I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than real, unconditional love. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
It doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person in the world or the poorest. It doesn’t matter if you’ve devoted your life to serving the poor or if you’re in prison at San Quentin for murder. Unless someone has brain damage or has specific types of mental illnesses, we all have the same fear.
All of us? No, Sharon, not the same fear. Sometimes I’m afraid of being judged and other times of failing and once in a while I’m afraid I’ll look stupid, but most of the time, I worry I’ll screw up or hurt someone.
And yes, those are all fears, but all those fears lead to the same place. What happens if you’re judged? or you fail? or you look stupid? Well, then you might not be worthy of love– and that’s your deepest fear.
You’re afraid that you’re not enough, and if you’re not enough you won’t be loved.
We all have the same fear, because all humans experience the same event. At some point in our lives, we all experience the word, “No”. Suddenly, something we’ve done is wrong, and our child brains hear two other words following that no. While those words aren’t said, we hear them. We hear, “or else”. “No, or else” and because our very lives depend upon the love and goodwill of our parents, our deepest fear is born: “If I’m not worthy of love, I might be abandoned and I could die.” It doesn’t matter how great our parents were. This fear is born inside every person because of our long dependency upon our parents for our well-being.
This fear will never go away. There is no amount of self-help work you can do to make it disappear. But you can stop being driven by this fear. You can stop reacting to it in ways that are damaging to you and to your relationships. The secret is to dance with it. When you start to feel afraid or inadequate or not capable or you think, “I might look stupid, I might screw up”, it’s time to dance with your fear. It’s time to say, “Hey, there, fear. You’re right, I know we might look stupid. But this will be interesting. This is an experiment. I wonder how it’s going to turn out?” Or some other words that work for you.
You’re deepest fear is not being worthy of love, but it’s not true. You are worthy of love. You are funny and interesting and kind and helpful and loyal and…. There are a hundred reasons why you are worthy of love, and you keep getting better. You can be even funnier, more interesting, more kind, more helpful, more loyal, etc. By accepting that while you can’t be and aren’t expected to perfect, you’re a magnificent work in progress, you can give yourself the unconditional love you need to dance with your fear instead of being driven by it.
Just as important as understanding that this fear influences you is understanding that everyone else experiences this same exact fear, too. Everyone has developed their own coping mechanism to address that fear. Some will feel they are worthy of love if they are successful, so they excel in school or work all the time or try to make a lot of money. Some feel that when they are funny, people will love them, so they’re always cracking jokes. Some have discovered that if they have a big problem, they can get others to care about them. Some become people pleasers because then they think others will have to love them because they are so nice. Some use anger or controlling behavior to prevent people from leaving and taking love away. Some drink or use drugs so they don’t feel the pain of not being loved.
Now that you know this fear exists inside everyone one, you can give them compassion and understanding.