Dan and the 99% Rule
Half way through my dissertation, I found myself stressed, tightly wound, easily frustrated, and often making simple memory mistakes. In this state of overwhelm, I became self-critical and weary of how I was presenting to my friends and family. I alerted my brother, Dan, of this fact in a candid conversation, as I cooked us flank steaks and broccoli.
I was saddened by my current state, and burdened by how it affected others and what it said about me as a person. My brother has a knack for rising to the occasion in big moments. This would be no different. “You are caught up in how you are very little of the time, Jeff. I am aware of how you act the other 99% of the time, and my focus always returns to that.”
The Road to Complex Stress and Feeling Unlovable
How many of us have difficult, days, weeks, months, and years, and begin to feel that we have changed for the worse, and in the process adversely affected our family and friends? We worry that these changes are permanent. We worry that we are no longer able to communicate the love and gratitude we experience for having them in our lives. Mostly, we worry that as we decompensate, we also degenerate into a self that is stressful and hard to love. No longer being lovable is probably our greatest fear.
Our tendency when we are overcome with worry and fear we are unlovable is to work harder, push ourselves more, perseverate on the qualities we feel make us unlovable, and perhaps try to stifle them. However, this process only makes things worse. The qualities we wish to avoid become more prominent, which saddens us, and possibly leads to depression, giving us even fewer resources with which to manage our troubles.
Complex Stress and Feeling Unlovable Is Normal
If this sounds like you, you are in good company. No one has ever attempted to do something great without being accosted by the kind of suffering that makes you feel less available in the ways that people have positively described you in the past. With this change may come disappointment on the part of others, which only reinforces our fears about becoming unlovable. The process of self-criticism and stifling of our emotions begins again, only this time it leads to resentment as well.
Making Our Way Back to Self-Acceptance and Feeling Lovable
So, how do we become unstuck once self-loathing and resentment bear down on us? We acknowledge our experience (criticism and all), name it, make space for it if we can, and bring kindness to our experience with these very words: This time in my life will pass as all time does. These difficulties come from a very small snapshot of my life. I am more than enough 99% of the time, and that is more than enough for the people who love me, including me.
Give yourself permission to feel unlovable sometimes. It won’t kill you. It will just hurt your heart. Your heart, whether you know it or not, is transcendent in its ability to love. No matter what happens to you in your life, it will always respond well to loving others and being loved provided a healthy, safe situation.
This truth is enough to accept that all people struggle and feel unlovable sometimes. As compassionate people, we do not try to change that feeling. We grieve the sadness that comes with feeling unlovable. We place our hand on our hearts, and wish for the strength to tolerate this feeling and to feel lovable again. Then, we remind ourselves that because we suffer, we are worthy of compassion and love.
People who truly love you do not care if you fail a billion times, and never live up to some human contrived idea about your potential. They do not care if you are angry sometimes or if you become extremely anxious. They do not care if you become a shut in or turn to drugs and alcohol.
Of course, they care that these things harm you and want you to be well, but when it comes to how much they love you or wish you well, they could not give a horse’s patooty. Love and compassion are transcendent. They are not of this world. We get them magically when we are born, and they remain with us long after we are gone. Some people are better at expressing it, but love and compassion live in all of us.
Summing It All Up
The next time you feel overwhelmed by your hardships and what they say about you, remember the 99% rule and welcome some well-being into your life. Do this for you because you deserve to be free of suffering, and reminded of your worthiness to be loved. If you are ever in doubt of this, remember that I, as well as many others, love all people and most animals too. If you are either, you are guaranteed love.
The more you allow yourself to feel unlovable and then accept love, the more you will draw people to you that can do the same. Let’s be honest, you are probably pretty great, so do us all a favor and be kind to yourself, so that others have the good fortune of having the permission to love you.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 77. In the Books.