But you can teach them how to treat you right.
Not everybody knows what it's like to feel valued by other people. As unfair as it may be, there are people in this world who will spend their entire lives battling loneliness simply because they've never found their tribe.
For a better half of my life, I was fixated on how unfair it is that some people are born into healthy and loving families while others are not. Some people have an easier time making friends and enjoying relationships all because they were taught how to do those things when they were young.
As a result, the lucky people may not even question whether or not they are lovable. They just know they are. And because they have a built-in circle of support, they may not ever even feel devalued or exploited.
Healthy families make you lucky.
In many ways, I have had a hard life and it used to make me wonder what it must be like to never feel completely alone because you always had a stable family to lean on.
There was a time when all of these thoughts used to make me mad. I didn't want people to judge me for being too awkward or lacking social graces. Shouldn't I get to wear some sort of name badge to alert people that I’m Aspie and healing from a lifetime abuse?
Obviously, that's a rhetorical question because I already knew there's nothing we get to wear or hold onto that can convince a stranger to give us a break. That's not how the world works.
So... what then?
Are people like me supposed to just resign ourselves to feeling unloved and undervalued by others?
Hear me out on this one.
You can't make anybody love you. You can't even make them value you. If you come from a toxic family, you definitely can't fix that on your own.
Sometimes, depending upon your circumstances, you can't even go out and find new people to replace your family. Some folks find those connections more easily than others, but the whole surrogate family fantasy that so many lonely or orphaned people have remains a fantasy.
Life is not a Disney fairytale or a feel-good movie.
The tragic awkward people are not all going to magically find their tribe. At least, not anytime soon. Trust me, I know.
The hardest thing to learn as somebody who wasn't born into a supportive environment is that nobody else can heal that broken part of you that fears you might really be unlovable.
It feels wholly unfair to add one more thing to your emotional to-do list when it's not your fault that you didn't get what you need. Sometimes, that's just freaking hard to hear.
But it's true because happiness is an inside job. No matter how much we think that somebody else could save us and make us believe we matter, that's not what we need.
What we really need is to learn how to get through the pain of feeling undervalued by others. And then we need to learn how to value ourselves.
In this way, I think the broken or awkward people like myself are lucky. Like, weirdly lucky. We get to teach ourselves to find our value without a built-in support system cheering us on.
If that doesn't take some kick-ass grit, I don't know what does.
You can't make people love you.
When you grow up in a dysfunctional family, you naturally spend a lot of time and energy trying to make other people care. Maybe it's guys who just want to get off. Or maybe it's mean girls who want to use you in school for better grades.
Sometimes it's even your own negative family members who have already made it clear they don't value you.
It doesn't actually matter who you're trying to convince that you're lovable. What it means is that you're shooting yourself in the foot just hoping to be appreciated.
You develop a reflex of saying yes when you should say no.
You teach people how to treat you.
I used to think this was one of the most annoying statements in the world. It's the last thing anyone wants to hear when they're sick of other people treating them like crap.
But it's true. Sadly, painfully, and bitterly true.
Dysfunctional kids don't learn how to be assertive at home. We don't learn how to expect respect or know our own value from an early age.
Naturally, we go looking for our own worth in other people and we wind up telling them to use and abuse us. Just not in so many words.
But treat us like garbage and we'll come back for more. In fact, we often think that's supposed to endear us to whomever we want love from.
In essence, we teach people to treat us like dirt and they never worry about losing our favor.
And then we wonder why nobody values us even though we pretty much break our backs trying to please them.
I know it sucks. None of this is fun to learn or live through. But when you do live through it, and when you actually learn from these experiences, you end up so much stronger.
You CAN teach people how to treat you well.
But you have to value yourself first. Basically, you teach people to treat you right when you put up boundaries and quit taking their crap.
The good news is that you have the power to stop taking their crap. You've got the power to say yes or no and you decide when to walk away.
The bad news is that finally understanding your worth and deciding to demand better treatment can be pretty lonely. The people who've gotten used to treating you like junk probably won't like it.
They might call you a jerk. Let them. You might even take it as a compliment because having those folks call you names means you're no longer their doormat.
That's pretty cool, right?
As much as it sucks to grow up without the support that you need, you can use what feels a lot like a disadvantage to gain an emotional edge. You can become more self-aware. It isn't easy and it takes time, but it's entirely worth it.