Not easy to understand, nor admit for many, virtually all of us believe that we have to earn the love of others. Manifesting itself in many ways (topics for other blogs), the question becomes, how did this happen? What during our development created this in us? Read on. You may be surprised.

Think Back to Your Childhood

Think back to your childhood. If it was like mine, when you behaved or performed well, you received praise and basked in the excitement of your parents, family members, teachers, coaches, and friends. If you misbehaved or performed badly, it’s likely the reactions were much less pleasant. Perhaps you were scolded or corrected. Even harder, perhaps you felt ignored or set aside while others basked in the glory.

Most of us knew growing up that our parents loved us no matter what. But that didn’t change the fact that we wanted them to respond to us with praise, excitement, and pride, and it hurt when they didn’t.

For me, it started when I was young. I struggled academically, reading on a second-grade level in the fifth grade. I was tutored in reading for many years. My brother, one year younger, was/is very bright. My parents used to joke that he talked before he walked. He got all the praise and attention for his performance in the classroom. I didn’t.

The opposite and more positive occurred for me as well. Playing an impactful role on a championship football team my senior year of high school, I felt incredibly loved, with my personal and our team success celebrated by many.

How It Gets Reinforced

For most of us, the deep-seated belief that love is conditional or “earned” gets reinforced at a young age based on how we perform, whether we succeed or fail. The way people respond to us plays a big role in determining our self-worth. When we do well and our success is celebrated, we feel loved. When we fall short and are possibly criticized, we don’t feel loved or accepted. All of this contributes to our belief that we have to “earn” love.

It’s important to note that not all criticism is bad — in fact, constructive criticism can be incredibly life-giving when done right. Sometimes failure brings on destructive criticism though, which is never helpful or good, especially if it is derogatory towards the recipient. And although there are times when things are better left unsaid, silence as a response to our failure or poor performance can really hurt. Young people especially sense disappointment, and it’s often made even worse when nothing is said.

You Feel You Need to Prove Yourself

Regardless of the details of your particular experience, chances are you feel a need to prove yourself on some level. Almost all of us believe that we have to earn love, that it isn’t given unconditionally. We learn this from a young age and we take this belief into our adult lives. Striving to be loved, to be accepted, we learn to chase success, which everyone defines in a different way. Achieving success, regardless of the endeavor, makes us feel loved, accepted, and respected. We feel important and validated. And because we like those feelings, we keep pursuing more success.

Success Isn’t a Bad Thing

I’m not arguing that success is a bad thing, but I would suggest that understanding our drive for it is important. The purpose of Mark Joseph Ministries is to share with people how to go from being overwhelmed to fulfilled and further to determine how they (you) are MADE FOR GREATNESS!!! Believe it or not, that journey begins with you understanding that you are a person worthy of love precisely because you exist, not based on what you achieve. Although you’ve been conditioned for it, you don’t need to “earn” love.  

Look forward to sharing more, including my upcoming book, Overwhelming Pursuit: Stop Chasing Your Life and Live. Check out my website for additional information and resources.

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May God Bless you on your journey to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph