Do We Deserve Love?
By Z Zoccolante
In some strange little Saturday night vortex of my college life, I remember chillin’ alone in my dorm room, playing Bjork on repeat, and getting utterly lost in the lyrics:
You’ll be given love
You’ll be taken care of
You’ll be given love
You have to trust it
(Björk – All is Full of Love (Official Music Video)
It felt like I was locked in meditative trance, like a hula-hoop circling down a vacant street. There was no thought of a boy, or girl, no heartbreak, no traumatic sorrow. It felt as though I was sensing the connection between all things.
Society tells us that love is a thing of fairytales, of meet-cutes, and happily ever afters. These fairytales sound more like trauma bonding than love. Love songs give us messages that we don’t exist until someone loves us.
Romantic love is only one kind of love but it’s the one our culture tends to focus on.
I can’t stop thinking of a conversation I had with a friend. In conversation they said that no one deserves love, it was earned, and that it was a privilege to be loved.
Even though I completely disagreed about deserving love I think that being loved is a privilege, or in my wording – a gift.
Still, this conversation rattled around in my head and got under my skin in a way I didn’t like. So love has been on my brain while driving on the 405.
So I began my self-questioning, talking to myself with the windows up. “Do we deserve love?” My answer is yes, but their answer was no, so where’s the disconnect?
A lot of people talk about entitlement – a “belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.”
Deserve – to “do something or have or show qualities worthy of (reward or punishment)”
So are we entitled to love?
Do we deserve love?
Do we have to do something or be a certain way to get love?
This is where so many of us get stuck. We think that we have to do something to show that we are worthy of love. At the height of my eating disorder, I used to write in my journal a phrase I thought was poetic but now makes me a sad. I used to write,
“Let me earn my wings.”
I used to think that I had to earn my way into favor, into being good, into doing things to prove that I was worth something.
I no longer subscribe to this mindset because it’s based on us being unworthy as is.
Babies, I thought!
Would we ever tell a baby that they don’t deserve love? Would we ever tell a baby that they need to do something in order to earn our love for them?
Oh, I’m sorry little Billy, you cried a lot today so I don’t think you deserve my love right now.
No person would agree that baby Billy needs to earn our love in order for us to love and take care of him. We take care of him and love him simply because he is a baby.
Animals, I thought!
The night I came home and my dog had dug a hole to China through my mattress, I didn’t throw her out, like, “Sorry Vega, we had a good little run here but you’re a bad dog and you’re no longer deserving of my love for you.”
Plants, I thought!
Does a plant deserve water? Sure. But why? It’s just a plant.
The common denominator here is that in all of these things they are worthy of love simply because they exist.
People are worthy of love simply because they exist.
Love is enduring. We don’t have to like someone’s behavior to love them. That would have been terrible if I had to walk on eggshells with my mom or dad thinking that if I didn’t take the trash out or got a bad grade they would take their love away.
When my ex and I used to fight it was very clear that I didn’t like him sometimes, but I still loved him. Because love isn’t something based on behavior. It isn’t something that we measure and scale and deem someone lovable or not and put a big sticker on them that says, “Damaged goods, unlovable.”
And here’s the cool part. You don’t have to choose to love everyone. We can respect someone’s humanity and not like them. We can large-scale extend love and not like them.
In romantic relationships, love is not something to be earned because we are all worthy of it. But being loved by someone is a gift that they give us. Yes, it is a privilege to be loved. And yes, you can love someone and choose to walk away from the relationship.
With many of us, love in our childhoods had to do with expectations or invisible strings. Many of my friends were told audibly, or with unspoken messages, that if they didn’t behave in certain ways they wouldn’t be loved. Some of my friends describe situations in which if they did something their caretakers didn’t like their love was pulled away. This is heart-wrenching for little kids because what we all share in common is the human experience of wanting to be loved and to love.
So for everyone out there, how was love shown in your childhood? Were you made to feel as though it was something that you had to earn? that you didn’t deserve?
What if all that could change right now? What if you could believe that you are worthy of love simply because you exist and those who choose to love you are gifting you with that love that is all around.
Those who love you are taking from that stream of love, that exists all around us, and choosing to water you.
We’ll be given love. We’ll be taken care of. Maybe not from the sources that we’ve poured our hearts into. But love is all around us. And we don’t have to do anything to earn it. We are love and it’s a precious gift when we lavish that love onto someone else.
Thanks to all those who love me, who show up in my life, support me, make me laugh, get me caught up on the 405, have me staring at the stars and wandering through memory.
And today as I lie in the grass, and watch it dance in the wind, I know deep in my bones that love is all around.