What No One Ever Told You About How to Live a Loveable Life

life

Photo Credit: Bigstock (StanciuC)

Several weeks ago, at Artisan Clinical Associates, the sliding door that separates the waiting room from the therapy rooms fell apart. Literally. By the time we gave up on fixing it, the white door was covered in black, greasy handprints, and it hung open and askew at an awkward angle. Defeated, I printed out a sign.

Out of Order.

It looked a little tacky but, to tell you the truth, I think the sign was just right for a therapy office. Not because our clients are out of order, as in broken and broken down. But because our clients—and our therapists and all human beings for that matter—try to live life out of order, as in out of sequence.

What I mean is, our lives revolve around the search for three core human experiences: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. And we seek them for good reason, because when we don’t experience our worthiness we feel ashamed, when we don’t experience belonging we feel lonely, and when we fail to experience a purpose we feel meaningless. The problem is, at some point, most of us begin to seek these experiences of worthiness, belonging, and purpose out of order.

Worthiness, belonging, and purpose can only be truly experienced in that order.

In other words, you can’t experience true belonging until you have first embraced your fundamental worthiness, because only by trusting your worthiness can you truly, bravely reveal yourself to your people and receive the love they give you in return. And when the people you belong to support your passion for doing something authentic in the world, no matter how ordinary it may seem, your purpose comes into clearer focus.

Yet, most of us try to give love and get love and live a lovely life before we embrace that we are fundamentally loveable and, in doing so, we accidentally sabotage our search for belonging and purpose.

Worthiness. Then belonging. Then purpose.

This is a psychologically and spiritually sound way to progress through life.

My new book, Loveable, is an exploration of this core insight that guides all of my therapy and all of my life. Of course, it can’t be unpacked completely in the space of a blog post—you need a book for that. (See what I did there?) But, here, we can look at a small slice of this progression.

A small slice that starts with my shame and ends with my pillow…

On Tuesday nights, I arrive home late after two long days at my office—the office with the broken door and black handprints. When I arrive, my wife is usually asleep and my daughter Caitlin is asleep in our bed next to her. So, I pick up Caitlin carry her to her bedroom. Some nights, I appreciate this tender moment for what it is.

Other nights, though, it makes me feel lonely.

After all, here I am, getting home after two long days at work, and no one is thinking of me. All I want to do is fall into bed, but I have to do more work—I have to carry Caitlin to her bed, retrieve her pillow and teddy bear from my bed, take those to her room, tuck her in, and I have to do it all without waking her up permanently. Then, I have to go back to my room, find my own pillow somewhere in the cold and dark, and get myself into bed. I feel like I’m all alone in the world.

However, for months, I never noticed my pillow was always in the same spot.

Then, a little while back, in the middle of an ordinary day, I dropped something on the floor and bent over to pick it up. Which is when Caitlin said, “I know your back hurts when you bend over. That’s why I always put your pillow up on your dresser where you can reach it.” Every week, my pillow was in the same spot. Every week, my daughter had been caring for me in ways I’d been unable to see, even though she put her love right where I could see it—at eye level.

Why do we first have to love ourselves before we can be truly loved by others? In part, it is because we are the gatekeepers of our heart. If we do not feel worthy of being loved, we will not allow ourselves to receive the grace that others want to give to us. When we feel ashamed, we’re blind to the love and the pillows right in front of us.

We can’t start feeling unlonely until we stop feeling unworthy. 

These days, when a client tells me they feel lonely, instead of going to work on their relationships right away, I ask, “Do you love yourself? Do you know you’re unconditionally worthy?” First things first.

Most of us have an Out of Order sign hanging on our life.

It’s time to take it down.

You are loveable.

