Every soul on earth seeks love and acceptance and belonging.

When we’re looking for validation outside of ourselves, it may be because we feel like we are not enough, or we are too much, or we have to work hard to be loved, or we are not lovable. When we struggle to believe in our worthiness, we hustle for it, to justify our existence.

We might try to manage others’ perceptions of us, but the reality is we have no control over what others are thinking. And, in truth, the only validation we need is from ourselves. We project our insecure energy outside of ourselves. We twist and morph ourselves into who we think and perceive someone else wants us to be so that they will love “us”, but it’s not us they are loving, it’s the version of us we are projecting.

That is not authentic, and will never make us feel worthy.

Even if they love that projected version, we still don’t feel loved because deep inside we know we are not being authentically ourselves. We know that they are not truly loving US, because we do not allow them to see our authentic self. We fear that if they saw who we truly are they would not love us, so we keep walls up.

But by doing so, we also wall ourselves off from truly being seen, accepted, and loved for who we innately are, and connecting on a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual level with someone who is open to sharing with us in those ways too.

How much we miss.

We are built and wired for love and connection and to seek emotional availability. We are also built and wired for survival. These two truths go hand in hand. In an ideal environment, we enter the world seeking safety and comfort and we are met with consistent protection and nurturing and sustenance. We grow into securely attached adolescents, teens, and young adults. We then make choices and decisions based on solid self-love, confidence, and the guidance of wise mentors in our lives.

I think we can all agree: This is not always the case.

Life gets messy. Families get dysfunctional. We experience traumas, whether they are BIG or little—they inform the stories and beliefs we hold true… even if they aren’t true. We develop self-sabotaging coping mechanisms to run away from, mask, avoid, dull, and suppress any feeling or emotion that brings us discomfort or pain. Or we anxiously act out trying to grasp at whatever “love” attention we can get.

Brené Brown says in Gifts of Imperfection, that owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. Knowing and understanding ourselves is critically important, but, she says, what’s even more essential to living a wholehearted life is loving ourselves. Courage (which requires letting go of what other people think), compassion (including being willing to say no and setting healthy boundaries), and connection (especially self-acceptance) only work when they are exercised every day. They are the tools for developing worthiness. While owning our story and embracing our vulnerabilities is hard, it’s not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it, and as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy.

Love is our Birthright. Give it to yourself. Receive it. Give it to those you care about. It’s in all of us, we are connected by it, and LOVE is how we survive and thrive. You can learn to stand in unshakable confidence in the basic goodness of who you are, and that you are enough, you are lovable, and you deserve love.

That it is the inexorable birthright of all human beings.