Dear Neil: I manifested the man of my dreams. He’s kind, honest, loyal, humble, patient, hard-working, ambitious, extremely supportive and he loves me. He told me he wants to marry and have kids with me. I fell for him head over heels. But shortly after that I freaked and wanted to run away, and I’m making all these excuses to not be with him. I am very anxious over this every single day, and I realize I’m being unfair to him. Deep down, I know I deserve love. Why am I running away from the man of my dreams?

Running Scared in Toronto

Dear Running: You may know that deep down you deserve to be loved, but you will be unable to keep hold of it if you don’t feel worthy of being loved. If you don’t feel worthy of being loved, and a man says he loves you, you assume that when he gets to know you really well, he won’t want you anymore because he’ll see your flaws and imperfections. So you are rejecting him before you assume he will eventually reject you.

Of course, this presupposes that you’re right, and that he won’t want you after he gets to know you. This lack of self-worth comes from childhood, where either you didn’t feel loved, or you didn’t feel as if you measured up, or you felt you were never quite good enough. Perhaps your flaws were constantly pointed out to you, or you never felt you could do as well as a brother or sister.

But what if a man sees you for what you are—flaws and all—and loves you anyway? Most of us know we’re not perfect and that we make mistakes, but we still feel worthy of love. The only time this assumption doesn’t work is when you feel that you aren’t just making a mistake, but that you are a mistake—meaning that you think there’s so much wrong with you that you are a hopelessly worthless person who has no value. Of course, that’s not objectively true, but you may think it is because of the messages you got from your childhood.

The man you describe may see you as fun, attractive, witty, smart, competent, trustworthy and sexy, and maybe that’s enough for him. Or perhaps he sees the same traits in you that you see in him. That might be all he genuinely seeks, and he would be happy to live a lifetime with a woman with those traits. He may not care about or even notice that you have crooked teeth, that you misspell words or that you have six toes on each foot. He may like you, care about you and love the person he sees in you. You do yourself a great disservice to assume he will find you unlovable because you think of yourself as unlovable.

What’s good about you? Where in life are are you skilled and effective? Are you a good friend? A good lover? Are you kind? Affectionate? Compassionate? Clever? Do you communicate effectively? Are you a good cook? Are you skilled in what you do for a living? When does your creative expression show itself? Could you list your accomplishments in life so far? Your social skills? When have you been resilient? Brave? Gracious? Generous?

This is the beginning of believing in yourself, valuing yourself and loving yourself, which is the precursor to feeling lovable. This is not a battle between you and the man who loves you. This is a battle between you and you.

Has your relationship turned cold and distant? Neil’s book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm can help you rekindle your passion.

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