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Why We Struggle to Receive Love

Love may be all around us, but it won't matter unless we can receive it.

One day, on my Instagram stories, I conducted a poll: Is it easier for you to give or receive love? To my surprise, most people said love was harder to receive (results not scientific). They stated they didn’t trust love as genuine, felt vulnerable receiving love when they didn’t feel it for themselves, and that receiving love made them feel like they owed someone.

Sharing affection deepens our friendships, but it struck me that this is true only if people can receive it. That’s why it’s important to understand what stops us from receiving love.

We Don’t Notice Love When We Get It

One barrier to receiving love is that we don’t notice when we get it. In a study titled. “Acceptance is in the Eye of the Beholder,” people filmed themselves discussing several topics. They then watched a video from a stranger who had allegedly watched their video and was responding to it. The stranger was actually an actor hired by the researcher, and all participants watched the same video. In the response video, the stranger purposely affirmed the participant, saying “I’m with you on this one,” smiling, and saying, “I hope to see you in the second part of this study.”

Reactions to the video varied. Some realized the stranger liked them and others didn’t. Why? Self-esteem. People with low self-esteem didn’t pick up on the stranger’s acceptance. They were less sure of whether the stranger liked them. These results suggest that if our self-esteem is low, we ignore signals that others like us.

Receiving Love Feels Like an Identity Crisis

People with low self-esteem may enter an identity crisis when they receive affection. Compliments highlight the gap between how they are viewed and how they feel about themselves, making them feel misunderstood and pressured to fulfill others’ high expectations.

According to one study, people with low self-esteem agree with statements like “I feel like I don’t know exactly who I am after getting a compliment,” and “When I am complimented, sometimes I feel like the other person clearly doesn’t know me.” The study also found people with low self-esteem are more likely to feel negatively from compliments and devalue them. It feels easier to reject a compliment than to reject your sense of who you are.

How to Receive More Love

One of the best ways to feel better about ourselves is to receive love from others. Yet, if we don’t feel worthy, no matter how much love people show us, we won’t believe it, trapping us in low self-worth. And the less open people think we are to receiving their love, the less likely they are to show it to us, according to one study.

To receive more love, tune in to ways people show love towards you—whether they are texting you or even liking your social media posts. When they compliment you, think about their positive feelings towards you rather than the discomfort it triggers. Receiving more love will help you feel better about yourself and deepen your friendships.

This has been cross-posted on my personal blog, where you can take a survey to assess your friendship skills.

Facebook image: Just Life/Shutterstock

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