Being Adored Isn’t The Same As Being Loved

Pursuing adoration often sacrifices real love

mural: BK FOXX

We so often confuse these two things — adoration and love. We think that adoring something is the same as loving it, and we think that being adored is the same as being loved.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

As Glennon Doyle Melton wrote in Love Warrior,

“Every girl must decide whether to settle for adoration or fight for love.”

And maybe you think you can have both — maybe you even can. But you can’t get love by building it on a foundation of adoration first, because the love will always be contingent upon (and conditional of) the adoration, and the minute they don’t find you as adorable (or you them), the love will fade as well.

The only way they can coexist is if the adoration follows the love — when we adore each other because we love each other, not the other way around.

But more often than not, unfortunately, the adoration comes first. It comes on as a by-product of infatuation and attraction, and then develops by endearing ourselves to one another through flirtation and putting our best selves forward and any other cute or charming maneuvers.

But when we make the easy play of adoration, we sacrifice the long game.

Women have to be especially careful, because “beauty” is particularly endearing, and many types of physical attractiveness can be particularly “adorable.” We’re more susceptible to being discounted in this way, and have to be particularly mindful of how we enter into relationships and build connections.

As Melton wrote,

“Beauty is a responsibility. People expect so much of it, it seems… When strangers admire me, I practice returning their attention. I understand that beauty is a form of kindness. It is for giving away, and I try to be generous… they wanted to adore me and I complicated things by inserting myself into their experience of me.”

Because when people like you primarily for your beauty (even if you are also proud of your attractiveness), they don’t like you for you — they like you for the pleasure your presence gives them.

Melton also broadened this into the overall challenge of “being a woman,” and pointed out that every girl must ask herself,

“How can I be expansive and free and still be loved? Am I going to be a lady or am I going to be fully human?”

Because you cannot be both.

If we pride ourselves on personality traits of being pleasant and agreeable and friendly in an effort to be liked, then we do so at risk of being a full, authentic, unique person. And if we are not complete people, we can never have complete love.

As Erich Fromm wrote,

“Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love. Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable. In pursuit of this aim they follow several paths. One… is to be successful, to be as powerful and rich as the social margin of one’s position permits. Another… is to make oneself attractive, by cultivating ones body, dress, etc.”

And the third way, used by most everyone, is,

“To develop pleasant manners, interesting conversation, to be helpful, modest, inoffensive.”

And while a degree of good manners is almost always appreciated, the problem is that we pursue them by way of sacrificing personality; we forego stepping out of line because we’re afraid of risking offending others.

And the problem is that,

“If we lack the courage to be individuals, we will never achieve love.”

Life is about more than being adored, and love is about a whole lot more than being the object of someone else’s adoration.

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