Need to be loved psychology

The Need to Love | Psychology Today

All of us have an intense desire to be loved and nurtured. The need to be loved, as experiments by Bowlby and others have shown, could be considered one of our most basic and fundamental needs. One of the forms that this need takes is contact comfort—the desire to be held and touched. Findings show that babies who are deprived contact comfort, particularly during the first six months after they are born, grow up to be psychologically damaged.

Given the importance of the need to be loved, it isn’t surprising that most of us believe that a significant determinant of our happiness is whether we feel loved and cared for. In the surveys that I have conducted, people rate “having healthy relationships” as one of their top goals—on par with the goal of “leading a happy and fulfilling life.”

In our pursuit of the need to be loved, however, most of us fail to recognize that we have a parallel need: the need to love and care for others. This desire, it turns out, is just as strong as the need to be loved and nurtured. It is the desire to love and take care of others that underlies the phenomenon of “cute aggression.” Cute aggression refers to the tendency to pinch, hug, or otherwise express love for others—particularly cute babies, kittens or puppies—in ways that mildly hurt or cause discomfort to the object of our affection.

We know that the desire to love and care for others is a hard-wired and deep-seated because the fulfillment of this desire enhances our happiness levels. Expressing love or compassion for others benefits not just the recipient of affection, but also the person who delivers it.

And what’s more, it appears that even small acts of kindness generate just as much happiness as do lofty acts. In an interesting set of studies, participants were either given $5 or $20 as part of an experiment. Participants in both groups were then asked to either spend the money on themselves or on others. Those who spent the money on others, it turned out, grew happier than those who spent it on themselves. More interestingly, the amount of money spent on others didn’t make a difference to happiness levels: those who spent $5 derived just as much happiness as those who spent $20. Michael Norton, one of the study co-authors summarizes the deep-seated and universal nature of the need to love in his excellent TED talk.

If the need to love is hardwired and universal and is also a powerful determinant of happiness, why aren't many of us aware of it? Take the question: “What would make you most happy?” We do not answer with “serving others” or "showering love on someone." But rather with "money" or "being loved"?

Maybe the answer has to do with the messages we are routinely exposed to, from our care-takers and the media. These messages suggest that our happiness lies in being the recipient of others’ attention, love, and respect, rather than in being the donors of attention, love, and respect. For example, most of us are explicitly or implicitly told that happiness lies in achieving self-enhancing goals such as career success, wealth, fame, or power. The need to love and care for others, in contrast, is rarely emphasized, except perhaps in the arts.

What should a happiness maximizer do?

The happiness maximizer would be well advised to follow the Dalai Lama’s dictum: Be Selfish, Be Generous.

There are at least three reasons why those who practice generosity experience a boost in happiness levels. First, because people have an inherent propensity to be fair to others, recipients of generosity feel pressured to reciprocate it. Thus, when you are generous to others, you attract generous behaviors from them in return.

What goes around, comes around.

Second, in a phenomenon known as homophily, when you are generous, chances are, you will attract others who are similarly generous to you. And hanging out with generous and compassionate people is, for obvious reasons, more happiness-enhancing than hanging out with self-centered and materialistic people.

Finally, and this may be the most important reason why being generous enhances happiness levels, is because of the story you tell yourself. When you are generous, the story you tell yourself is that you have everything you need and more, which is why you can afford to be generous. In contrast, when you are miserly and greedy with your affection, the story you tell yourself is that you are a beggar who is dissatisfied with what you have and that you need more to be happy.

A well-kept secret to happiness, then, is to practice generosity. To derive a boost in happiness levels through generosity, however, it is not enough to recognize the link between the need to love and happiness; it is important to explicitly exhibit generosity—or “giftivism,” as Nipun Mehta calls it.

But how does one bring oneself to act in generous ways?

When I stress the importance of being generous to boost happiness levels with my students, most of them feel that they are not yet ready to be generous: they feel that they need to achieve greater wealth and success first before they can start being generous. An unspoken assumption underlying this way of thinking is that being generous requires significant resources. In reality, as the experiment with the $5 and $20 revealed, you can practice generosity with very little resources. In fact, being generous need not involve the expenditure of any resources.

For the final project in the class that I teach, I urge my students to think of a creative way in which they can bring joy and happiness to complete strangers. Students are charged with the task of finding simple and creative ways to spread joy to others. Some teams incurred relatively heavy expenses for this project, whereas others didn’t. For example, one of the teams bought and donated equipment to repair and construct houses—an act that involved the expenditure of significant resources. Another group, in contrast, simply wore goofy costumes and stood on street corners and jumped around while holding a "smiley" placard. Remarkably, both groups experienced an equal boost in happiness levels, suggesting that, from the standpoint of enhancing happiness levels, it is more important to act with the intention of being generous than it is to expend significant resources.

As echoed in Mother Teresa's famous quote, it is more important to do small things with great love than to do great things with little love.

If you are curious about the effect that the need to love can have on your happiness levels, why not play a "happiness prank" on someone? Consider leaving a box of chocolates outside your favorite (and unsuspecting) neighbors' door. Or pay for the person standing in line at the coffee shop.

Then, share your experiences of perpetrating a simple and random act of generosity with us.

The Harmful Myth About Needing to Be Loved

Source: g-stockstudio/Shutterstock

Of all the harmful myths we’re fed about dating and love, one of the most insidious is the belief that intense longing for love is a weakness—that we should be content whether single or coupled. For some of us, this may be true. For the rest of us, it's a debilitating falsehood.

In my opinion, longing for love is not weakness. It’s wisdom. Numbing our loneliness is a path to a despair that plagues our culture. We are not meant to be alone and self-sufficient. Without lives filled with love, we wither inside. Intimacy is oxygen. We don’t need to transcend our hunger for love; we need to learn to honor it.

In many ways, science backs this up. Eli Finkel, one of the most respected researchers in the field of relationships and attraction, states that the quality of your intimate relationship affects your happiness twice as much as your career, your friendships, or even your health: Simply holding a loved one’s hand lowers blood pressure and reduces pain.

The feeling of a deep, aching need for love has been given a bad rap. We’re taught that need is a cringe-worthy emotion, a source of shame. It’s important to remember that there's a distinction between need and neediness. Neediness comes from trying to suppress or transcend our authentic feelings of need. And that never works. In the end, our suppressed needs come out in a form that’s manipulative, punishing, or passive aggressive. The intense drive toward connection is a gift. It's a healthy and essential part of our humanity. When we suppress our needs, they fight back: Needs suppressed become neediness.

Or, perhaps worse, our needs get pushed down so far that we lose access to them, and we become isolated and disconnected from our humanity.

In my decades as a psychotherapist specializing in the wiser search for love, I’ve found that the people who most intensely long for intimacy are the ones most likely to find it. Love—both the finding of it and the sustaining of it–takes hard work. All of us, single or coupled, fall into patterns of complacency. It’s those of us who care most about connection who are willing to do that work. It's hard to break free from the gravity zone of comfortable avoidance and reach out for deeper intimacy. The more we long for connection, the more driven we are to find it.

For this reason, I invite my clients to see their longing as a gift, not a liability. It is those of us who experience the often-painful urgency of love who are willing to do the real work of intimacy.

It can be hard to dignify our needs, especially when we have felt ashamed of our "neediness" in the past. The answer often lies in a type of communication which takes time and practice to develop. Try this three-step process the next time you’re experiencing a sense of need in a relationship:

First and foremost, begin by accepting, and dignifying your sense of need. Try to validate it. Finish the following sentence for yourself: “It makes sense that I feel this need because…” For example, “It makes sense that I am feeling needy for affection and validation, because I really like this guy. We just saw our third movie together, and for the first time, we didn’t hold hands. Even after I took his hand, he seemed to find an excuse to pull away after just a few moments. So it makes sense that I’m feeling a need for validation.”

Second, without invalidating your experience and feelings, try to imagine the perspective of the person you’re with. For example, “He’s been pretty consistently affectionate with me, so I probably shouldn’t over-worry here. Now that I think of it, he also seemed kind of preoccupied during dinner. I wonder what might be going on with him."

