Filling the empty bucket

When you’re in need of constant need of affection and appreciation, no one can fill that need but you.

Our elder offers his thoughts on how to draw from within.

Dear EWC:

Hi, I don’t know if somebody could really notice this. I am such a clingy person. It’s like I need constant reassurance. I need someone to tell me that everything’s gonna be fine. I’m at war with myself on a daily basis. I’m trying not to be over-controlling and always try to calm and tell myself it’s going to be okay. He’ll message or call in his free time.

It all started when my ex-boyfriend cheated and lied to me before, since then I have always carried the fear of being abandoned or they might find someone else more interesting than me? Something like that. I don’t wanna be possessive, controlling and all with my boyfriend. I just need to stop this need of attention, affection, and amount of time within me. But I don’t know when or how to start.

Grandpa-Matt replies:

If you have a bucket that you need to fill with water, and it has a hole in the bottom, could you ever get enough to fill that bucket satisfactorily? The obvious answer is no. What we humans want is appreciation, attention, approval, caring, hugs, and the like, all symbols of the loving that we crave.

I assume when you first came on the planet as a baby, you showed up with beautiful qualities of the heart. We, as youngsters, were trusting, loving and lovable, worthy, creative, curious, eager to learn, always living in the moment, accepting, precious, and exciting, etc.

You had, and still have, all the qualities that we look upon as valuable in life. But what happened to us where we can’t recognize or believe all the good stuff about us? We probably bought the judgments and opinions of parents, teachers, siblings, neighbors, etc. which shape our image of ourselves. An opinion is something we make up. Mostly what we think of ourselves is a collection of what other people make up about us that we have accepted.
I feel that the most damaging kind of judgment we deal with is self-judgment, where we tend to condemn ourselves as unworthy or unacceptable for who we ARE as human beings, for whatever thoughts or behavior in which we have engaged. We all have a longing to belong, and we fear being seen critically. We’re anxious about the prospect of being cut off, looking foolish, or isolated. We may be afraid that rejection confirms our worst fear that we’re unlovable, or that we have little worth or value.

As compensation for this fear, you adopted behaviors to seek reassurance that show up externally as (in your words) possessive, clinging, and controlling. The loving that you request from others is unsatisfying because it is a substitute for your self-love and appreciation. Metaphorically, you cannot fill that hole in the bucket by anyone outside yourself. Until you start loving yourself for who you are, it is not possible to replace self-appreciation with love, admiration, or acknowledgment from others.

Loving and accepting yourself, warts and all, is your obligation. You need no one’s permission to recognize and value yourself. What happened in the past is over. The damage continues until you accept that you are OK as a human being worthy of love and appreciation.
You are unique and relevant! The truth is that there is no one exactly like you. That is a blessing! Virginia Satir, an American author, and therapist wrote a piece, “I Am Me,” which I encourage you to read. I am me and I am okay.


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