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wundayatta's avatar

Is your sense of feeling loved based purely on someone else's feelings, or do you, personally, feel loved even if no one else loves you?

Asked by wundayatta (58591points) April 6th, 2010

I grew up without ever feeling like my parents loved me. They never said they did, and they did not treat me as they treated my siblings in terms of time spent with me. I was never sure that they wouldn’t just kick me out one day, and eventually they did kick me out.

Ever since then, I’ve imagined that if I could find someone else to love me enough, that I’d finally feel ok about myself. I’d feel like I was a lovable person. And many others have loved me, although they have all gone away except my wife.

I was doing fine for years, and feeling lovable for over a decade, before things started deteriorating with my wife, and then I became mentally ill and my self-esteem went all to hell.

The truism is that you have to love yourself before others can love you. Obviously, that’s not true in all cases. Is anyone else one of those who only loves themselves if others love them? What is your story? How did you get to be that way? What does the need for external love make you do?

For those of you who do love yourselves even when alone, how do you account for that? What, in your past, made you capable of this? How does not needing external love affect your behavior compared to others, as far as you can tell?

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35 Answers

rahm_sahriv's avatar

I guess, for me, it was a case if no one is going to do this for me, I might as well do it myself.

With the exception of my mother (who did not raise me), my friends have always been closer to me than family. I guess I get what I need from them, but I have learned early not to rely on anyone else for anything- you never knew what kind of mood they were in, whether they would great you with a smile or a slap. That might have something to do with why.

Trillian's avatar

I thought I loved myself until all this recent crap blew up in my face. You’ve made me question whether or not I do. I think I do, but if I loved myself would I have allowed this person back into my life to crap on me again? Hmmm
I’m going to have to do some serious thinking about this.
I’ll tell you that after I left him and was alone for several months I felt like I loved myself more than I had before I left him. I also respected myself more.

rangerr's avatar

@wundayatta Well. I love you!

I dealt with a similar thing.
My mom and step-dad just didn’t care. My birth father loved me too much, but at the time I thought it was because he hated me. So I grew up thinking that my entire family was against me. My sister, being disabled, got most of the attention because of how sick she was. I’ve been making my own meals since I was 6. I haven’t gotten kicked out yet, but I’m sure that as soon as I’m old enough that they can’t use me for their advantage on taxes, I’ll be out. I’d rather not go into too much detail on a thread, but I’d be glad to share my story over PM.
In a way, I was forced to love myself. Just so I had someone who would.
I had imaginary friends until I was in at least 4th grade just so I’d have someone to talk to.
I still have to sleep with my bear so I don’t totally feel alone.

Like the poster above, my friends have been more like my family than my family has.
I didn’t know how strongly I could love someone until I was in my first real relationship.
I’m pretty sure that ended because I had too much love, but I learned so much about myself that I’m actually happier now than I was in a relationship.
Since then, I’ve been really hard on myself. I went through a time where I swore nobody loved me and I hated myself. Once I got past that, I realized that I don’t need love. I’d love someone to love me, but I also know that what will be will be.
For now, I know that spending my days with my animals and helping others is enough love that I don’t need that feeling. I’m in love with the world, and I’m not afraid of getting out there and showing that.
I’m not sure anyone else does love me at this moment in time, but I don’t mind. I’m happy for once.
I like it.

Exhausted's avatar

You only LET people love you if you love yourself. My mother has been loved her whole life, by her children, her husband and her extended family. She never saw the love anyone offered her because she didn’t feel worthy of that love. She discounted every attempt someone made. She is so hungry for reassurance of someones love that she has nothing to give anyone else. We are all here, trying to love her, but she won’t let us and she won’t give us anything except a constant (passive) request for proof of our love for her. She has said many times she despises herself. I don’t know how to help her. Needless to say, growing up in a household with a “love vaccum cleaner” sucking up all available love, I didn’t have any. I was in my 40’s and in my third, failed marriage when I realized I didn’t have to “perfect” to be loved, I could just be me and people would love me for who I am. For the first time in my life, I liked myself. I realized NOBODY is perfect and I could stop expecting perfection from myself and others in order to love and be loved. My life has gotten progressively better from that point forward and I am going on 5 years with a man that adores me and I let him.