Bringing compassion to both parties—always beginning by dignifying your own feelings of need, and then reflecting on the experience of your partner—creates an environment that’s much more likely to lead to deeper intimacy. When we begin by shaming ourselves for our needs, it almost always ends badly. And unfortunately, our cultural fixation with appearing cool and confident teaches us to feel ashamed of any deep feelings of need.

The third step evolves out of the first two. Once we’ve taken the first two steps, we reflect on how we’d like to act. This takes some reflection and it’s often immensely helpful to ask a friend for advice. Just be sure it’s a friend who won’t shame you for your “neediness.” This is a very personal step. For example, with ample reflection, one person might decide to say nothing and just wait to see how things progress. Another might ask a date if everything is OK, noting that he or she seemed preoccupied at dinner. For someone else, it might feel right to say that they noticed his or her date didn’t want to hold hands, and ask if everything was alright. The main point is that in each case, the person dignified instead of denigrated his or her needs, and spoke in a way that was kind.

Often, it’s the people who care the most deeply about connection who are most hurt when the sense of connection is damaged. These are often the people who most easily feel that something is wrong with them because they are so sensitive to the nuances of connection. In my experience, it is those very people who are often most capable of deep intimacy once they learn to dignify their sensitivity and their need for bonding.

Learning to honor your needs instead of suppressing them can lead to a richer, happier life. Those hard-work changes are at the heart of a life that's filled with love.

How to love yourself: 13 tips from psychologists

. Recommendations of psychologists and interesting facts

Updated October 25, 2022, 18:02


What is self-love and how does it differ from selfishness? Why is it important to learn to love yourself and what to do if it doesn't work out? We deal with psychologists.


  1. What is self-love
  2. Why it can be difficult to love yourself
  3. How to love yourself: advice from a psychologist
  4. Self-love and selfishness
  5. What to read

What is self-love


Self-love is a person's unconditional acceptance of himself. It implies understanding your needs and their implementation, the ability to take care of yourself, as well as a feeling of comfort in communicating with others.

When a person loves himself, he clearly knows what he likes, and feels respect for himself, regardless of external assessments or circumstances. He accepts himself in all his manifestations - positive and negative. Self-worth plays an important role here: a concept associated not with the degree of pride, but with a sense of one's own integrity and harmony within oneself. nine0003

Why loving yourself can be difficult


Lack of self-love can lead to problems in communication, interaction in society. Indeed, in this case, it becomes important for us what others think or say about us. As a result, self-esteem falls, and all this can lead to deep depression. That's why self-love is so important: before building relationships with other people, you need to learn to understand your own inner state. nine0003

It would seem that everything is quite simple: in order to change the quality of life for the better, we must accept ourselves and listen to our own desires. But in reality it turns out to be more difficult. And there can be many reasons why we often turn on the inner critic.

Kristina Kovalevskayapsychologist, family psychotherapist, specialist of the psychological platform Alter

“Self-love, or self-worth, like many aspects of our psyche, is formed in childhood. Our relationship with our parents can influence how we develop our own relationships as adults, which partners we are attracted to, and how we deal with different life situations. Including how we will treat ourselves. nine0003

If the parents told the child that he is an independent person, respect his interests, provide support, the level of self-love in such a person will be higher than in someone who often heard criticism or accusations addressed to him. Through the child's feeling that within the family he is loved and accepted as he is, he also develops an internal acceptance of himself.

For example, a child who is directly or indirectly made to understand that he is "stupid", "unlucky", "worse than his peers", in adulthood is very likely to form a deep conviction that he is "bad" or "does everything wrong ". Hence - self-doubt, their abilities, low self-esteem and lack of self-love. The person can be emotionally tense and react painfully to any remarks that confirm this unpleasant core belief, compare themselves with others, or try to compensate in ways that cause discomfort, such as going into workaholism, not allowing themselves to rest, or helping others to their detriment - all this It also interferes with building self-worth. nine0003

Love and acceptance of oneself can be prevented not only by relationships with parents, but also by other significant events from childhood. For example, peer relationships, emotional or physical trauma, and abuse. Often people who have experienced abuse experience severe feelings of shame or even guilt, which, of course, affect their self-worth.”

