Part 3 of a Series, How Can I Tell if I’m Being Valued for Myself?
- Part 1: An Insider’s Confessions
- Part 2: Intuition and Observation Get Married and Live Happily Ever After
- 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.
What are some practical, replicable ways in which I can tell whether or not I’m being valued for who I am, separately from how I make someone else feel, what I give them, what they receive from me?
“Sometimes I’ve felt like I was valued, but later gained a different perception.”
“Sometimes I just think I’m being too ‘sensitive’.”
“Sometimes I get told I’m just ‘too needy’.”
“Sometimes I think that someone else just doesn’t know how to act and that’s not their ‘fault’ so I ‘should’ accept whatever they can give me.”
Again, I’ll be focusing on cues during conversation, but the processes and actions of valuing someone as they are, for who they are extend far beyond spoken communication.
Cues to Make You Pay Attention to What’s Happening in Conversation with Another
N.B. All of these things I’m listing are normal for everyone on occasion. The key thing is frequency.
First cues to pay attention to what’s happening: What am I FEELING?
- Do you often feel hurt?
- Do you often feel not listened to?
- Do you often feel misunderstood?
- Do you often feel misinterpreted?
- Do you often feel like your feelings don’t matter to the other person?
- Do you often feel defensive, either in communication or pre-emptively, in expectation of a conversation?
- Do you often feel disrespected?
- Do you often feel undervalued?
- Do you often feel judged?
- Do you often feel criticised?
- Do you often feel inferior?
- Do you often feel like your own interests, values, priorities, feelings, goals, dreams, experiences are unimportant to the other person?
- Do you often feel you’re inhibiting?
- Do you often feel like you’re wrong?
- Do you often feel frustrated?
- Do you often feel annoyed, or that they’re annoying?
- Do you often feel like the person doesn’t actually know you?
- Do you often feel like not saying things or withdrawing from conversations?
Second cues to pay attention to what’s happening: What am I THINKING?
- Do you find yourself thinking things like ‘just listen!’?
- Do you find yourself thinking or rehearsing conversations in which you’re defending your feelings, opinions, interests, values, priorities, goals, dreams and experiences, skills, competence, achievements, knowledge?
- Do you find yourself focusing on all the arguments in favour of why you’re right?
- Do find yourself often having critical or judgemental thoughts about that other person? Thoughts about how annoying they are? Thoughts about what’s wrong with them? Thoughts about why their feelings, opinions, interests, values, priorities, goals, dreams or experiences are less valid or worthwhile?
- Do you often find yourself having thoughts in which you’re explaining yourself, or attempting to explain things generally to another?
Third cues to pay attention to what’s happening: WHAT ALREADY WORKS FOR ME?
Are there specific close, supportive relationships already in your life in which these feelings and thoughts occur less frequently and less intensely? What do you and they do differently together?
If you can start to pay attention to this contrast, it could start to form the basis of evidence for learning about what you naturally need in your relationships, and gaining some conviction about that. Conviction is important because the world and other people are frequently giving you conflicting messages about moulding your needs from the outside-in, what you ‘should’ need or do. But your life and experience already show you from the inside-out some of what you need if you start paying attention.
Fourth cues to pay attention to what’s happening: What am I SEEING? CONVERSATIONAL BEHAVIOUR
Does the person…
- Predictably allow you to express whatever feelings, thoughts and moods you’re experiencing, just from the perspective of your own experience (not towards them) even when those experiences might conflict with how they’re feeling or what they’re wanting right then (e.g. they might be wanting your attention, listening, affection, care, to be entertained etc).
- Or, do they attempt to persuade you out of it, diminish what you’re experiencing or ask you to stop or change?
- Predictably ignore or argue with what you state your wants or needs are OR do they stop to listen, ask questions in an attempt to understand you even if it conflicts with their own or they have difficulty relating to them?
- Predictably respond to what’s important to you with comments or opinions about what they think themselves OR do they ask questions to understand what matters to you, even if those things don’t matter to them personally?