JeffVader's avatar

I’m pretty much the same as you. My feelings of self-worth are entirely dependant upon others, basically I have no self-esteem. This basically started with my parents. Its not that they were abusive or anything, just utterly disinterested in me. It really didn’t matter if I got all A’s, or burnt the school down, I got the same response. The problem is that my middle brother was idolised by my mum, who basically brought us up as my dad worked offshore until I was 10, then they divorced & he disappeared for 16yrs.
The real bastard is that I found someone who actually made me feel good about myself, who gave me a little peace, & I cocked it up as I couldn’t believe someone like her would be interested in me….. D’oh!

Coloma's avatar

Yes, self love is an inside job.

You are love, and love does not cling to any one particular source to make it more ‘real.’

I also think there comes a time when one must drop the story of why they are the way they are because of their parents, or any other cause.

You are the captain of your own ship, the most loving thing we can ever do for oursleves is to take complete responsability for what is showing up in our lives right NOW!

It is useful to understand ones dynamics, for awhile, but….once you understand it is time to move to the next level and give to yourself what you wanted to recieve from those that were incapable of giving it to begin with.

My parents have been dead for 15 years, why would I allow them to still control me from beyond the grave. lol

Love and happiness is at your command, right now!

aziza's avatar

i can not trust mu friends although they tell me about their love .i trust only my father and mother .sometimes my sisters and brothers

Strauss's avatar

Love comes from within. If you do not love yourself, you can never love another. If you do not love yourself, you can never accept or recognize love from another.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I almost feel as if I should apologize or something. I grew up in a perfectly ordinary household, with a mom and dad who loved each of us more or less equally (and each other) and let us know it, although they were never overly demonstrative with any of us (five) kids or with each other. We just knew, and assumed that this was the way life was for everyone. It wasn’t until much later on in life (and through a lot of reading and exposure to other families, television, etc.) that I discovered that my Fun with Dick and Jane life was… maybe not so ordinary. That was sad to find out.

But at least I married a woman who (even with a different childhood) was able to help me give our kids the same thing that I had growing up. They love me and I know it; I love them and they know it. I love you all here, too… even the ones that I don’t particularly ‘like’, sometimes. I even love her in a way, but I haven’t been able to live with her for nine years.

Cruiser's avatar

Feeling loved and getting love from others all starts with yourself. If you can’t love yourself I doubt love from others will be genuine or “allowed in” if you can’t love yourself first. I love me very much!

rangerr's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I was always amazed that people actually had that life outside of books and television.

Coloma's avatar

During my divorce 7 years ago I went to therapy for a year to cope, learn and gain insight into the issues. Best thing I ever did!

I once asked my therapist who the ‘sickest’ person she ever encountered was.

She immediatly said it was a family member who claimed they had a ‘perfect’ childhood! lol

My ex husband had the all american Leave it to beaver family, or so it appeared on the surface.

Underneath that false exterior lurked extreme manipulation, with holding, narcissisim and a goodly amount of alcohol and sexual addicition.

I had a much more overtly dysfunctional childhood in some ways yet I have done the work and am baggage free.

My ex on the other hand is still as clueless as to his issues as he ever was.

No one had a perfect childhood, such a thing does not exist.

There are different levels of dysfunction but every family has some.

The degrees make little difference, it’s the desire to grow from whatever situations present, hence some with much less dysfunction in their backgrounds can end up being the most dysfunctional.

Strauss's avatar

@Cruiser Aw, man! I love me too!

wundayatta's avatar

@Yetanotheruser and @Cruiser I would appreciate it if you could tell me the story that lead you to believe these bromides are true. What were your experiences that taught you these lessons?