It’s time to embrace your truest, worthiest self, 

so you can truly embrace your life. 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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P.S. My new book Loveable is available for pre-order and, for a limited time, when you order Loveable, you will get a free bonus—The Year of Listening, Loving, and Living—a second full-length book I’ve written as a practical companion to Loveable. You can click here to find out more.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Disclaimer: Kelly's writings represent a combination of his own personal opinions and his professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with him via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Kelly does not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accepts no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • JC

    Ugh…stop making me feel stuff today. I was so ready to be pathetic and lonely on the inside today. I even tried to roll my eyes as I read through all the book plugs, as if putting you down a little would help me justify my crumminess. Then you go and say words that make me reflect and consider what is good and okay about my life. Anyway, I won’t be so crummy today because of your words. Thanks.

    • SJ

      Love your post. A sense of humor can go a long way. Have a less-“crummy” day!

      • I second this enthusiastically! JC, the self-effacing humor you bring to this is lovely in and of itself. By the way, next week’s post has zero book plugs. 😉

  • Judith Lawrance

    I always appreciate your weekly writing and find it helpful in “figuring things out” about myself, and hoping to be a better more loveable person. I do have a question…
    I pre- ordered your book quite some time ago–before the free second book was offered as a bonus. Will that book come with my order of Loveable?
    Thanks for all your efforts to help us!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Judith, and thanks for pre-ordering the book! And yes, this is a great question that I’m sure others have as well. If you have already pre-ordered the book, you can go to the book page at http://loveablethebook.com and, in Step 2, enter your invoice number and email. You’ll get the intro to the bonus book today and then the whole book on release day, March 21!

  • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

    You always find a way to start my Wednesday beautifully. And I’m so glad your youngling found a way to help you realize your Tuesdays actually end pretty beautifully, too.

    • Your words always make my Wednesday more beautiful, too, Shel. Thank you.

  • kate bean

    lovely reminder of ‘First Things First’, a helpful motto from the 12 step healing i’ve received. Also reminds me of Cesar Milan’s simple dog mantra for out-of-order dog owners: Exercise>>>Discipline>>>>Affection.

    • Kate, there is so much deep wisdom in the 12 step tradition; I’m glad this resonates with it and your experience!

  • Tiphaine

    Most of your posts leave me puzzled. You are sending me on places I am really not comfortable to look at. This one is a very painful one.

    • Tiphaine, it takes great courage to listen to words that are challenging and transforming. I have a feeling you are already stronger than you imagine. Thank you for reading.

  • I would love to think that I’m not the only one who reads this and starts with “oh, I know someone in my life who NEEDS to read this”…Oh dear. This is for ME, isn’t it? I need to remember what you said..that it’s “time to remember”. Task one: go back and re-read this post for ME. Thanks Kelly. (:

    • Donna, that’s one of my favorite, subtle, apparently altruistic defense mechanisms, too! To think about who else needs to read it. It does not surprise me that you caught yourself in the act, though; I admire your dedication to growing at any cost!

  • Anonymous

    Lovely post, thank you!
    Since life is also a journey of constantly progressing in every area and along every dimension, might we also say that it isn’t a strictly linear sequence but rather one where purpose builds on belonging which builds on worthiness? In other words, I advance in all three areas all the time, but I can only go as far in one area as its “prerequisite” allows. Seems more organic somehow…
    Blessings all

    • Well said! You’re on to me. 🙂 I mentioned on Facebook Live today that a central theme of the book is the cyclicality of this progress in life. Also present is the idea that it can sometimes feel like we’re going through all three phases at once, but an encouragement to focus our energies on a particular phase and then watching it bear fruit for the next. Not a science, for sure, thanks for this additional nuance!

  • Dana

    Aha–since my husband’s death four weeks ago, I’m starting over in belonging and purpose. Maybe even in worth, too. Thanks for this lens

    • Oh, Dana, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I’m glad this lens might orient you during such a terribly painful and disorienting time.

  • Carrie Smith

    This is beautiful! Thank you for another great post. I’m excited to dig into my Street Team copy of Lovable!

    • Thank you for joining the Street Team, Carrie, I’ll look forward to hearing your reaction to the book!