You won’t find happiness with others until you find it with yourself.
I am a relatively successful man. I have a good career, good friends, respect and people who love me. Yet every day for years I would wake to a constant and pervasive fear that people would discover my secret. People would find out I was an imposter, I don’t deserve success, I don’t deserve love, and I don’t deserve respect and belonging. I was convinced that it was only a matter of time before everyone left, and all I could do was make everyone else happy for as long as I could before they abandoned me.
And so I would live this way every day; making my friends happy, making my boss happy, making my staff happy, making the few women I dated happy. With my love life in particular, I was more desperate to preserve that attention and keep the women I liked from walking away. I became like an emotional crack addict for the affection I so desperately wanted but deep down felt I didn’t deserve.
What makes someone crave intimacy so much that they sacrifice their own wants, needs, desires and dreams for someone else?
It’s quite normal and healthy to want love. It’s normal to want romantic love from a woman, to be wanted and accepted, but what causes some men to feel like they NEED it?
In his book No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Robert Glover describes a common problem among men which he refers to as the ‘Nice Guy Syndrome.’
The Nice Guy Syndrome represents a belief that if nice guys are “good,” they will be loved, get their needs met, and live a problem-free life. When this life strategy fails to produce the desired results – as it often does – Nice Guys usually just try harder, doing more of the same. Due to the sense of helplessness and resentment, this pattern inevitably produces, Nice Guys are often anything but nice.
Basically, Dr. Glover is saying that at the heart of the Nice Guy’s behaviour there is an attempt to buy favour from others (particularly women) by being nice. There’s nothing wrong with being nice, Glover argues, but it’s the intent of being nice out of a need to be loved which can cause us harm.
The Want For Love vs. The Need For Love
Wanting to be loved isn’t a bad thing. Wanting love, respect, and admiration from others is perfectly natural. NEEDING it, however, can potentially be harmful. There are certain things we need to survive. We need to eat, drink water and be safe from harm. We don’t need love from others to survive. Yes, love is a very important part of healthy living, but we don’t actually need it for survival.
The truth is, we feel we need love from others because we never learned how to love ourselves completely. Whenever we experience those moments of needing another person’s love we are experiencing what I call the Self-Love Gap, a gap in our own love of self that we try to fill with the love from another. Where there’s a gap in our own self-love, we look to others to fill that gap, and it may even seem to work for a while.
We find someone who seems to care for us, who shows us the attention and affection we have been missing in ourselves, yet at the same time, there’s that nagging fear in the back of the mind that it’s going to disappear. This is where Dr. Glover’s ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ kicks in and we start doing everything we can to preserve that love and attention.
In the case of your romantic life, you may start exhibiting certain needy behaviors covertly intended to elicit a romantic, emotional or sexual exchange from women. For example;
- Changing your schedule to suit hers
- Paying for things in an attempt to win favour (dinners, gifts, drinks, etc)
- Complimenting her constantly
- Putting her needs, wants, and desires ahead of your own.
- In extreme cases even sacrificing career paths, life ambitions, and friends because they interfere with her plans or what she wants.
All of this amounts to one thing. When we are unable to give ourselves the love we have been craving, we turn to others to fill that need, and in an attempt to preserve that affection we sacrifice our needs for theirs.
Why Men Need To Love Themselves
It may sound sentimental, but if you ever want to find happiness, you aren’t going to find it in someone else. I never knew how desperately I was looking for happiness in other people until I actually started to love myself. And when I started to love myself more I realised how much I had been neglecting my own importance and sacrificing myself for other people.
You have to live with yourself 24-hours-a-day, every day for the rest of your life. You are more important to you than anyone else; more important than your girlfriend or wife, more important than your parents, more important than your boss and more important than your friends. Yes, these people may all be extremely important to you (well, except maybe your boss), you’re just a little bit more important to you, that’s all. It’s time to start taking care of you.
