How can you feel and be loved when the world is saying you shouldn’t?

By being brave.

By hearing things the world seems to be saying, and rejecting them if they harm you.

Do you want to know a secret? ‘The world’ isn’t really saying anything. Instead, we’re fixating on things that bring us down because we’re unhappy with who we are. It feels easier to blame ‘the world’, rather than acknowledge that what we’re hearing isn’t common, and that it’s the relationship we have with ourselves that we’re layering over what we hear.

I’m not suggesting you’re making it up. There are plenty of erosive messages out there, and many of them are prominent and confronting, especially for women. Our challenge isn’t to cope with them, it’s to exercise judgement and be careful with what we subject ourselves to.

Our challenge is to be kind to ourselves.

If we’re kind to ourselves, we try to get out of this habit we have of listening to the worst and telling ourselves that’s how it is. We journey knowingly towards our potential instead of wallowing in what’s holding us back. We work out our preferred version of ourselves and we have zero tolerance for anything that hinders our progression. We get smart, we get capable, and we step boldly into the future we desire.

And if all that seems like a bit of a challenge, like too much hard work, let’s not forget that fuel for our journey isn’t just found in our bravery and determination, it’s found in the love and acceptance of other people. You see, the reason ‘the world’ isn’t actually saying anything, is that within the world, with all its influence and subtle grooming towards self-judgement by comparison to others, and consumerism and materialism and all that other nonsense, exists love and acceptance and peace beyond anything we’re told is available to us.

That love doesn’t come with a price tag, it’s simply there to embrace, the same way we’ve become accustomed to embrace things that get us down. It’s found in each other. In the feeling we get when we compliment somebody and bask in their smile; in an extended hug; in averting our gaze from the mirror to the night sky. In remembering the kinder comments instead of the nasty ones. What’s possible for us is already there and it’s free.

How can you feel loved? By recognising that you already are.

They won’t tell you this. They’ll groom you to think love needs to be bought, or you can only get it if you wear this, or say that, or conform to the other. That’s not true. You’re already loved for who you are. You, with all your worries and fears and self-doubt. You’re loved beyond measure, and feeling it requires just a slight adjustment of what to look for, and what to be open to feel.

Send somebody a letter and tell them what they mean to you. Hold somebody close – family or friend – and let them know you’re grateful for them. Do this and more, and experience the magic. See what changes. I know it sounds cheesy, but give it a go and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.

Love is just behind that veil so many of us wear.

How to love?

This is such an important question, because the answer simultaneously provides solutions to many other related traumas. How can I feel like I’m worthwhile? Where is my sense of happiness/fulfilment? What can I do to make a difference? All of these are wrapped up in this question, but here are the main two related enquiries:

How can I feel loved? / How can I live in a better world?

The reason these questions are wrapped up in one another is because of the way many of them are by-products of a choice of attitude. They’re what happens when we choose to give. A better world is a result of activity; being loved results from loving. Each of us are the starting point to a brighter future, through our choice of attitude and the way we react, specifically to the shit that inevitably gets thrown at us.

So, how do we love? How can we conquer our proclivity to judge and compare ourselves and others? How can we overcome our sense of selfishness and entitlement? How can we foster a better commitment to others, to see them through as we’d like them to do for us?

All good answers lie in a full appreciation of the question. Break it down – what do you actually mean by ‘love’? Why is that not happening for you, assuming it’s not? What steps could you take to change that?

For me? The answer lies in stepping out of my immediacy; in recognising that my little microcosm of existence can easily start to serve itself, to the benefit of nobody. What would I like this Christmas – the latest iPhone or to see my best friend smile and laugh, creating memories that last longer than Apple’s product cycle? You could have both, the question is your focus. There can be a material readjustment to make. Love can be sacrificial, but generosity reaps rewards.

There’s also a psychological adjustment happening for most of us. We’re conditioned to believe that love is what happens to other people. It’s what we go to the cinema to watch. It’s what we daydream about. It’s what we see on our Facebook feed. We share twee pictures on Tumblr to let everybody else know what’s out of our reach. So close, but not for us.

But love is out there. And once we’ve abandoned our material entitlement of life, we’re free to embrace a wider, more caring, giving and forgiving narrative, where love doesn’t depend on recognition of our image or possessions, but on what we do for each other. Start by thinking of what you like about people around you, and let them know. If you don’t do it often, you’ll get a strange look back, but be consistent and see what happens. Eventually you’ll receive a smile, a hug, or a compliment, and then a closer bond and a stronger friendship. Cynicism can go fuck itself.

How to love? By recognising that love isn’t just possible, it’s within our reach.

What type of person are you looking for in a relationship?

In my ideal relationship, there’d be a synergy; a coming together of energies that would combine in the most perfectly wonderful and compatible way. That’s to say, I’m not looking for somebody in order to tick a box, or for personal gain. I’m hoping to give as much as get, knowing that my partner will be of like mind, and that together we match through an implicit understanding, and a spilling over of self-interest. Me becomes we, and our affection manifests in a merger of identity, not via co-dependency, but through a deep and profound sense of love, and a spirit of giving, caring and protection.

Would you like specifics?

My love and I would leave each other treats, to be found through riddles in post-it notes placed randomly around our home. We’d wake to find the other’s fingers softly running through the other’s hair, waking them with a smile that says ‘I love you more today than I ever have’. When one of us needs space that’s totally cool – the other understands and respects our time alone, but they rarely leave our thoughts.

We’ll marathon through Orange Is The New Black, stopping only to order more pizza. We’ll pour over maps of the world and plan adventures or simply dream together of a life out of reach. We communicate through a squeeze of a hand or a kiss on the forehead, and we both know exactly what that means.

We’ll dance together, to our favourite music, turned up to maximum. We’ll drink, knowing no matter how much we embarrass ourselves, we’re loved. We’ll fuck for hours, and often, giving and receiving in ways in which we lose ourselves to orgasm after orgasm, whether it’s sweet and tender or rough and primal.

When life deals us blows, we’ll be there for each other unconditionally. When life deals us triumphs, we’ll revel in each other’s success. We’ll talk about cats, and babies; about raising a family together, and inside we’ll both hope for our unborn that they have a parent as amazing as this.

There’s no point at which things get so difficult we’re no longer prepared to sacrifice for each other; this is it for us – pure commitment. And if the time should come that our paths go in different directions, we’ll kiss through our tears and always be thankful for what we’ve meant to each other.

I’m a single man. I haven’t yet found my love, and I’ve not spent a great deal of time trying. But as I write these words, there’s a certain ache in my heart, and my bed looks empty. Who knows what the future might bring, for us all.