Hexr's avatar

I think a better question is how relevant being loved by other people is. Being loved by one’s self is far more important. But that aside, I tend to feel loved (by others) judging by how they behave towards me, since implicit actions are far more important in determining someone’s true feelings. People like my family I know they love me, but in my relationship it’s more based on what I observe, and sometimes what is said. That usually goes to reinforcing my intrinsic love or, if I sense something negative, it will deplete that love a bit. But overall, it’s generally intrinsic.

Cruiser's avatar

@wundayatta For me it all came from my divorce. My initial reaction was there was something seriously wrong with me and I was broken and un-loveable…had to be otherwise why would she bolt from the marriage??? After months of self help retrospective I realized it was not me it was her that had the self esteem and self love issues and not so much me at all! I realized I didn’t need fixin or change, that I was just fine the way I was, and I loved me even more! It was like an epiphany for me and been fine ever since!

tranquilsea's avatar

I think it is really hard to feel you are ok as a person when you’ve been abused or neglected as a child. Perhaps there are some people who are able to come through a rough childhood relatively well, but most do not. Children always think that they are to blame when in reality it is their parents who are messed up and probably dealing with their own demons.

Looking for approval from another human being is a very natural thing. Most people get that from their parents but many do not. Self esteem starts building (or not) when you are very young. But that is not to say that you are hopeless once you are an adult. There are many therapies that can help you build your self esteem and then your happiness doesn’t have to hinge on whether or not someone loves you.

My mother used to shout this at us, “I love you but I don’t like you!”. She could also be physically abusive. It took me a long time to put the responsibility for her behaviour on her instead of shouldering it myself.

downtide's avatar

I don;t love myself particularly, but I know other people love me. So yes, my perception of feeling loved is dependent on others.

Draconess25's avatar

There’s really two sides of me:

I’ll tend to be narcissistic, manipulating, & abusive. I’ll try to “make” people love me by force. When they do show me affection, I just shove them away. Pretty much an asshole.

Shorty after that, I’ll become withdrawn & usually start crying. I’m just a moping, pitiful wretch. I’ll start apologizing to those I’ve hurt, & I’ll literally beg them to leave me for their “own good”.

I’ve lost a lot of good friends both ways: By forcing them into being my friend, or by aggravating them with my pathetic whining. Occasionally, like these past few weeks, I’ve found a balance: confident in who I am, but not too aggressive or sappy. And luckily, I’m in a decent relationship with willing people.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Not purely but the weight of the balance is definitely tipped in that direction. I grew up feeling very loved by grandparents but not my own parents which I think drove me to search out that that feeling I was familiar with in other available people which proved awkward. I had to feel my way between making a partner my whole world and consciously pulling back on my emotions and adjusting my expectations. I think this is pretty common and I think it’s easier to talk about it, understand it, make it reasonable to all involved and then still feel what habit has conditioned you to feel. blah.

YARNLADY's avatar

I grew up within a loving family, yet I did not feel loved. This was because I thought there was something wrong with me since I felt so out of place and different. I came to realize that there was nothing wrong with me and being different is what I am, that’s all there is to it. I’m fine, and I love what I am. It’s better to be surrounded by loving family, but not necessary.

CaptainHarley's avatar

After 67 years of various accomplishments in several different fields, helping to raise 5 children, and 43 years of service to my Country, I feel like I’m allowed to love myself. Besides, we are directed to “love your neighbor [ at least as much as ] you love yourself,” with the implication being that each of us is expected to love him or herself.

evandad's avatar

Yes, I think.

nebule's avatar

@Draconess25 that’s really honest and very insightful GA x
@Coloma I get this…and every now and then i feel it… love for myself… not expecting others to give me that which I do not have for myself… and it feels really good… everything flows…but I find it really hard to tap into… it’s almost like something sometimes clicks into place and sometimes not…How do you tap into it and stay in that place… when it seems to easy and unconsciously possible to slip out of it?
@tranquilsea I recently read the beginning of a famous book about how we should stop blaming others for what they did…drop it,..move on..and I fight this all the time… why can’t I just let go of my past??? I sometimes think it’s because I haven’t actually properly acknowledged that others_are_ responsible for what they did… but does one step from blaming… to forgiving… or taking your own responsibility for your life now? does this come naturally once one has felt the emotions thoroughly?

