How Can I Tell if I’m Being Valued for Myself? Part 4: Why does it matter?

Final, part 4 of a Series, How Can I Tell if I’m Being Valued for Myself?

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.

Why Your Brains Need Their Own Observations to Make Sense of Different Ideas

Take some time in the course of your daily lives to notice and pay attention to these processes of valuing others in yourself and of what you can observe between others. This will take time. Notice how your mind needs time and notice the evolution in whatever way it works for you. Your brain needs its own evidence- the smart words and sensible ideas have little impact unless we’re matching it up with our own experience and observation, feelings and values.

This phenomenon of our brains needing its own evidence accounts for all the times we’ve received the smart advice or given it and ourselves or the other people just don’t seem to have acted upon it. Despite agreeing rationally that it’s smart stuff, it just doesn’t seem to motivate us. This also accounts for the times we’ve received or given the smart advice and immediately poo-pooed it, but have invisibly come to take it on over time often without realising the source or articulating that our understanding or motivations have changed. Right now you might be thinking of some frustrating examples in other people- it’s most likely you too. It just seems to be the way we all work sometimes.

Some reasons to focus on ‘valuing’ to test against your observations:

The thing about the interplay of all of the feelings, thoughts and behaviours in my previous posts about valuing others is that they’re possibly not just hypothetical, intellectual considerations for the purpose of moral argumentation about how people ‘should be’.

No amount of intellectual debate will change the functional consequences in real life. In order to recognise whether that is in fact happening, observation, examination and reflection over time needs to take place.

Often, the functional consequences can be very serious and detrimental. The emotional, mental and behavioural processes that could represent a spectrum of capacity to value others for who they are, separate from ourselves, can be an unperceived determiner of the strength of relationships. In combination with numerous other factors, they can be a persistent, underlying factor contributing to the difference between healthy, supportive, growing relationships on the ‘needed and wanted’ end of the spectrum, to abusive relationships on the other extreme of the ‘damaging’ end of the spectrum.

I mention ‘abuse’, because it’s much broader, more common and more misunderstood than most people realise. In 2012 (link), 25% (1/4) of women had experienced emotional abuse (link) by a partner, and 14% of men.

That’s nearly 40% of the population. That’s 2/5 People.

Potentially serious stuff if this is the case, yeah? Probably something that will keep having an impact on people in the real world, regardless of whether individuals reject the intellectual ideas or have no awareness of the dynamics occurring.

Some logic to investigate during your observations:

How? Because, as everybody likes to assert, often with the effect of stopping negotiation and understanding, ‘people are different’, ‘people want and need different things’. This is true and false- the core of what our emotional needs are the same. It’s seems that how these emotional needs manifest and play out in different situations and within different relationships for individuals is the difference.

So, if these are true:

  1. All people have similar and different wants and needs
  2. People have relationships with other people
  3. Ideally people want healthy, supportive relationships

Then:

How can people with similar and different wants and needs develop these ideal healthy supportive relationships with other people who inevitably have similar and different wants and needs without developing the capacity to perceive, value and balance these similarities and differences in themselves and others? If we don’t value the similarities and differences of others we just won’t be motivated to accommodate them- naturally our own wants and needs will take precedence and fight for primacy. Makes perfect sense.

Some understanding to test with your observations: How could it help?

The impact when the processes of valuing others are less engaged in is a natural decrease in: mutual care, support, respect, trust, openness, learning, reliability, acceptance, growth, admiration, conflict-resolution, growth from addressing conflict, appreciation, feeling liked, companionship, closeness (shall I just keep listing all of the things that everyone wants and needs from their relationships and that have more of an impact on relationships than the feelings of love and the emotional bonds alone…?).

Hence, in its extreme, lack of capacity to engage in the emotional, mental and behavioural processes of valuing other people separate to ourselves is at the core of what are labelled abusive relationships. The driving feature of emotional/psychological (link), social (link), financial (link), physical and sexual abuse being the prioritisation of one person’s needs and wants over another’s. People who engage in what’s labelled abusive behaviour often still feel their own subjective feelings of love for another- but obviously these feelings don’t negate the impacts on the person experiencing the abuse, so the feeling of love isn’t the most pertinent consideration, is it?

