The Art of Relating

With Christine Kniffen, MSW, LCSW
Therapist & Relationship Coach

The Lovability Factor

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Believe it or not a lot of people suffer silently, or not so silently, with this very thought as it relates to their odds of ever having a successful, long lasting relationship. The scenario often follows a rather clear pattern. You meet, it is exciting and then the ever-reliable anxiety begins to set in. Thoughts such as: “Why hasn’t he called back yet?”, “Did I say something wrong?” or “What did he really mean?”, now fully consume our mental energy and focus. At this point we start the incessant overanalyzing and it becomes a state from which we cannot escape. The real shame of this is that we cannot truly be in the present and enjoy the experience. Something that was supposed to be joyful now results in always being on guard and looking for the other shoe to drop. This anxiety in turn works to stifle the natural ease and flow of the relationship and the needed energy which is necessary to build a solid foundation. Therefore, the relationship understandably does not last and unfortunately our original, incorrect message is reinforced yet again by another experience.

However, it is time to fight back against this lie we tell ourselves regarding our worthiness to be loved. Instead we need to take a look at three things we can do to begin the climb out of this abyss.
The first thing we can do to fight this lie is to understand that it is just that. It is not real and there is no real bearing to it what-so-ever. Deep down we may somehow not feel good enough to be worthy of love. Yes, there are people that have readily identifiable, past events that have understandably affected their self-esteem and as a result they now feel this way. However, many people find that they feel unlovable, deep inside their core, but cannot pinpoint a “defining moment” that caused it and cannot understand why this feeling exists at all. Sometimes this can be caused by having felt different all your life, like you never really fit in. Likewise, this can also be attributable to having felt that your presence and feelings have never really mattered. People vary tremendously with this. Some individuals are very conscious and quite aware that they somehow feel unlovable, while plenty of others are not consciously aware of it at all. However, people who feel unlovable or “too issue-ridden” often find that they have a pattern of continually choosing emotionally unavailable partners that can’t do relationships for the long haul. After all, if you felt better regarding your lovable factor you would insist upon someone that could give you the right kind of love, rather than being scared by it in some way and dismissing those that could actually do so. Understand that the lies we tell ourselves drive the results that we get in our attempts to have successful relationships via the self-fulfilling prophecy. So, stopping the lie is an important first step. It is imperative that we understand this concept.

Now the second thing to do, once you come to accept that you are possibly participating in this lie, is to begin to take real action to fight it. As with most things, we have to work to change the behaviors that are reinforcing it. Low self-esteem is one of the big culprits here in supporting the unworthy factor. It’s time to work on building your level of self-esteem by stopping the behaviors that continually cut it down. Once you do, you will no longer default to that original lie. Begin by identifying any of the negative things that you say to yourself on a regular basis. I have always spoken about the immense power of negative self-talk. Derogatory comments about your body image, intelligence or likability need to be put to rest. Identify your personal key negative phrases and write them down. Then, pay attention to when they seem to occur. Does it happen more when you are under stress, interacting with family, etc? If you do see a pattern, then try to be especially aware of these times so you can begin to catch yourself more quickly when it does happen. This will help you to understand that the behavior is something you default to when anxious, rather than having any real basis. Now, get ready with a substitute phrase. This phrase needs to be step up, not something so unrealistic in comparison to how you actually feel that you simply dismiss the excise as ridiculous. For instance, if you call yourself fat, as unfortunately so many of us women do, don’t substitute with “I’m the hottest chick this side of the Pecos”. That gap is too wide to be helpful for this exercise. Instead, say something such as, “I’m not quite where I would like to be, but I’m working on it”. Getting a handle on your negative self-talk is the first big step you can take towards improving your self-esteem, as that type of behavior keeps you from moving forward.

Finally, if you want to build your self esteem, then you need to start treating yourself in a more loving manner. If you can’t treat yourself with love, then you probably won’t let someone else treat you with love either. So what does this mean? So, take an honest assessment of some of the ways in which you may not be acting loving towards yourself. Excess drinking, smoking or sleep deprivation are obvious no brainers. Feeding yourself junk food at the expense of nourishing, life giving nutrition is another. Do you exercise and move enough or is there improvement that can be made in that area as well? Do you isolate too much or continuously give to others at the expense of yourself? Is it time to think about joining something or finding an activity that, in essence, works to recharge you and fill your energy back up? People have a basic need to be connected and in our hectic lives it is essential that we become pro-active in making this happen. If you are not doing that for yourself then it is time to think about getting started. Practice the art of being good to you. This in turn will cause you to attract like energy from someone else and the good stuff will begin to take on a life of its own.

In short, if you find yourself worrying about being lovable then it is definitely time to put the focus back on you. Make an effort to put energy into making some of the changes mentioned above and you will find that you feel a world of difference and your self-esteem will noticeably rise. Soon, the idea of being unworthy will melt away like the apparition it is. Work on treating yourself well and your lovability factor will shoot to the moon, assuring that all will work out in the realm of love.
Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Relationship Coach and Therapist in private practice. For a free consultation call 314-374-8396.

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