Feeling loved is a deeply-rooted need. And as the most social animal on the planet, we require the love and appreciation of others to feel supported, resilient and alive.
No wonder then that we’re extremely sensitive to rejection. The minor slights and snubs of the day stick to us like Velcro and grow and gather momentum in our minds, while positive incidents brush off of us like Teflon and get lost in the noise of negativity.
Think about it! Of all the wonderful things that happen in your day, what do you most think about at night? And what do you do as a result? Think of the time your partner got you a last-minute birthday gift you really didn’t want. Did you fight with them about your friends’ partners who spend time and money on thoughtful gifts or did you simply smile at their innocent ignorance of your wants?
Our reactions to the fear of rejection drive us to create walls around ourselves, which ironically become a self-fulfilling prophecy of not feeling loved. But with self-awareness, we can rise above these primal responses and instead of closing down in shame or blaming others for our misery, we can assume responsibility for our feelings of love and connection.
How? Science shows that by reaching out to others in kindness, we beget the love we seek. This is because as humans, we’re wired to reciprocate. Our kindness prompts others to turn to us with love and warmth. And it inspires them to spread this kindness by up to three degrees of separation.
Shift Your Focus
Relationships are essential for survival. But they are messy and demanding. They require effort, and even so, others don’t always behave as we would like. If we can shift our focus from what we desire of others, to what we can do for them, we can let go of the microcosm of our own inner worlds and find joy in the cheer we spread and the goodness of our actions. Oftentimes, we find that their behavior was simply a result of being too busy or distracted to show feelings of warmth.
When we’re feeling unloved, being big-hearted is easier said than done. We naturally close ourselves in to self-focused bubbles. To step out, we need to cultivate feelings of compassion towards those we feel rejected by. Feeling gratitude for their presence in our lives or trying a compassion meditation where we express goodwill towards ourselves and others, calms our negative emotions and allows us to find greater peace in the moment.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable
Nurturing feelings of love is rarely enough in itself. The real challenge lies in expressing these generous feelings because they require us to be vulnerable. Something as simple as saying “I love you” to a partner who’s wrapped up in their own world isn’t easy — after all, we expose our feelings without any guarantee of how they’ll respond in the moment. However, the research of professor Brené Brown shows that vulnerability strengthens relationships through mutual empathy and connection. We’re wired for reciprocity and feel close to those who open up to us because we appreciate our common humanity.
We may not always get the external love we seek, but by acting out of the goodness of our hearts, we tap into something far more fundamental. We cultivate self-love, perhaps the greatest love of all.