Being “Loving” v being “Lovable”


Which comes first? – being Loving or being lovable? Do we have to love ourselves and see ourselves as lovable before we are able to love others?

And what does “loving” ourselves mean in this context? Is it a feeling of warm unconditional positive regard for ourselves? And if so, is that feeling based on anything tangible and real? Is it based on something that we’ve done? Or is it just a feeling that we have to talk and think ourselves into feeling?—And then once we have this feeling we will have enough energy and motivation to start loving others? Is it a feeling that everyone on earth deserves just because they’re human and they’re alive and unique?—and so everyone should feel warm in regards to themselves not matter what they’ve done or what’s happened to them in the past?

Or does loving ourselves mean something different that a feeling, primarily?—Does it first mean learning to parent ourselves in a healthy and nurturing and principled way—learning to encourage ourselves, forgive ourselves, talk nicely and fairly to ourselves, as well as learning to be more understanding of ourselves and others, as well as acting in a more principled and truly conscientious way—delaying gratification, seeing what we’re sowing in ourselves and in others with our words and deeds, acting in ways that create honesty, trust, warmth, tenderness, goodness, kindness, tenderness, self-awareness, and even more conscientiousness? Does it mean all of this first, and then once we start doing this, we will then also start to feel good about ourselves in a very stable and lasting way (we will feel lovable)?

What makes a person “lovable”? What is the appropriate measure or standard to use to determine a person’s “lovableness” or love-worthiness? Or are we all intrinsically loveable and worthy of love? And if so, according to who?—Ourselves? God? Our parents? Some new age authors or psychologists or spiritual people? Is the criteria different for a child than an adult? Is the criteria different when we’re children than when we’re adults?

What does it mean to be lovable? Does it mean to be “desirable” or “wanted”? Does the question have any relation to the question: what does it mean to be love able—able to love and be loved?

If we are deceitful and we lie, does that make us more or less lovable?—And in our own estimation or others’ or “God’s”?

Maybe we are deceitful and we lie because we need more love, because deep down we don’t consider ourselves to be worthy of being loved by another. Perhaps our parents didn’t love us, and so deep down we go around secretly sensing and believing that we’re unlovable, that there’s something “wrong” with us. Maybe there wasn’t anything wrong with us—instead there was something wrong with our parents; but perhaps because we received the message so many times that we’re “worthless” or not “wanted” we have, over the years, fallen into the habit of acting out on those feelings and so we have developed habits of acting out in unloving ways—being hateful, hurtful, selfish, petty, not giving, sowing distrust, et cetera. Perhaps we don’t know how to love ourselves, so we lie and deceive ourselves and others—in other words, we act in ways that drive others away, that make us untrustable. Clearly it would be tempting to say that such a person needs to be loved, needs more healthy love, needs to learn how to love oneself; and maybe all of that is indeed true.

Is being loved the same as being validated? Is it the same as being “affirmed” of our basic value as a human being? Is it being listened to and shown unconditional positive regard? Does being loved mean being shown affection, understanding, tenderness, forgiveness, leeway, et cetera, because of our upbringing and our parent’s errors?

When does a huge part of the criteria for finding ourselves lovable become actually behaving in loving ways towards ourself and towards others—in ways that are patient, kind, slow to anger, full of understanding, appreciation, graciousness, gratefulness, courage, honesty, integrity, goodness, warmth, tenderness, forbearing, forgiveness?

When does the quest of learning to love oneself cease to be about more navel-gazing and start to be about something much more than just the self and produce some real fruit? When does it start to be about acting in ways that are truly loving, giving, appreciative, understanding, compassionate, that sow good things—trust, honesty, kindness, compassion, understanding?

Just some questions that I had on my mind this morning . . . .

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Love is a Choice, Love is Not a Feeling, Mature Love, Self-Love, What is Love? and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Being “Loving” v being “Lovable”

  1. Pingback: I Love Me! « **Nanyamka Speaks**

  2. Rachel Lewis says:

    So true — it’s hard to tell — why are we deserving of love?

    • John says:

      Children deserve love, they deserve to be loved. And if they don’t get it, their chances at learning how to actually love another or themselves will be deeply stunted

      I think that as adults, however, we (the vast majority of us, meaning who have not been hindered emotionally and psychologically by unloving and pathological parents) have to go out in the world and earn love and work to be loved—we have to become someone worthy of being loveable, and build ourselves perpendicularly in body, mind, and soul (to borrow Nietzsche’s wonderful phrase). In this society, though, being loveable is often confused with having something others want—power, money, status, influence, physical attractiveness—some set of assets. Meaning, being loveable doesn’t always correspond (hardly ever corresponds?) with knowing how to actually love another and knowing how to actually love oneself—meaning, being able to understand, be good to, be good for, be nurturing, warm, supportive, wise, discerning, empathetic, kind to oneself and others.

      And if we have had a tough go of it growing up, then the first thing we need to do (but may be highly reluctant to do and or not even know that we really really *need* to do) is to learn what love really is. And we can do this either by going into therapy with a really good counselor, reading and learning and studying on our own what love really is, or perhaps meeting someone who shows us what love is, or some combination of any and or all of the above.

      Thanks for the comments and for reading my blog, Rachel!

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