Have you ever tried to love someone who seemed to think that they didn’t deserve any love at all? Perhaps it was a partner, or a friend or family member. Perhaps it seemed as if, no matter what you did, this person constantly felt bad about themselves; this can be stressful and disheartening to watch. However, you don’t have to feel powerless.
Here are 8 tips to bear in mind for loving someone who feels unworthy.
1. Don’t allow them to apologize for no reason
Here’s how to easily spot someone who feels unworthy: they seem to apologize for simply existing. You hear “sorry” come out of their mouth multiple times a day.
People who feel unworthy may fear upsetting others. Thus, the “fawn” effect takes place: they apologize without reason, in an attempt to please you.
You may find this endearing or annoying; either way, your job is to firmly state when you are or are not upset. Are they apologizing for something that truly didn’t upset you? Make sure they know that they don’t need to be sorry.
2. However, don’t lie to them
Let them know when they have upset you.
This doesn’t mean that you should let everything slide! Someone who feels unworthy can have a hard time distinguishing when you are actually upset. Look at this as helping them to fine-tune that skill.
If they did upset you, you must lovingly and gently say so; don’t let things slide because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. If you let things slide, they may not trust you when you tell them “you have nothing to apologize for”. Be gentle, but have boundaries, and don’t lie!
3. Compliment them honestly
If you love someone who feels unworthy, your first impulse may be to constantly shower them with compliments. This isn’t necessarily bad. Again, though, you don’t want this person to distrust your compliments; thus, you must only compliment them when you truly mean it.
Think of this as taking the pressure off of your shoulders. It isn’t completely up to you to “fix” their lack of self-love, although you can certainly help. So, don’t pressure yourself to always have a new compliment to give every time you see them. That isn’t your job.
Tell them the truth about the love and admiration you feel for them– this way, they’ll be able to feel that it’s true, and it’ll sink in deeper.
4. Help them to practice a growth mindset
Often, when we feel unworthy of love, we’re terrified of making a mistake; perhaps in the past, even a single, honest mistake has led to rejection or abandonment for this person. This is where the growth mindset comes in.
The “growth mindset”, a scientifically proven concept, encourages one to look at mistakes, weaknesses, and failures as opportunities, rather than character flaws.
For example: let’s say you performed poorly at a job interview. Someone without a growth mindset might beat themselves up and wonder whether they’d ever make it to their dream job. Someone with a growth mindset, though, would see it as a perfect opportunity to learn from their mistakes, improve upon them, and perform better during the next interview.
The bottom line is: those with a growth mindset aren’t scared of mistakes. In fact, mistakes excite them. Unfortunately, this can prove difficult for most people who struggle to feel worthy.
In order to help your loved one shift to a growth mindset, remind them that failure isn’t fatal. If they make a mistake, remind them that they have the know-how and the character to do better, and that you believe in them one hundred percent.
5. Remind them that they don’t have to earn love
Those who feel unworthy believe that nobody will love them just as they are. In other words, their reasoning is: “If I don’t constantly try to please and/or impress this person, they have no reason to love me. I can’t be loved unless I’m doing something.”
If you truly love them, you know that this isn’t true. They could lay in bed and do nothing all day; that wouldn’t change how much you love them. However, you may frequently see this person doing things to “earn” your love, such as cooking you meals, buying things for you, or cleaning for you.
Of course, nothing is wrong with doing something nice for someone you love. At the same time, though, it helps to remind people who feel unworthy that these actions are not required to retain your relationship.
You may say something such as: “You’re welcome to cook for me anytime you want, and I appreciate it very much. But, please don’t think that you have to do something for me every time you come over. You know I’d love to just sit here and talk, too.”
6. Be patient with them
A person’s deep belief in their own unworthiness won’t disappear overnight, or even in just a few days or weeks. These patterns take active, loving, conscious awareness to recognize and change.
You may notice that this person feels really great one day, but the very next day, they’re down on themselves again. Please remember that they are not “going backwards”. Change is not linear; this means that even if they have a bad day, it doesn’t mean they are backsliding.
In this case, all you can do is be patient with them. If they’re feeling bad, don’t try to force them to feel better. Allow them to have off days. Don’t rush them; they are trying their best.
7. Provide a listening ear
Feelings of unworthiness can weave their way into a person’s life in so many sinister ways. It may cause this person to sometimes struggle with their family relationships, or at work, to name a few examples. When this person comes to you uttering sentiments that sound like “I just don’t feel like I’m good enough,” it’s important for you to listen, if you have the capacity for it at that moment.
Sometimes, all this person will need is a listening ear. Try your best to offer them your full attention, to validate their emotions, and to not give advice unless they ask for it. It’ll help them immensely just to know that someone truly cares about them.
With this considered, though, remember that you aren’t required to hold space for everybody one hundred percent of the time. If you’re too stressed or tired to actively listen, it’s perfectly okay to say that you don’t have the space to listen to them now, but you’d love to listen to them once you’ve rested up a bit.
8. Know that it isn’t you, and it isn’t them; it’s their past
When somebody feels unworthy of love, it’s most likely because somebody in their past (whether it was a parent, previous partner, or someone else) hurt them so deeply that they now believe that nobody can truly love them. At times, this will manifest as that person refusing to accept love.
They may not answer the kind texts you send. Or, maybe they won’t accept any of your compliments or gifts. You may notice that they seem distant, refusing your hugs, for example.
When this happens, it’s easy to feel as though they don’t love you! Know that their behavior, as long as it doesn’t become manipulative, means nothing about you. It only means that they’re struggling to accept your love, and that they could use some gentle help using the tips above.
Loving someone who feels unworthy can be much harder than simply telling them their hair looks nice once a day or showering them with gifts and flowers. All things considered, remember that you must be honest, yet gentle with this person. And be sure to take care of yourself too; it is not entirely up to you to fix them, either!