- Predictably not ask many questions at all?
- Predictably ask leading questions that indirectly communicate their opinion OR do they ask open questions that seek to know what matters to you, even if those things don’t matter to them personally?
- Predictably respond with confident assumptions about you or what you’re saying, thinking, feeling OR ask questions that test their assumptions and seek your view of yourself?
- Predictably spend more time talking about themselves and their opinions than listening to you and asking you questions about your life, opinions, knowledge, experiences etc?
- Predictably only ask questions, pay attention, listen, etc if the topic you’re speaking about is of direct interest to them too? Will they do these things even when it’s just something that matters to you and not of direct value to them personally?
- Predictably not talk much at all, but also not ask many questions?
- Predictably forget important things about yourself that you’ve told them or that they’ve been exposed to OR do they often remember, even if the things don’t matter to them personally?
- Predictably interrupt you speaking?
- Predictably give you opinions/advice/guidance about what’s important to you based on their own values, priorities, interests without crediting your own values, priorities or interests or the competence, progress and achievements you’ve already made?
- Predictably express doubt about what you say you think and feel?
- Predictably contradict your thoughts, opinions or knowledge?
- Predictably try to convince you to do things their way, believe their opinions without letting you express your points of view, thinking about or acknowledging any merit they see in your points or without trying to understand why their way or views may not be right for you?
- Or do they present their wants, needs, opinions ideas as something just important to them and seek to find out about yours to explore any overlap and understand why that makes sense for you when there’s not?
- Predictably talk about things to show off or impress you, seek your praise, approval or reassurance while not listening or paying attention to or even responding if you want to share things you’re proud of? Do they ever respond with comments that indicate what you’re proud of is less worthy?
- Or do they seek to know and respond attentively to what you’re proud of even if the things that make you proud aren’t personally valuable to them?
- Would they be able to accurately state the goals, ideals, values, people, achievements, sensitivities, fears etc that are important to you and that they would have been exposed to even if they personally don’t value them?
As I mentioned, these are all really normal things for everyone to do occasionally. So now, as you go through your days, in the moment, you could reverse these questions and reflect them on yourself: e.g. “AM I…. Responding with my own opinion to something that’s important to them? Could I be asking questions instead? Am I not listening anymore because their important stuff isn’t of value to me?”.
What might your feelings and thoughts indicate about your felt value of another in a moment? How might these feelings and thoughts drive your behaviour and what messages could another’s intuition be receiving from you?
What if these things are happening in a relationship that’s really important to me? There’s lots you can attempt to do. For the best chance of growth you’ll probably need to start actively educating yourself about building healthy relationships.
One first thing to try is learning how to communicate your needs and your feelings assertively (link)-assertive communication often being a misunderstood concept. That means using ‘I’ Statements, expressing what you need, what you feel, whilst respecting their needs to not be criticised or judged, and recognising their needs might be different. That also means digging beneath the upper, reactive layer which is your outward feelings of resentment and criticism towards them to communicate from the fundamental, causal layer that is your inward vulnerable feelings about you- “I feel…hurt, insecure, undervalued, jealous, sad, etc”... Bloody hard. Bloody worth learning for the good of yourself, your relationship and the whole of god-damn humanity. Give it a try, see what the response is, keep learning and trying different things from there.
Additionally, use words to neutrally describe the behaviour you’ve noticed, rather than speculating about their personal feelings and intentions. Feelings and intentions of which you can’t be certain unless you’ve occupied their mind. You can ask open questions to try to find out and test your assumptions.
‘I can kinda’ relate to this stuff, but I don’t see why it’s so important. Aren’t relationships about negotiation, compromise, meeting in the middle, accepting each other?’. Yes. Exactly. Which is why sacrificing our human need to feel valued for who we are, as we are (as opposed to our value being primarily dependent upon what others receive from us) can be at the very foundation of less growing and sometimes unhealthy, damaging relationships. As I explore in the final of this series: Part 4: Why Does It Matter?