There are two different ways of experiencing worthiness, one is cognitively, so you know that on an intellectual level that of course you are worthy. Then on a somatic and subconscious level. How do you feel in your body when you receive and how worthy do you feel of receiving? You can notice maybe sensations in your body, your posture or a thought in your head.
Where we can notice the most at how much we have embodied a sense of innate worthiness is in our ability to receive. And to receive specifically love and the way you experience love. I wrote a guest article around the Love Languages (link at the end). But a quick summary of the love languages are:
Acts Of Service - you feel love when people do things for you like helping out around the house or you like to be of service to people or organisations.
Time - spending time with people and just being with them is important for you to feel loved and how you show your love to others.
Physical Touch - a hand on the arm or shoulder when you are speaking to someone, hugs and general physical closeness.
Words of Affirmation - compliments and words of support is how you communicate and receive love.
Gifts - not so much about fancy and expensive gifts, it’s more showing that the person giving understands your likes dislikes, they show they have listened to you and think of you when they aren’t with you, presentation of the gift is as important as the gift itself.
I want to share with you some of my own journey with the love languages. My top three are:
33% receiving gifts
27% physical touch
23% words of affirmation
I thought I had fully embodied self-love but there are still parts of me that don’t. I can show myself self-love by having boundaries by how I want to be treated by others, by asking for my needs to be met and understanding that if someone treats me in a way that is less than respectful, it says more about their own trauma and wounding than it does about me and my own worth and value as a human being. In some way, me or my behaviour has triggered a core wound of theirs or their shadow self is projecting onto me. You can learn more about that here.
I had a realisation back in January, and yes, it’s taken me some time to want to share it, but I realised that as much as I showed myself self-love that were parts of me still not fully believing it. So there was a light bulb moment when I realised that my top three ways of receiving love - gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation - when people express them to me, I feel a great sense of discomfort. Of having to play it all down. Of having to do something in return and without just receiving. And by receiving I mean with grace and gratitude and not feeling the need to ‘do’ anything in return. I imagine this comes from growing up as a woman and we are taught to constantly give and nurture others. I imagine it also shows up in some ways in my childhood and seeing certain dynamics play out there. So let me share with you what I have learnt.
The top of my love language is gifts. But I really hate sharing it and I downplay it. I thought it was because it’s cliché for women to want to receive gifts. That maybe people will think I'm materialistic. However, the gifts don’t need to be expensive or exotic. Receiving gifts is that someone thought about me when I wasn’t there. That I am on someone’s mind.
When I get asked by people what I would like as a gift I feel real discomfort. I had only ever been asked as a child. To deflect from my discomfort around this I tend to say ‘nothing’ or just ‘time with you’ or something else that is not a love language of mine. When I get asked that question and I tune into what do I really want? Honestly? Too often, I don’t know. I feel so much guilt and shame for wanting physical things for myself.
The gifts don’t need to be fancy just that there is thought to the choice. (I am noticing now that I am proof-reading, that three times I have written the gifts don’t need to be fancy or expensive so now I am inviting myself to explore why I need to emphasise that. Is it possibly a way for me to partially receive without saying I am worthy of someone spending money on me? Am I fooling myself that I am receiving by accepting small token gestures when I should up level my worthiness to more frivolous standards? - something here to explore further!).
When I get home made cards and garden-picked flowers from my two children, my heart swells. But I do notice that there is discomfort. And I have begun to realise the discomfort was because I was afraid to receive love. That love had a condition. That by receiving I would need to give back. I have received messages from when I was younger that when you receive you need to give back. I would get bought things on a condition that the person buying would then expect something in return.
When it comes to Words Of Affirmation - I used to feel a lot of shame for getting compliments on my looks. Due to extensive bullying at school and then college and university, I felt that my looks in a way threatened my ability to have male friends in case their girlfriends felt threatened. And I struggled to have female friends because they felt threatened. I used to hide my beauty. I used to make sure that the photos on social media were nice but not too good in case it made someone else feel less than. I wanted to protect other people. I didn’t want them to feel less than. If they felt less than, then they wouldn’t like me and wouldn’t want to be my friend. So I worked hard to stay in the shadows and not stand out too much. I had taught myself that shining my light would dim the light of others.
