‘Why don’t you love me’? sings Beyoncé.
She says she got class, she got style and she got ass (her words not mine). But still, she doesn’t feel appreciated.
Wanting to feel loved and appreciated is not an exclusive right of international pop stars. Just about anyone wants to be liked. This need goes deep into the human psyche. Children rely so strongly on the support of their mother and others in order to survive that the need to belong becomes a fundamental requirement for life.
It’s no coincidence that babies and cups are this adorable and cute. Nature has programmed us to care for our children when they are helpless. But then they grow up and no longer have the instant spell that puts a charm on the world. We must learn how to get others people’s appreciation.
And we really do have to because social support and acceptance can make or break our health and well-being. This is perhaps one of the most robust finding in social psychology in the last decades. Being alone can lead to depression and significantly increase the chance of early death. But having strong social ties will both cushion the hard times and boost the good times.
Something happened on the way to heaven…
From childhood to young age and adulthood something goes terribly wrong. We are taught that we need to do something or behave in a certain way to be accepted. In other words we are taught to look for approval outside.
What we don’t learn, however, is that we have to accept ourselves first.
Let me ask you this. If you find yourself unappreciated by others sometimes, do you truly appreciate yourself? Do you see the beauty in yourself? If not, how can others?
So many people don’t really like themselves but then try to find acceptance in others. The trouble is that others are quite good at telling if someone is looking for their validation. So they withhold, perhaps noting the lack of self-respect.
And even when people get constant outside validation, there’s a huge problem. What if it goes away? Suddenly their entire self-esteem collapses like a house of cards. No internal acceptance can compensate for the loss. For example, some people are loved just for their external beauty. And when that goes away, they’re struck at how people turn from them.
The opposite is also true. People with true confidence, that is who are able to appreciate themselves, are liked far more by others. Signs of confidence, strong boundaries and self-respect are attractive qualities – they are also signs that someone has learned to love himself.
How can we do it?
People who have received unconditional love when they were children have an advantage over other people because they have internalized that they don’t have to do something or be something to be accepted. Instead they believe they are already good enough.
But self-love can also be learned. The wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) has put together an article on how to start. Here are three other things that work. There are many more but it’s important to start bringing this in your daily life.
Learn to say NO. One of the most important skills and it has a tremendous effect on your ability to self-love and your life. When someone mistreats you, say no to that behavior or that person. When you really don’t want to do something, you can say no. When you want to get out of a situation that isn’t good for you, walk away.
Practice mindfulness. For me this is daily meditation but I understand that some people don’t find the time or simply don’t like to sit down and focus your breathing. It’s okay. Try this: The next time you wait – in line at the supermarket, for your bus, at a red light, anything when you wait FOR something, try to be present. Feel your breath or focus on your sensations (hearing, smelling, sensing etc.) This will teach you to know what you need and empower your decisions.
Take care of yourself. What do you need right now? What do you need when you feel anxious, stressed or overwhelmed? If you can, give it to yourself. Many people think they should be hard on themselves and it’s news that it’s suddenly okay to treat yourself well. When you need it, do something that is just for you (sauna, chocolate, time off, time with friends…). Think of it as an expression of your new muscle to love yourself. It needs practice.
Do the opposite of the intuitive to feel appreciated
So the conclusion is this: If you want others to appreciate you more, do the opposite of the intuitive. Don’t look for that validation in the outside. Instead, give it to yourself.
Define your values and stick to them. Define your boundaries and defend them. Get to know yourself and learn to accept your gifts and perceived flaws.
Practice self-care. Learn to say no. Learn to be mindful. And above all, learn to take care of yourself.
If you practice doing this long enough, people will respect you more, the quality of your relationships will improve and your overall life will be better.