How to love yourself

Alison Rachel Stewart, social activist, artist, and creator of Self Love Recipes, an initiative dedicated to habits, practices, and meditations to improve mental health and wellness, described 13 steps to love yourself [1]. nine0003

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. We are socialized, so we often compare ourselves with others. But there is no point in this comparison, because each person is unique and unrepeatable. Instead, you need to focus on yourself.
  2. Do not dwell on the opinions of others. Do not pay too much attention to what others think or expect from you. We ourselves influence our mood. There is no need to go into depression or be offended by someone's statements or actions. nine0014
  3. Allow yourself to be wrong. Do not forget that we are all human and make mistakes. It's important to learn from them and grow. The lessons we learn from our own experience are priceless. We need to accept our past and understand why we acted the way we did.
  4. Remember that the value is not in appearance. Self-sympathy is very important. We don't need others' approval for appearance. To love yourself, it is enough to look in the mirror and understand that you like yourself. Both externally and internally. nine0014
  5. Don't be afraid to let go of toxic people. Refuse to associate with those who bring toxicity to relationships and overstep personal boundaries. It is much easier to love yourself when there are loved ones around who support and appreciate you.
  6. Work through your fears. The feeling of fear is natural for a person. Do not reject your fears - try to understand and accept them. Such an experience will improve mental health and help identify issues that have been causing concern. This will reduce anxiety. nine0014
  7. Believe in yourself to make the right decisions. We often doubt ourselves and our ability to do the right thing. But at the same time, we understand ourselves better than anyone else. And we take responsibility for our decisions. Therefore, it is important to believe in yourself. We can achieve a lot, and for this we do not need someone's approval or criticism.
  8. Take advantage of every opportunity that life presents. There may not be an ideal moment for the next big step in life. But this fact should not prevent us from achieving our goals. nine0014
  9. Put yourself first. The habit of prioritizing other people or circumstances can cost mental or emotional well-being. Find time to relax. Spend the day in bed or in nature, find something that will help restore the resource.
  10. Feel the emotions as fully as possible. Experience the pain, enjoy the joy and do not limit your feelings. Fear, pain, and joy are emotions that will help you understand yourself better. nine0014
  11. Be brave. Get in the habit of speaking your mind. Don't wait to sit down at a table, join a conversation, or share your thoughts. Your voice is just as important as any other.
  12. Learn to see beauty in simple things. Try to notice at least one beautiful thing around you every day. Pay attention to it and be grateful. Gratitude is necessary to find joy.
  13. Be kind to yourself. nine0010 The world is full of criticism and harsh words - do not add your own negativity to them.


Expert advice

Kristina Kovalevskaya:

“It is important to understand that working on cultivating self-love is a process that can take quite a long time. Including this is the way of getting to know yourself and building personal boundaries. Here are a few tips to help you along this path.

  1. Learn to focus on yourself. This is the first thing that is important to do in order to find harmony with yourself. For various reasons, many of us tend to focus on the desires of others in order to receive approval from the outside and confirmation that "I am good." Therefore, it is useful to ask yourself questions more often: what do I want right now? Or: do I really want this or am I doing this because I have to / used to / so they said? To learn to hear yourself, you can keep a diary, where in one column you write down what you did during the day out of sincere desire, and in the second - what was done against your will or out of necessity. nine0014
  2. Take care of yourself and do nice things for yourself - this is the strongest resource that helps to develop not only self-love, but also reliance on yourself, and not on external people or circumstances.
  3. Allow yourself to be wrong. We often overreact to our own failures, especially if what happened is consistent with our personal perception of the concept of "bad". It is important to realize that mistakes give us valuable experience, and there are no ideal people, since we are all completely different. Perhaps the fact that you are not good at something does not mean that you are bad, but only that it does not suit you. Or, for objective reasons, you do not have enough knowledge, and if necessary, you can get it. Or maybe you are just tired and you should allow yourself a rest instead of being too strict and exacting in relation to yourself? nine0014
  4. Try to compare yourself not with others, but with yourself in an earlier period of life. Sometimes it is very useful to look at yourself yesterday and analyze the experience gained in order to stop devaluing it.
  5. Watch yourself. Sometimes we are overcome by strong emotions, we begin to criticize ourselves, the situation seems hopeless. In such cases, it is useful to take the so-called position of the observer. It's about bringing yourself back to the here and now. What happens to you at the moment of experiencing? What emotions are you experiencing? Naming and accepting feelings is very important, as well as the fact that they are our integral part. You can be angry, upset, sad - and this is normal, these are not at all "bad" emotions that "should not" be experienced. The position of the observer is also about exploring and getting to know yourself: what I feel now, why I react in one way or another, can I do otherwise, and so on. nine0014