So I worked on overcoming this. I often say to women ‘shine your light as it gives other women permission to shine theirs’. And this has become my mantra with other women. If they experience discomfort in me shining then that is their wounding to be healed and not mine. Together we rise. For women to rise we need to do it together and in collaboration and not competition. So now I accept compliments. I’m not afraid anymore to use the nicest photo of me including those where I pose. I admit, I can still feel an element of discomfort in my body but I choose to sit with those sensations instead of blocking them and not act on them (which would be by removing the picture). It’s a very conscious approach to receiving compliments and I hold myself with love through the discomfort. I have learnt to receive compliments by saying ‘thank you’, instead of making a joke, diminishing the comment or complimenting back. I now choose to receive it fully, with thanks.
So I thought that this was a sign that I loved myself. That I am willing to let myself shine now.
But I do still struggle to receive. When I ask my husband for something, his wound is to not wanting to do it. He feels the pressure of someone wanting something ‘from’ him and is working though that and is definitely getting better. We previously, for years, found ourselves in a pattern whereby I would ask and he would not give. Both of us being wounded further. We have managed to work our way out of this dance somewhat but I still feel shame and guilt for asking. For asking for a foot massage, for asking for a birthday gift, although after my disastrous 40th he has understood the importance of giving. You can read about that here.
But there is still so much shame for me to receive. I remember when my now husband and I got together in Rome and I had committed to work in Australia and I left. We continued our relationship while I lived abroad. I was expecting (I had not communicated this) that for Valentine’s Day I would receive something. We were far apart, we couldn’t do anything for it together so the obvious thing was for me to receive something. I didn’t get anything. I remember how I felt. And speaking to my father and from his advice I felt that my needs were not valid. He didn’t see the gifts as important - note, his love language is not gifts!
So back to Australia and Valentine’s day. I was upset on the phone to my father that my then boyfriend hadn’t sent me anything. My father was telling me that these things aren’t important and I should consider whether I should be staying in Australia if I wanted to make a go of things with my then boyfriend, now husband.
So I always thought in some way that it wasn’t safe to receive. That if I received I needed to give back. That receiving didn’t matter and I was just high maintenance. That it was uncomfortable for other people to give, so don’t put them in that situation.
I also realised that’s why in my relationships I had always gravitated to people who were not good at giving - because I did not feel worthy to receive. You see, our unconscious mind and perception of ourselves, if it stays unconscious will direct us to repeating those patterns that we are stuck in and that we continue to repeat them. I talk about trauma patterns here and also being the chooser instead of being chosen.
So in January I realised I was not ready to receive. Because I was not ready yet to feel love for myself. I had guilt and shame around receiving because I don’t feel worthy and deserving of receiving love.
So how to move forward with this information? Well I love the Eastern philosophy of Classical Tantra and I casually follow the principles in my day-to-day life. One of the principles being that you are whole and perfect as you are. All of your struggles, your pain… all of it is welcome. All of it is beautiful. You are beautiful. You are in oneness with everything. That there is no such thing as separation. Separation is an illusion of the human experience so that the universe can experience itself. You are the universe.
So I return to my sense of wholeness.
That I am complete as I am.
As suggested by Christopher Wallis in his book Tantra Illuminated, I created a mantra for myself which is on my wall.
“Divine intelligence wants me to receive love and abundance. I am worthy and deserving of receiving the love and abundance that the universe is sending to me. My heart is open to receiving it all.”
I read this mantra to myself everyday and tune into how I feel when I read it out loud. Does my body fully receive the message or is there still resistance there?
What I’m noticing on my non-monogamous journey that there are frequently situations which challenge how well that this mantra is embodied. If I meet a guy who adores me and I feel discomfort, I need to check in with myself - is this because I don’t feel worthy of feeling the adoration or is this just not going to work anyway for completely different reasons?
I notice the shame, embarrassment and fear that comes up from opening my heart wide and hold myself in that with loving acceptance.
I hold those parts of me that still don’t feel worthy. I don’t rush to change them - I am perfect and whole and beautiful exactly how I am.
As I sign off I want you to know the following:
You are a work of art.
You are perfect as you are.
You are beautiful.
Sending love to you.
Hoping this song touches your soul as it did mine. (I came across this back in January around the time of this discovery - enjoy!)
From my heart to yours.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other articles which are supportive around this topic are: