“The biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved.”– Princess Diana
4.4 billion people feel unloved. Are you one?
I recently heard about a study that claims 60% of all humans feel like no one really loves them. That means that at any given moment some 4.4 billion people feel unloved. That number is staggering.
If that many people are experiencing a lack of love in their lives it would explain why there is such a vast amount of hatred and suffering on the planet.
It has been illustrated that children who grow up in households without love, as adults, they are often unable to give or accept love and can exhibit signs of self-loathing or anti-social behavior.
I imagine that almost everyone at some time in their life has experienced the feeling of being unloved. Perhaps you feel alienated from social circles or you don’t have a best friend whom you can share with and confide in. Or still yet, maybe someone you loved immensely has died and left you feeling abandoned.
Each of these scenarios would be reason enough to create a sense of feeling unloved within us. If we let them.
I began to have these feelings about 4 years ago right after my mother passed away from inoperable stage 4 cancer.
I was raised by my single mother. We left my father when I was 2. My white mother’s family disowned my mom for marrying my black father, and my father’s family felt the same way.
As a child, my mother took me everywhere with her. I was always surrounded by the artist, thinkers, and revolutionaries who made up her circle of friends.
It wasn’t until my 4th grade year that I began to make friends of my peers. Up until this point, all of my friends were adults. People who were my mother’s friends.
Around the time I entered high school there was a shift, and my friends had now become hers. This was true for many decades. I still wonder at how blessed I have been to be raised by such a strong, loving, gentle mother who always encouraged me to follow my bliss and loved me unconditionally.
During college, I moved out of my mother’s home and got a place of my own. I continued to live near her. We spoke almost every day on the phone and we would visit often on weekends.
When my mother retired I moved back into her house. She did not have retirement savings and social security was not enough for her to live comfortably. So I moved in and gave her the monthly rent that I had been giving to complete strangers for years.
I was able to help her out in many ways by living with her again.
It was strange for someone like me to decide to move back home. I was single and highly valued living alone. It was sometimes uncomfortable explaining to people that I was in my late 30’s and living with my mother, but the arrangement worked out well.
So well in fact, that one day I explained to my mom that I had decided to stay with her permanently until one of us left this physical world. She loved the idea but would not hold me to that decision if at any time I changed my mind.
I never changed my mind.
When my mother passed away 4 years ago, she was not only my mother and roommate, she was also my best friend and only family member. It was like losing the 4 most significant people in your life all at once.
I’ve always had a large network of friends that I consider to be my family, but most of my friends live great distances away from me and so we are challenged geographically.
My friends have always been there for me, but they couldn’t fill the void I felt from missing the unconditional love that I had known my whole life. This deficit was soul shaking and almost unbearable. I would never know that kind of love again.
I was now one of the 4.4. billion who felt unloved…
I had to find love again, the unconditional kind, or be consumed by its absence.
I began my search with the understanding that the love I desired could only be found internally, within myself, as anything external, could be removed or taken away at any time.
If I was dependent on external love I would always be vulnerable to losing it.
For the last 4 years I have been navigating life as one who is solo i.e.; without partner, spouse, children, siblings or family. I had to look for love within. There was nowhere else to look for it.
What does it mean to LOVE yourself?
I have a pretty good idea of what it means, but I am still learning every day.
I do know that it is not a selfish act. It has nothing to do with narcissistic tendencies, and it is not at the exclusion of loving others.
For me, it is loving myself as I desire others to love me. It means being my own best friend which is not always the simplest thing to do. We are constantly at odds with our own egos. Ego can create internal dialogues that can be damaging and self-deprecating.
Treat myself as I would have others treat me
Be my own best friend – be a S.T.A.R.R.
I started by creating the following list of the characteristics I find most admirable in a friend and have learned to apply them to myself.
Supportive – a great friend is supportive through their encouragement of your ideas, goals, and endeavors. Someone who genuinely celebrates your successes and only wants the best for you. Another way to demonstrate support is to offer engaged listening. Being present for you.
I value my ideas, nurture them, and take action on them. I remind myself that I am capable of all things, even though I may have to ask for help on occasion. I listen to my internal dialogue, follow my gut instinct, and analyze my thoughts and feelings with gentleness and patience.
Trust – a great friend demonstrates trust to us through their actions. They are the keepers of our deepest secrets. They allow us to be vulnerable and feel safe. They always have our best interests at heart even when we are not in their presence. Above all, they are honest and truthful.
I used to ignore or deny what was really going on inside of me, especially if it was unpleasant or uncomfortable. I had to learn to trust myself, allow myself to be open, exposed and know that there is power in that. I accept that there is darkness within me and understand that there are beauty and growth hidden within it. It is part of who I am. It is my balance. I know that I am always on the right path.
Acceptance – a great friend allows you to be authentically yourself and forgives you your shortcomings. Forgiveness is a key factor in any successful relationship. That friend will also understand that sometimes space is needed. It is important to be allowed that space without repercussion or others being offended by it.
I used to believe that I always needed to be tough and strong. That I had to do everything on my own, by myself. I judged myself harshly in the face of disappointment or failure. I have learned to accept things as they are, knowing that sometimes it is better not to get things we thought we wanted. I now realize that if knowledge is gained and growth experienced, there are no failures. In this acceptance, I have learned to forgive myself.
Respect – a great friend will always treat you with respect. Respect manifests as equality. I value you the same as I value myself. Kindness is given freely. There is reverence for your opinion or input. You know you are heard.
I know that it is important that I value myself, know my worth, and stand up for the things I feel are important. No matter what that means to anyone else. I have to respect myself first before I can expect anyone else to.
Reliable – a great friend is someone who will make time for you. They aren’t flakey. They honor their commitments. They are consistent and dependable. You know you can count on them. Their actions demonstrate their loyalty.
I have learned to make time for myself. I have learned to say no. I don’t over-extend myself. This allows me to stay on task and meet my goals and deadlines. This is also true in regards to my obligations to other people. I keep the promises I make and make myself accountable.
My current solo status is not necessarily permanent.
My list aside, let it be noted that I am someone who desires to be loved by others. I look forward to being in an intimate relationship again. I thrive on loving and being loved.
There are some things I can’t change like having siblings or blood relatives.
There are some things I chose not to change like having children or being married.
The change I know to come is that one day someone will love me again, and I will have so much love to offer them in return.
My family of friends will grow, and change, and expand and I will be present for them. I will be able to provide them with the best possible me and love them as “a great friend”.
I also know that I work every day on being me, knowing me, nurturing me and providing myself with the one thing I thought I had lost.
It’s not always easy. It takes work. It’s challenging. But, I see it as the greatest investment I will ever make.
I am my own best friend.
I am loved…unconditionally.