Self-love and selfishness


How to correctly define what self-love is, and where is the line separating it from selfishness?

Valeria MoshnyatskayaMedical psychologist at the European Medical Center

“Love for yourself is a very capacious concept, including understanding your needs and their implementation, taking care of your health, as well as the ability to communicate with others in a way that is comfortable for you. That is why it raises so many questions and misunderstandings. nine0003

Selfishness, on the other hand, is the inability to hear others or the deliberate disregard of other people's needs for the benefit of one's own goals. I want to note that people with selfish tendencies are always completely sure that they are right and do not think about the choice.

Healthy self-love is a feeling of comfort in dealing with others, understanding one's needs and fulfilling them, the ability to relax and take care of oneself. You can write in detail the points only by understanding where exactly there are gaps. nine0003

Most of my work is based on the idea that self-love is making your decisions, understanding their choices and being able to correctly convey their essence to others. If a person is not confident in his decisions and choices, it will always be difficult for him to understand whether he is right or not. Confidence in decisions is a skill that is developed in the process of education. Therefore, it is easiest to get it in the process of psychotherapy. You can also start with small independent steps, describing for yourself both the decisions themselves and their arguments. This will help you focus on your choices. nine0003

It is important to remember that all your desires are normal. Sometimes we find it difficult to implement them or justify their importance to other people. But all this is by no means a signal that the desire is erroneous.

Kristina Kovalevskaya:

“Another reason for the lack of self-love can be a misinterpretation of this term. Many believe that self-love is selfish, while interpreting self-worth as an excessive concern for one's own interests, when a person does not pay attention to others. This can often be heard from parents or other significant people. nine0003

However, self-love is primarily about the unconditional acceptance of oneself with all the features, both good and not so good. This is about understanding who I am, what I like, about self-respect, regardless of external assessments or circumstances. I can be sociable or closed, humanitarian or mathematician, love meat or be a vegetarian - this is not good and not bad, this is part of my personality that I accept and respect. Self-worth is not about the “degree” of self-love. This is about a sense of harmony within oneself and one's own integrity. You can’t love and accept yourself “too much”, this cannot be in excess - we either unconditionally value ourselves for who we are, or we don’t fully accept. nine0003

Self-worth focuses on a person's relationship with himself and does not at all imply any selfish attitude towards others. Such a person does not expect something from others, and if he shares himself, then out of sincere desire and a feeling of fullness, and not sacrificing himself out of necessity.

Egoism is just about a person's attitude towards other people. The egoist thinks exclusively about his own benefit, often at the expense of other people. He does not take into account, does not respect and ignores the desires and interests of others, since he himself always stands on the pedestal. nine0003

Therefore, when someone calls a harmonious person who loves himself an egoist, this is most likely because he himself has some expectations based on his own benefit, and he wants the other to do what he needs, but his expectations are not met. This is what will be selfishness and manipulation of guilt.