There are many more complex factors involved in healthy relationships. However, if people can learn to be perceptive to their needs to be valued for who and how they are, and perceptive to the signs in others who might meet those needs, then they’ll more likely be motivated to make choices for healthy relationships from the outset. Their natural validation of their needs will also give them a core motivation to address situations of being undervalued or remove themselves from them before too much harm is caused to either party.

Important motivations to develop as well, to help notice the subtle signs of potentially more extreme situations early. People who may have difficulty valuing others, may be more prone to cope with their personal stresses by developing habits we would label ‘abusive’. There isn’t an easily identifiable abusive ‘type’ of person. People who have developed abusive habits often have absolutely genuine ‘nice’, ‘kind’, ‘loving’ qualities and values, and genuinely feel they love people they’re hurting or have no awareness of the hurt they’re causing. So something protective might be each individual developing motivations based on a felt conviction of how they need to be valued as themselves, separately to what another receives or wants from them.

A different aspect to a common phenomenon to test with your own observations:

Unless we can identify some of the signs of a person having less capacity to value others from the beginning, it’s not until the emotional bonds, care and feelings of ‘love’ have been strongly established that our brains have built up enough information over time for the patterns to form (patterns we may not have any awareness of) which give us the strong signals and impressions that something’s not right for us.

That’s when people start experiencing things like, ‘I thought they were a good person, I thought they were nice, I thought they were my dream person, but I was wrong’ or, ‘They’ve changed’. They probably still have the good, nice, qualities which are still valuable and worth recognising because they’re still an important and valuable person- complex and imperfect like us too. But the core of how they process things emotionally, mentally or interpersonally possibly hasn’t changed. It’s just that the repeated experience over time has possibly solidified the patterns in our brains and revealed how the person naturally works in a way which wasn’t immediately perceptible to us. The way they process things may not have changed fundamentally- perhaps it’s just our awareness of it that has.

None of this constitutes ‘stupidity’, ‘lack of intelligence’, being ‘dumb’ etc… If you’ve read through my previous posts on this topic, then hopefully you’ve gained some understanding that the information which can motivate our decisions and our awareness of that is much more complex than the mere construct of intelligence. The majority of natural human behaviour does not accord neatly with our reductive concept of intelligence.

Choice-making and action to explore with your own observations:

So, what could people do if they can notice the warning signs from the beginning that a person may have less capacity at that time to genuinely value others or that we ourselves may not currently? One option is to make a choice not to pursue something because we already know it won’t meet our needs or we won’t meet another’s. Another, I guess, is to work with them from the outset for mutual growth- a big risk, one that often breeds unmet expectations and a mutual lack of acceptance. That would be unless both people are aware and realistic and wanting to learn and grow together, without one-sided pressure for change from another. This seems to be a rare occurrence.

I’ll be very honest. For me, the mental vacillation between my feelings, thoughts, and what I’m observing naturally give me ‘signals’. Even if I’m not explicitly aware of it, although I can make myself conscious of it if it’s important, my brain is processing the information that a person may not have the capacity to strongly value others, combined with some empathy in observing that often they’re not able to properly value themselves either*. I’ve noticed over my life that this seems to naturally motivate me to only engage in the context of limited relationships when I’m noticing this- maybe acquaintances? Peripheral friends? The relationships seem only to develop as much as these signals direct me. And thoughts of anything romantic, when it’s a person I might feel keen on, have my inner-self screaming something that feels like ‘keep yourself out of that’ if it had words.

*It’s actually a very strong belief of mine, reinforced by numerous experiences (and education), that people who are less able to value others are fundamentally not able to value themselves- not they they wouldn’t be able to develop that, but that’s something only they can do. ‘Low self-esteem’, ‘low self-worth’, ‘low self-confidence’, etc regardless of how confident and ‘into themselves’ a person may appear in masking these experiences. These are distressing feelings for all of us to have about ourselves, worthy of empathy for them, but very definitely requiring boundaries for ourselves.

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