Part 1 of a Series, How Can I Tell if I’m Being Valued for Myself?
- Part 2: Intuition and Observation Get Married and Live Happily Ever After
- Part 3: Your Own Insider Cues
- Part 4: Why Does it Matter?
Preface: Why am I writing about ‘valuing’ people?
Everybody feels love for others, and feels loved by others to some degree.
‘Love’ is a feeling. It’s personal and subjective and our own feelings of love can’t be defined by anyone outside of ourselves. It’s one of the most motivating feelings we have. The way we conceive of ‘love’, it’s one of the world’s greatest goals. But so often that feeling, especially of romantic love, when attained, doesn’t bring with it all the other wonderful things people were expecting.
“The feelings of love are happening!!! Yippee! They feel great! I’m on drugs! But wait, where’s all the other good stuff that’s supposed to come with it??!! I’m so confused…”
We can all hurt others, yet that doesn’t change our own subjective feeling of love for someone else. We still have our own feeling of love- the other person just hasn’t received what makes them feel loved. So what the hell is this discrepancy? How can we feel love and hurt someone else? How come this confusing thing happens when we can feel hurt by another but still have some sense that in their own subjective way they still have their own feeling of love towards us, but sometimes that’s just ‘not enough’…. Somehow….Vaguely….Can’t quite put your finger on it… Something’s ‘missing’… Something…. Something….?
Something less subjective, more observable and that has more of a functional impact on relationships than the subjective feelings of love that people most often focus on, is the internal processes and external actions of valuing other people as unique individuals separate to ourselves and valuing them separately to what they provide us.
I’ve always received praise and admiration for having skills such as ‘self-awareness’, ‘insight’, ‘listening’, ‘kindness’, ‘being responsible’ ‘caring’, ’empathetic’, ‘accepting’, ‘non-judgemental’. I valued- still value- these skills in myself. I consistently received external reinforcement in observations and circumstances that this was in fact the case, relative to some others- and still do. All this led me to the impression that I have mad skills.
However, time and age progressed, and my bendy brain continued to accumulate and re-process the information of life. As a consequence, it’s become pretty amusing, humbling and sense-making for me to reflect on how deluded I’ve been at various phases of my life. Specifically, in relation to the sense of mastery or completion of those skills that my self-concept assumed. As a younger person, I think I genuinely perceived that these things- which are just growable skills- were neat, all-inclusive packages dumped into my brain care of nature. Realising the opposite has also uncovered how I had frequently used this to elevate myself from others or condemn them. Ironically, this was rather than attempt to use my oh-so-prided self-awareness to empathise with where they were within themselves. A mental and emotional process I’ve learnt can help me to better get my own needs met and balance them with others.
These are the insights I’ve gained about how my feelings and thoughts can work at any given moment and get in the way of me genuinely valuing others if they remain unperceived by me. I’m going to focus on processes in conversation because conversation is such a predominant form of communication and provides a gold mine of information when we meet new people. However, the dynamics of valuing others for themselves, separate from our own concerns are much broader than verbal communication.
The cues and experiences for gaining this awareness of my development have been numerous and ongoing my whole life, and I now suspect that they will never end. But some of the sources have been:
- Deliberately looking back on my child, teenage and young-adult self to remember the thoughts and feelings and how they might have driven my behaviour- which required me to remember and observe my behaviour.
- Being presented with feedback from others either explicitly with words or implicitly by noticing their reactions to me and conscientiously stopping to check what I’m doing and how my feelings and thoughts might drive that.
- From the wise self-insights of others that prompted my own self-reflections or made it feel okay to have human thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Here are some of the things that I’ve noticed can happen for me internally when I’m interacting with others. They’re less consistent these days, but they definitely still happen. I simply have a different awareness of them and no longer feel or think they’re ‘wrong’, just human (i.e. acceptance) so they get in the way of me valuing others less.
Another person is speaking about things not within my natural interests:
- Feeling bored or disinterested.
- Thoughts that I’m bored, this person is boring, their interests or experiences are boring, my interests or experiences are better, thinking about things completely unrelated to what they’re saying, thinking mostly about my own opinions of them.
