adolescence on.
You see, I think the key to living a loving life is being able to receive love oneself. It is much more difficult than giving. Think how hard we find it to accept a compliment, how we resist advice and don't want charity. How we hate being helped, preferring autonomy. My mother used to say to our kids, “Don't waste your money on me.” Exasperated, I would point out that she might prefer them to spend it on themselves, but they needed to give.
If we can accept with grace, then everything falls into place – except it is do difficult! If I feel loved, then I stop making comparisons, which lead to guilt, envy and often depression. I don't feel taken advantage of – the well is full. Nor do I feel left out or slighted.
So why is it so difficult? I tried to work it out. Do we feel we are tempting fate? Just as we are afraid to be too obviously lucky? If we are beloved, will there be a price to pay? In Greece if you compliment a baby, you have to spit on them three times to avoid attracting an evil eye. Is being loved equally dangerous?
Growing up in England with its ingrained class system, I was hypersensitive to the politics of envy. Unmarried and flat sharing in London, the girl with dates was also almost unkindly envied. And why did so many drop a boyfriend when he grew too keen? “He's too nice,” they would say, dismissively.
My mother praised a young couple because they were undemonstrative, which seemed to me a poor omen for marriage. She would shade her eyes if Bill held my hand during a movie. There was a strong message that I should certainly be married (kudos to the mother of the bride), but loved and happy?
Love isn't a fixed commodity and certainly not rationed. We don't have less love ourselves if we give love to our neighbour. If we are warm and loved, our hearts expand, like a cake rising, and we have so much more to pass on to someone else. If I am told I look good in my new dress, how easy it is to look with loving eyes and offer something back. Why say, disparagingly, “This old thing!” And everyone have an emotional bad hair day.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live by Brené Brown. Book preview – link