When you love yourself, other people love you and respect you more, because you are your own man, defined by yourself and not by anyone else. When you respect your own needs, desires and boundaries you’ll stop taking shit from people who want to manipulate you, and you’ll be less likely to take crap from women you date who want to play head games because you’ll see through the bullshit and call them out on it. When you do this, they will either respect your boundaries or leave to find someone else to feed their insecurities.
But it’s not just about the love and respect you get from other people. Loving yourself is its own reward. Imagine what it would feel like to love yourself so much that it made you smile just because you get to be with the most amazing person in the world. You.
“But isn’t that selfish?”
Well … Yes. But what’s wrong with that? You know what selfish means to me? It means I’m self-oriented. That’s it. I just choose to orient my life around what I want for myself.
Why? Because I value me and I give to myself.
Filling in the Gaps: A Simple Guide to Loving Yourself
Step 1: Stop caring so much
By this, I don’t mean stop caring completely, but stop caring so much. Stop caring so much about what other people want and start focussing on what you want. Stop caring about what other people will think about you.
It took me a lot of courage to start writing and publishing articles about sex. For so long I was so caught up in what my friends and family would think of me if they found out this is what I wanted to do. But the desire to be true to myself was more powerful than the desire to be what I thought other people wanted me to be.
Step 2: Manage your expectations.
Author Dan Millman said that the formula for happiness is finding satisfaction over desire, but that the formula for true happiness is finding greater satisfaction in fewer and more simple desires. If you set massively unrealistic goals without chunking them down into achievable bite-sized portions that you can feel proud of achieving, you’ll most likely start beating yourself up and burn yourself out. Manage your expectations, be kind to yourself.
Step 3: Celebrate every step made.
When I was going through a period of writer’s block and really beating myself up, I turned it around by setting a realistic goal of writing just 200 words each night. Every night after I finished my 200th word, I poured myself a small glass of wine and played “We Are the Champions” by Queen. Within about a month of doing this, I was up to writing between 700 and 1,000 words a night and my self-esteem grew every time I made an effort to celebrate myself and my success.
Step 4: Celebrate Your Mistakes.
Part of loving yourself means that it isn’t just because you achieve what you set out to do, but because loving yourself IS the reward. Be your own parent in a sense. You wouldn’t tell your own child he or she was worthless when they fell over trying to walk. No, you’d probably cover them in kisses and hugs. So don’t beat yourself up when you fall down, celebrate the learning and love yourself regardless of what you achieve or don’t achieve.
Step 5: Have Your Own Life
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, have your own things going on for you, have your own hobbies and passions, things you really love doing for yourself. This not only makes you more attractive but you start to really enjoy your own life more. When people see what a good time you’re having, they want to be a part of that.
Not sure what you like? Get out there and try a whole bunch of things. You never know where it might lead. I tried acting classes, painting classes, boxing, sword fighting, yoga, indoor soccer and a whole bunch of other crazy things. I haven’t stuck with all of them because I realized I just wasn’t into some things, but I also developed new talents that I never knew I would have. You have to try a whole range of new things to find the few passions you click with.
Step 6: Write down what you love about yourself.
Write down a list of 50 things you really love about you. The more you write, the more you’ll realize just how amazing you were all along.
Wanting to Find Love… But Not Needing it Just Now.
I’m in a pretty amazing relationship with a kind, intelligent, compassionate, ambitious and creative person. That person is me, and for the first time in my adult life, I’m finally learning to be okay with being by myself.
Being alone is fine. Being single is fine. And wanting to be loved is fine. Even feeling needy is fine, we’re all human after all, we aren’t going to be self-sustaining all the time. Chances are we’re going to continue to get our hearts broken from time to time, the important thing to remember is that when you learn to start loving yourself, even when your heart breaks you won’t feel alone. You’ll have with you the most amazing friend and loving companion you’ll ever know. Sometimes you just gotta remind yourself where to find him.
So be sure to take a look in the mirror every once in a while.
Previously published on PrimalEros.com
Photo: Getty Images