- This can drive me to, ‘zone out’, change the topic, make jokes or dismissive comments about the person’s interests, ask fewer questions to understand what matters to the person.
- The person receives disinterest from me.
- In these moments I am actually not listening to or interested in them and I am actually not caring about what matters to them. I’m focusing on myself, my own interests, my own opinions, my own judgements.
Another person is talking about things with more knowledge or understanding than me:
- Feeling stupid, threatened, intimidated, inferior.
- Thoughts of opinions/knowledge I can offer to diminish these feelings for myself, thoughts of how I compare unfavourably to them, thoughts of wishing I could say and do the things they are, thoughts of contradicting information that make me feel slightly less inferior.
- This can drive me to not say anything, not ask questions to find out or understand more, focus on responding with my comments or opinions that display my own opinions/knowledge, focus on responding with comments that contradict/undermine the competence of the person.
- This person receives a lack of interest from me, a lack of value in their knowledge/opinions/competence/what matters to them, less engaged conversation.
- In these moments I’m actually not listening to, caring about or focusing on what they’re giving, I’m focusing on myself, my own insecurities, my own feelings, my own ‘ego’.
Wanting to appear a particular way to please my own expectations:
- Feeling self-conscious, comparing myself, judging myself, criticising myself.
- Thoughts of how I might be appearing, thoughts of how I want to appear, thoughts of how others will think about how I’m appearing.
- This can drive me to not say anything, respond in ways that focus on how I want to appear, rather than responding to what the other person is trying to convey, asking fewer questions to understand what matters to the other person.
- The person receives awkwardness from me, a lack of interest in what they’re expressing directly, an unnatural demeanour from me.
- In these moments I’m focusing on myself, my own insecurities about myself, my own self-judgements, my own uninformed mind-reading of another and not really listening to, caring about or interested in what the other person is expressing.
I perceive that another person talking has less knowledge, intelligence or understanding than me:
- Feeling superior, more knowledgable, smarter, more intelligent.
- Thoughts about how much smarter I am, how little the person understands in comparison to me, how wrong I think their ideas are, thoughts of how I can express my knowledge, opinions etc to show them I’m smart and they’re dumber.
- This can drive me to express thoughts and opinions that undermine their logic, ideas, intelligence and demonstrate my own logic, right ideas and intelligence.
- The person receives from me a lack of interest in their views, belittling of their views or of themselves, criticism and judgement.
- In these moments, I’m focusing on myself, my own self-satisfying, reassuring feelings of superiority and I’m not feeling interested in or caring about their perspectives, I’m not listening and I am judging, undermining and criticising them.
In reverse, noticing the frequency of these possible processes in others informs me about how much they might be able to actually value me, or anyone else who is not them. While high frequency of these processes in others doesn’t work for me for certain extents of relationships, it’s a natural stage of development they’re in which only they can properly address, if they choose to/can be aware of it. I know this, because I can trace my own development. This insight into myself makes it easier for me to understand the possibility of these things in others and helps me feel less frustrated. More consequentially, I think, it helps me to find ways of responding to them that could work better for both of us, balanced with feeling clear about my own boundaries.
I can imagine my teenage self reading something like this and thinking,
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah! I know so many people who do this! X person, Y, person! Yeah, yeah, yeah! And how embarrassing- the person who wrote this is really selfish and has psychological issues which is really bad, and why would you let people know things like this? Yeah, yeah, yeah!”.
I.e. My responses and opinions probably would have gone straight to,
‘Other people are shit! Yeah!’
Hahahahahahahah! Oh, teenage Sunday, sweet, naive thing. I’m glad I’ve continued to develop the self-awareness and insight I’d always prided myself on. It gives me much more self-acceptance and agency in life, and helps me to keep developing my people skills and relationship skills immeasurably.
‘Alright then, that’s how you’re not valuing others… Your title is fraudulent. I want to know how I can tell if I’m being valued….’ Next post explores the mystified, but actually very legitimate process of ‘intuition’ which can be a person’s first cues that they may or may not be being valued for who and how they are separate to what another person might receive from them… Part 2: Intuition and Observation Get Married and Live Happily Ever After