This is probably going to be my most vulnerable article so far, simply because i’m in the process of integrating this myself. I figured i’d lay it all out for me in an article to keep my eye on the bigger picture, and hopefully assist others experiencing something similar.
Feeling loved. It seems to be a common desire after all; feeling loved, feeling like you matter to someone, feeling like someone cares. Who doesn’t love to know that you at least have someone that will always stay by your side, that will love and accept you? For others it’s a need for approval more than affection, for some it’s both. I can understand the wonderful feeling it can create. But as I travel down the rabbit hole of the need to feel loved, I discover a whole other reality resembling nothing but love. In my case, my need for love has been hiding an insecurity that has translated itself into a common issue i’m sure many can relate with: self-consciousness.
As a child, I was always the weird, “uncool” kid. I was teased and bullied, but I was fine knowing that I had my other “uncool” friends to keep me company. Let’s just say we weren’t the “popular kids,” and that was fine by me – I didn’t care to be. First year of high school though, something changed. My friends deserted me and I ended up alone. They joined the cooler, more “typical teenager” gang, and I simply didn’t fit in. This time, I didn’t have friends to fall back on.
Sure, I could’ve not taken it personally and remained authentic to myself… but I can see now that I was meant to walk down this path to eventually learn the lesson it offered. So I closed myself off, I became very introverted and awkward. Comments were being made about my looks, how pale and too skinny I was, how small and tired my eyes looked… and I started to become aware of the perceptions of what is considered “good-looking” and “ugly”. My innocence has been replaced by the beginning of my conditioning.
I ended up changing from a private school to a public school to start fresh. That year, I decided to reinvent myself. I was tired of being stuck in a feeling of awkwardness in my body, I was tired of walking alone. I started wearing makeup, ‘took care’ of my appearance, got out of my shell, and that’s when the new friends and love interests came. Whether or not changing myself is what attracted others, my brain’s calculation was: Myself wasn’t good enough. I changed myself = I received “love.”
What a heavy burden to take on, but I took it on. To me it was proof that I had to fit in a certain ideal to be “loved.” As I grew older, I entered relationships that have helped me realize that love was an energy shared beyond form and appearance. But something in me still wasn’t appeased. Given how ingrained humanity’s perception about looks is, my partners still projected ideals – many of which I didn’t fulfill. I basically became a magnet for other’s perceptions, programming them into by brain for further reference of what is pretty and what isn’t. I also noticed how in every romantic hollywood movie, the main actress would always be pretty. In some cases, the main male character would be allowed to look quite average, but the “flawless” girl was always the one they’d “fall in love with.” So the media also strengthened my reference point: better looking = more love…
As I became more and more conscious of how heavy, limiting and misleading this belief was, I wanted to break out of this prison of superficiality. I even resented it, but I felt protected by it at the same time. I knew I was more than my looks, but I thought “who would care to find out who I was if it wasn’t for first impressions?” After all, changing myself is what I thought facilitated others to love me, or so I believed.
Even my male friends and partners who had a higher awareness about the issue and spoke of the unimportance of appearance still had the typical male conversations about which girl is “hotter” and which girl is not, which one is their ideal and which one is “ugly.” It didn’t mean they did not love me, I was actually surrounded by people who appreciated me for who I was. But I was bothered by other’s ideals because I blamed it for the reason I was superficial towards myself. I felt that no matter where I went in the world, I would always be subject to the world’s expectation of what a girl needs to look like to be attractive and I wanted to fit in that category.
I could easily blame the media’s portrayal of what a beautiful woman should look like or blame the people around me for having their own ideals, but that would be like blaming a game that I AM also choosing to participate in. I have a choice to make: I can wait until the world drops their ideals and judgments before I can safely drop mine, or I can walk out of this perception myself, right now. I can let the world be as it is and let me be as I am.
I can BE the change that I want to see in the world.
This isn’t about convincing myself that I am good looking or rely on what I do like about my appearance. This is about recognizing that who I truly am isn’t my appearance, and instead know myself as the complete being underneath. This awareness is really what the world needs after all. Imagine a world in which the focus is less on how we appear and more on what gifts we have to share. Remember how we felt as children? Was our joy and playfulness really conditional upon whether or not we had a good or bad hair day? Did we choose our friends because of how “good” they looked?
“Whatever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky, because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking to what people are saying about you. And you are always following other people, you are always trying to satisfy them. You are always trying to be respectable, you are always trying to decorate your ego. This is suicidal. Rather than being disturbed by what others say, you should start looking inside yourself… Whenever you are self-conscious you are simply showing that you are not conscious of the self at all. You don’t know who you are. If you had known, then there would have been no problem – then you are not seeking opinions. Then you are not worried what others say about you – it is irrelevant!” – Osho
Need For Love
In the end, it is clear that my self-consciousness was a symptom of the need to feel loved. But I have mistaken what love is. I have mistaken love to be the approval and confirmation - through another - that my insecurities weren’t true. But that never was their responsibility. It is my own learning. So what more loving role could a soul or situation play than to trigger our insecurities so that we can finally face our fears and take full responsibility for our own freedom? What better lesson than to deprive us of the version of the “love” we think we need, to allow us the discovery of the true love that already is?
Nobody “abandoned” me or left me alone, they taught me to look within instead of seeking without. They facilitated my discovery of who I am and pointed me to my own freedom.
When we give something or someone else the responsibility to make us happy, we can no longer see ourselves and others as the true expressions of love that we are. Our relationships become more shallow and controlling. We see them as a bandaid for our own wounds – a mere role that we attach to just as we attach to the thought that we are small and separate beings.
I haven’t always experienced love through this insecure perception. Most of us all have had glimpses of what true love feels like – moments of heartfelt connection with no personal agenda in mind, but at some point, we need to let go of the lingering fears trying to contain love. We need to ask ourselves; why do we believe love and completeness could escape us? True love is never to be contained, it is to be shared through our own completeness – through the recognition of who we truly are. That is when need is replaced by unconditional love. That is when we are able to see that we cannot be separate from anything and anyone.
“When you look upon another human being and feel great love toward them, or when you contemplate beauty in nature and something within you responds deeply to it, close your eyes for a moment and feel the essence of that love or that beauty within you, inseparable from who you are, your true nature. The outer form is a temporary reflection of what you are within, in your essence. That is why love and beauty can never leave you, although all outer forms will.” – Eckhart Tolle