I’ve been bullied most of my life and felt like I don’t fit in… which I probably don’t to be honest… not here anyway…but I’m so scared because of all that past that I’m afraid to step out and go and find where I do fit in… And then I think maybe I’m being ridiculous and it still all comes back to loving myself… Maybe if I just loved myself it wouldn’t matter if I fit in or not… people would just have to take me as I am? My sense of being loved has always been based on how others see me and love me…hence why I’ve been in two abusive relationships. The constant endless cycle of please love me..I’ll do anything to be loved…

Strauss's avatar

@CaptainHarley Thank you for your service!

@wundayatta OK, here’s my soul!...
I was raised in a large (one of eight), extremely loving family. In spite of this, I had a lot of insecurities growing up. I think I may have experienced attention deficit, long before the term was widely known. My parents were constantly wondering why I could not perform in school, in spite of high marks on aptitude and other such tests. I was tall, lanky, and uncoordinated, the typical Clark Kent type nerd, only I had no Superman alter-ego. School was very difficult for me, not because I couldn’t comprehend the material, but because I had difficulty studying and testing. The only area where I could excel was in music. The staff at the boarding school ( where I went to high school) decided that my music was too strong a distraction, considering my scholastic challenges, so I was barred from participating in any musical activities, either alone, or with any school-sponsored program. Then there was the history test. I was very close to being dropped from the school for poor academic performance, and was told that this particular test was my chance to “make it or break it”. I took the test, and scored a failing mark. The principal allowed me to re-take the exact same test, and I did no better. After I finished testing the second time, the principal sat down with me and asked me the same questions on the test, and I was to reply verbally. I aced the verbal portion 100%. Unfortunately, he said he could not accept a verbal performance on a written test.

I had to repeat that year and I finished graduated a regular high school, and then struggled through 3 years of service. I joined the Navy so I wouldn’t be drafted. Although my attitude has long since changed, I was not proud of my service. I agreed with many others that our presence in VietNam was wrong, and at that time I felt like a hypocrite, which did nothing to help my already low self-esteem.

When I got home from the Navy, I got involved with a crisis-intervention hotline. I excelled in this type of work, and ever served as Hotline Director for a time, but by this time I had developed a phobia considering school, so I never progressed past the volunteer stage. When the hotline folded due to lack of available funding, I then immersed myself in my music and theater.

The crisis intervention work I did led me to realize that I could not effectively help others unless I was able to look my own demons in the eye, so to speak. The act of working with people in personal crisis allowed me to realize that these types of crises often occur when one is at odds with oneself. I slowly came to realize how much I was loved, and was able to express that love to those around me.

Now, some 40 years later, those insecurities are pretty much gone, although they do rear their ugly heads from time to time. I have discovered the inner strength to fight these demons, and effectively banish them from my life.

CaptainHarley's avatar


It was my honor and privilege. Thank you for the recognition. : )

wundayatta's avatar

@Yetanotheruser Thank you for that story. It was very helpful.

So it was through your work with the crisis hotline and seeing other people’s crises that you came to realize how much you were loved

@CaptainHarley It sounds to me like you’re saying that it was all your service to others that made you feel lovable.

This may sound like a stupid question, but what was it that allowed you to see your work as useful to others? Did you get any feedback, or did you just look at it on your own and decide it was good for others?

Strauss's avatar

@wundayatta I am very glad you find this helpful.

Much of the improvement in my self-esteem came while I was working with the crisis intervention program, as I grew within the program.I was able to take a sense of pride in the organization and in myself. During this period I was also starting to perform some music and theater. The feedback and recognition I received from my art was extremely fulfilling, I often found myself in the role of trainer, teacher or mentor.

wundayatta's avatar

@Yetanotheruser It sounds like feedback from others helped you develop a better feeling about yourself.

Strauss's avatar

That, and a sense of accomplishment.