An egoist is not a person who loves himself too much: on the contrary, egoists often have rather low self-worth, they are not in harmony with themselves and try to compensate for this by achieving some benefits at the expense of other people. nine0003

What to read about self-love


1. "Love inside" Yun Kang Chen

If you're feeling lonely, then perhaps this book is just what you need right now. Studying the modern problem of loneliness, the author realized that it arises from an internal conflict, so it cannot be “cured” with the help of other people. Yong Kang Chen has collected for his readers a lot of real stories and exercises that will help you understand that in order to let other people into your life, you must first learn to love and understand yourself. nine0003

2. Love for Imperfection, Gemin Sunim

We inevitably bring our internal dissatisfaction with ourselves to the outside world, which prevents us from living a full and happy life. In his book, Buddhist monk Gemin Sunim answers difficult questions that we ask ourselves in moments of despair and anxiety, and helps the reader find harmony and inner peace.

3. Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go wherever they want by Ute Erhardt

The time has passed when the only purpose of a woman was to be a good mother and wife, but many of us still unconsciously live according to patriarchal attitudes, sacrificing our individuality for the sake of the family. Every woman needs to stop limiting herself and learn to listen to her true desires and needs. nine0003

4. "With love for yourself", Ilse Sand

Very often, excessive emotions complicate our lives - whether it be irrational jealousy, excessive anxiety, debilitating guilt. For a happy and harmonious life, it is important to find the right balance between caring for others and maintaining your own boundaries. Celebrated Danish psychologist Ilse Sand shares how to let go of non-functional emotions such as guilt and remorse and enjoy life and being with others. nine0003

5. “Are you okay”, Alina Adler

Most of the problems with which people turn to a psychologist are quite similar. Uncertainty, inability to let go of the past, inability to gather strength, jealousy, guilt, envy, hopelessness, regret about missed opportunities. Alina Adler, a Gestalt therapist with 15 years of experience, using real cases from practice as an example, told how to correctly recognize and work through this or that negative state and finally find harmony and joy in life. nine0003


Materials to Article



Irina Vorobyova

You may interest you

How to love yourself: Psychologist

Signs that you love yourself

- you enjoy pleasure and pleasure from life.

- You are in a state of happiness.

- You are healthy and full of energy.

You move freely and gesticulate naturally.

- You are able to identify and express the feelings that you experience.

And perhaps most importantly, you don't lie to yourself. This is the real art that you need to comprehend throughout life - to learn to be honest with yourself and others, because any self-deception ultimately leads to destruction and disappointment.

How to learn to love and accept yourself?

Take care of yourself and your health

Our body is the base: a healthy lifestyle is an excellent soil for self-love and achievement. If a person does not take care of himself and his health, other areas of his life begin to collapse. Therefore, in order to love yourself, first of all you need to start taking care of yourself: analyze what you eat, whether you have bad habits, what is your physical activity and sex life, whether there is time for healthy sleep. Everything related to physiology counts. Your resilience in stressful situations, the ability to relax and rest is your support if you strive to learn to love and accept yourself. Without this, it is easy to fall into negative states. The body is capable of self-healing if it enjoys and relaxes. nine0003

Develop emotional intelligence

To love and accept yourself, you need to work on emotional intelligence. Follow your feelings. For example, if you have a lot of fears, you need to deal with them: they increase the level of anxiety and prevent true feelings from manifesting. It affects self acceptance. You need to deal with fears on your own, with the help of books or with a specialist, and learn to live in a positive way, look for joys that you can feel. Do what brings you satisfaction. Analyze what kind of people surround you, how you communicate with loved ones. Perhaps through negativity, constant reproaches and discontent? Or are you looking for something positive, positive, treat them with love, support and push them to grow? Your environment is a reflection of your inner state. Tension and fears always attract similar energy. Try to join positively charged people and capture their condition, try it on yourself. The ability to capture your emotional background, direct it towards happiness and pleasure is an important factor in self-love. nine0003

Expand the boundaries of consciousness

This will make it easier for you to realize that you deserve more, including self-love. Get out of your head limiting beliefs, prescribe settings that you like and bring you to a state of comfort. It doesn’t matter if you do it on your own or with a specialist, the main thing is that there is a result.

If you develop on the three levels mentioned - body, emotions, mind - you will be able to take the first steps towards fully loving yourself. The most important thing is to learn to feel yourself, follow your desires and listen to your heart. When this happens, you will become extremely honest with yourself and will be able to accept yourself and others. Broadcast what you feel to the world and don't let fear limit your happiness.

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