Call it unconditional love. Call it acceptance. Whatever you'd like to call it, we crave it.
We want people in our lives that both love us and understand us. Sometimes love or understanding alone is not quite enough for us. We want them both.
Someone understanding you and then rejecting you is an obvious sore point. Someone loving you based on an idea that doesn’t match what you’re actually like can be a minefield. It can trap you into playing a part, always waiting to be ‘found out’, and maybe found wanting.
Feeling accepted and valued by others is important. It’s so important that anything getting in the way can loom very large. The possibility of rejection can be scary. When it gets public and someone realizes that their response matters to you, the stakes just get higher.
So sometimes you get in your own way. You might make out you don’t care when you actually feel gutted, and then resent the lack of sympathy coming your way. Or maybe you act like your strong interest in someone is only light and casual, and they believe you and look for closeness elsewhere.
As a life strategy this leaves a lot to be desired. It confuses people and breeds misunderstanding. It assumes that the cost of a response that hurts you is much greater than the benefit of a response you want. Acting this way just makes it harder to have accepting, loving relationships.
Relationships work best when acceptance goes both ways. How open you are to being understood affects how easily someone else can understand you.
When you cover up your feelings you give people the message that you don’t trust them. It pushes them away rather than bringing them closer. It means they have to figure out what you’re really feeling and what response you want from them. And what if they get it wrong?
You ask them to carry all the risk and it’s a big ask.
What you might want to do is share the risk. Be direct about what you feel and trust people to answer your feelings with compassion.
Trust is your greatest strength in building acceptance. You trust yourself to be worth knowing and loving. You trust people to be capable of recognising and appreciating your value. And again you trust yourself to be okay on the odd occasion that someone hasn’t yet figured out that knowing you is a good thing.
When you act out of trust you move towards intimacy and acceptance. You let yourself and others know that it’s okay for you to feel what you feel. You show compassion by accepting your own feelings and that compassion invites people to be more open with you about what they feel. Bingo ! You start moving towards each other.
If it feels like being open with people is too risky, think about what you risk by staying closed. If you want closer, more accepting relationships then unleash your trust and compassion. Love and acceptance can start with you.
If you would like help to build accepting relationships, contact Relationships Aotearoa on 0800 735 283 or your local office which is listed in the telephone directory.