Silhouette's avatar

I feel worthy of love and I’m pretty sure that is one of the things the people who love me love about me. I also think Exhausted said it best.

DreamboatAnnie's avatar

(If you don’t want to read my long, not especially fun story, that’s fine. I kinda got on a roll, and it ended up longer than I intended. If anyone’s reading this, I’m just letting you know that you can skip to the very last sentence. That’s fine, that’s the answer to the question. Everything in between is an explanation of why that last sentence is my answer.)

Um…I don’t love myself even if other people love me. I have one person that I know loves me. But that doesn’t make me love myself any more. It just makes me wonder why he loves me if I’m so awful. I see nothing about myself to love. I only ever mess everything up. I can’t help but see myself as a monster. It just comes naturally.

I would like to think it was my parents who made me like this. Sometimes I feel like that makes sense anyway. My dad has a ridiculously short temper and is all about respect (though some of his ideas of respect seem pretty out there to me). He used to be in the army too, so when he punishes me and/or my siblings, he likes to punish us in overly harsh ways. I think its because they do that in the army. My siblings and I all grew up being afraid of him. My mom’s afraid of him too, but whenever I try to tell her that I know she is, she denies it.
My mom, speaking of her, is not really any better. She plays huge favorites. She’s always loved my little brother more than any of the other kids. She’s always been nicer to him, and she always supports him, even in the things that she never supported me and the rest of my siblings in (eg. she gets annoyed with me when I talk about auditioning for a musical, then she encourages my brother to audition for every musical he’s old enough to be in). She even gave him his own room before he was even old enough to have a room of his own. My older sister and I had to share a room.
Guess who’s her unlucky least favorite? Me. She hates me, or at least she acts like it. The first thing I hear in the morning is her yelling at me for one thing or another. She takes my ipod away for stupid reasons. She’s always making me do more work than my other siblings are, and when I’m finished with her demands, she always, ALWAYS finds something that I didn’t do well enough and makes me do it over or adds something else for me to do.
I’ve tried to make her not hate me, but nothing works. I’ll never be good enough for her no matter what I do.

Then just when I’ve about had enough with both of them, they suddenly turn all nice and “loving.” Then I feel bad for being mad at them. Until, that is, the twenty minute or less nice act wears off, and they start all over again. Its really confusing. I don’t know whether I’m right anymore, or if I really am just awful.

I’ve been hating myself for at least five years now. I’m used to hating myself with a burning passion. And as much as I want other people to love me, I never expect them too. If my own family can’t, then why should others be able to?
I constantly feel guilty and sad and disgusting.
You know what else I found out? I’ve taken many different tests on I don’t even know how many depression help sites, and they all say that I have severe depression.
But I’ve already written a novel here, I’ll save you from having to hear about any more of my issues.

I guess my answer to your question would be, sometimes I feel like other need to love me to love myself, but for the most part, I don’t love myself even when other people do.

wundayatta's avatar

@DreamboatAnnie You sure do sound depressed. Is there any chance you could get diagnosed and treated for it?

I was exactly like you. Nothing helped me except the meds. They gave me a chance to pull myself up to where I can believe I am loved.

DreamboatAnnie's avatar

I wrote some anonymous notes to my pastor asking him to pray for me, and he ended up figuring out it was me. At first he told me that I could come and talk to him after school whenever I needed too. Then he kinda chickened out and told my mom I should find a woman in the church to talk to instead of him (I don’t know why, its not like I have gender specific depression). The problem there is that there’s no women in my church that I really feel comfortable talking to.
I don’t know. My doctor once asked me if I was depressed. I said no, cuz I didn’t want to believe that I could be depressed. Maybe I should go back and tell him that I am (or that I think I am), and see what happens.

wundayatta's avatar

Yes. Go back to your doctor. Tell him the whole story. It’s ok. S/he is dutybound by law to keep it all to him/herself. Depression is nothing to take lightly. It’s a chronic condition and it is better if you treat it early on in life. The longer it goes on, the harder it can get to treat.

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