Love is a funny thing. Our culture exploits it, glorifies it and we spend our lives looking for it anywhere we can. But “love” doesn’t actually exist out there and searching may only distract you from the truth of the matter, which is that it’s in you.
No one loves you. No one can. For what you deem as “real” is simply your own perception of the stimuli in the world around you. That perception of the senses leads to body changes that make you feel a certain way. But emotion is really nothing more than purely a reaction to and an awareness of your environment. This unfortunately means that everything you experience is fundamentally subjective and personal to you, no matter how objective it may seem on the outside.
There is no such thing as “being loved” – only feeling it. That is, “love” is not something given; it’s something received, an ability to perceive your environment in a way that makes it meaningful and comforting to you. Much of it is instinctual, ingrained from millions of years of evolution. But much of it is experience, for though we are born with the same basic needs, our instincts are put to the test in our first formative years as we figure out how to get those needs met in a tumultuous and confusing time. The love that you get as a child, from your parents, your friends and your surroundings, tends to define how you’re able to perceive it throughout the rest of your life (although this may be mostly unconscious).
I discovered some time ago that the meaning of life is simply “to love and be loved” but I use the term “love” in a way that is not commonly defined by society. It is not from a spouse or a sibling, a lover or a friend, nor is it even the intense craving of chocolate that causes you to buy every bag of candy at the end of the cereal aisle. “To love” is simply to be at peace with yourself and the world around you and to exude that energy as you journey through it. “To be loved,” is difficult, for it requires you to actually notice the beauty in your surroundings and take it personally. We so often get wrapped up in the idea that in order to be loved, we must be loved by other people, yet we are drastically limiting our scope. We can be loved by anything we perceive to be as such: a warm, sunny day, a piece of music, a bowl of ripe strawberries, a small gathering of friends for dinner… but because life is made to be more complicated than it needs to be, we are easily distracted and unable to see these moments for what they are.
We tend to strive for this “perfection” of love we have in our minds: some place, time, state of mind, group of people, career, etc. that puts us at ease, calms our anxiety and helps us make peace with the world and its instability. But there is no ultimate perfection; only moments of it. And being loved is learning how to appreciate them.