For all of the brilliant music John Mayer has written, he definitely caved to the pressures of mainstream marketing at some point. These minor lapses in better judgement would later go on to birth the shameful pandering of sappy tracks like “Daughters”. Sigh. It’s the kind of song you hear at a sweet sixteen, becoming the background narrative to a blubbering father coming to terms with the fact that his little girl is likely on the verge of a decade-long drug addiction that involves a short stint of prostitution. (At least that’s my heartwarming vision)

But even with all the brazenly tasteless applause by a society already obsessed with the celebration of young women, the song “Daughters” retains its integrity with a glimpse at something much more profound.

The heartbroken singer goes on to say,

“And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me”

That last bit holds the real magic.

This dude is completely burnt out; he’s done everything short of completing a suicide pact to be with this girl, but she’s not having it. Sure she love’s him. But no matter how hard this guy tries to love HER, she just can’t seem let him in.

Given the same scenario, a younger version of me would have settled on the idea that this girl was simply one of those “nuts” who you could never please and weren’t worth a damn to be with in the first place. But there’s a funny thing that happens when you get older, and that’s called DESPERATION. (It’s actually a good thing, though). Because when you’re pushing thirty and have yet to see a successful relationship come down the pipeline, your approach changes. Most often, your new approach falls into one of two distinct categories of how to engage future lovers:

The first approach is the “Hit it and Quit it”—also known as the “I’m probably going to end up alone but blame it on my iron will to ‘never settle’”.

The second approach is the “People aren’t perfect and neither am I”—also known as “maturity”.

The more experienced you become with relationships, the easier it is to understand that sometimes the problem really isn’t you. Sometimes the issue stems from a source within your partner, or from a past experience that has nothing to do with you. In turn, this can lead to a great deal of healing patience.

Alhough the song “Daughters” goes on to blame absent and negligent fathers for the obstruction of what future love may be in store for their girls, it skips over the naming of a related, yet perhaps, more profound contributor: Core Self-Beliefs

Love is a powerful thing. Though, perhaps more powerful, is the belief that we deserve to be loved and that others are capable of loving us.

I had stumbled across the power of core self-beliefs last summer, when a chat with a good friend revealed a startling bit of self-awareness on their part. My friend confided in me that she felt she was too difficult to love and that, actually, no one could ever really do it. This perception, I gathered, was the result of being a difficult child during her early years, a time filled with anger, lashing out, and some minor neglect from her parents.

The reflection of this core belief, about what an impossible task it must be to love her, could easily be seen in the quality of her current and past relationships. For her, the belief that she was unlovable resulted in a series of men that were either abusive, or ignored her almost completely. Because she found it difficult to believe that anyone could really love her for who she is, she stayed with them long after the relationship had stopped serving her well-being.

It was then that I began to examine my own core self-beliefs:

             Am I lovable?

           Do I deserve love?  

This exploration led to the understanding of a unique difference found in the core beliefs held by my friend, verses the ones I find within myself. The idea that I am not lovable is an absolutely foreign concept to me. Of course I’m lovable; yes, I deserve love. I absolutely deserve it. In fact, my core beliefs deem it ludicrous that someone could NOT love me. And yet, still, in thinking about it I discovered there was some disconnect between the love I FEEL that I DESERVE and the love I FEEL that I receive. It was only later, after some deeper reflective thought, that the nature of my problems with love would be revealed.

To better illustrate these differences in core self-beliefs, I conceptualize the details into a more salient representation so that I might be able to better explain it to myself. I call this conceptualization, “The Present Of Love”.

In this analogy, the love we receive from our partner (or anyone else in our lives) is represented by the familiar scenario of gift giving, involving a physical box with a bow on top. Inside the box, of course, is the love we all hope to receive.

My friend’s core belief about how unlovable she is creates a scenario in which her lover does not HAVE a present to give her, nor will she ever expect one. No box. No bow. No love. When it comes time to receive the present of love—the box, the bow, and gracious smile on the face of her partner—she is not convinced and becomes overwhelmed by an unrelenting state of incredulity. For her, even in the presence of the box itself, she believes there is nothing inside and that there never will be.

In the case of my own core self-beliefs, the scenario is much different. Unlike my friend, I not only believe that I deserve the present of love, I expect it. And when it happens that my partner arrives with that big box of love with a bow on top, I feel ecstatic and vindicated. This is exactly the love I have been anticipating for a long time coming, and now it’s all mine. There’s just one problem: my partner won’t LET me open it. At the heart of my core perception is a belief that the love inside that box exists and that it is real, but that my lover simply WILL NOT let me have it. Most of this core belief had formed during the years when my mother’s drug addiction eclipsed her role as a loving parent. This meant that I spent a majority of my childhood trying to get her attention, while she would only pay it to me if I helped her get high or supported her efforts to manipulate others. For me, this has lead to a series of relationships with emotionally unavailable women and a frustrated sense of trying desperately to please them despite their ambivalence.

So it turns out that John Mayer was right. Sometimes the trouble we find in love has more to do with the other person than it does with anything we might be doing wrong. But on the other hand, it might not be them—it could be you. Core beliefs about whether or not we deserve love, as well as how well we are able to receive it when it happens, will ultimately determine if we’ll ever get to enjoy that amazing gift.