I first heard, “We accept the love we think we deserve” in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This thoughtful quote has always been meaningful to me. Many people around me also found it useful in a great variety of situations by giving it their own meaning. This is what makes it so compelling: anyone can relate to it in many different ways. Here’s what it means them, me, and us:
What It Meant in the Story
Stephen Chbosky first wrote these words in the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but most of you have probably seen it in the movie. In this chapter, Charlie talks to his teacher Bill about his sister getting hit by her boyfriend. This is when he answers, “Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.” He then stands there, quiet, just like I did reading this sentence.
In the film, the teenager asked, “Why do nice people choose the wrong people to date?” and later replied, “Can we make them know they deserve more?” to which the teacher answered, “We can try.” Even though Bill was talking about an abusive relationship in the book, the movie gives us the chance to understand that anyone can relate to it.
In the story, Sam was sexually abused as a child, which influenced how she let men treat her. She kissed Charlie to make sure his first kiss comes from someone who truly loves him. He later tries to date another girl, but ruins everything because she still has a crush on Sam. Patrick doesn’t want anyone to know he is gay, which tells a lot about what other people think of him. These different stories from The Perks of Being a Wallflower prove that this quote can be meaningful to anyone at some point in our lives.
Further Reading: Platonic Love: The Original Notion and How to Reach It
What It Means to Me
I believe « the love we think we deserve » is the love we feel for ourselves. That’s the only love we have control of, and it determines how we value ourselves. How can someone love me if I don’t love myself? When I love who I am more than anyone else, I ask myself, “would I let someone I love date a person that hurts them like that?” I think people I love deserve to be with someone who makes them happy, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t settle to anything less.
I’ve seen so many people waiting for someone to make them happy. I’ve been there myself. But relying on one person to make you happy gives them control of your emotions. What are you if you are nothing without them? “We can try” to help those who suffer from abuse, but this help has to come from themselves first. No one is going to save you; you have to do it yourself. And we also have the responsibility to become a better person. They say, “I won’t respect a girl who doesn’t respect herself,” but how you treat others tells more about you than it tells about them.
“Accepting” is something we have power over. This is how we allow ourselves to be loved, or not, by people around us. “Thinking” is based on our beliefs. Once again, this is something we have control of, but it’s always hard to change our minds when we have always been taught something different. “Deserving” is about something that we earn, that we work hard for. This is why many people won’t let someone love them because they think they haven’t done anything to deserve this.
But the truth is that you always have the power to accept or refuse something that is offered to you, no matter if you deserve it. Only you can change the way you think; no one can do it for you. The number of people interested in you, the friends you have, and how close you are to your family doesn’t determine your value. You determine your value. Believe you can be loved for what you are, not what you do, and « we accept the love we think we deserve » will empower you.
Further Reading: What is Love Bombing? How to Know if You’re Being Love Bombed
What It Means to Us
I asked people around me what they thought about that quote, and I loved to see how it means something different to everyone:
“How we value ourselves is based on how we value others. The more we positively see ourselves, the more we choose people we see positively. When we don’t like ourselves as much, we choose a partner that we don’t like as much. The way we see ourselves influences our choices to stabilize the relationship.”
“I think people tend to go towards those who are similar to them, not only when it comes to interests, but also because they are looking for someone who is ‘in the same league.’ After all, we want to find someone who will understand us.”
“If you don’t feel good about yourself and you don’t love who you are, you might reject someone open to love you because you think you don’t deserve it. I have a hard time accepting compliments because I don’t believe in the virtues I don’t think I have. My family made me feel invisible and didn’t receive the attention I needed to have better self-esteem. Life had to prove to me that I had those strengths for me to believe in them.”
“The love we receive is based on the love we give to ourselves and that we think we deserve. The law of attraction is the reason why we attract what we believe is true.”
“I rarely think that people genuinely love me. Well, I’m learning it, slowly, and I’m starting to understand it. But I’ve heard people say during my whole childhood that I was not lovable, not tolerable, and other nice stuff, and it remains in my memories. When I was a teenager, I was telling my best friend, ‘If someone is ever interested in me, I’ll tell them you are better.”
The reason why “We accept the love we think we deserve” is so compelling is that it meant something to any of us at some point in our lives. Whether we have gone through this or have seen someone who has suffered from this, we understand that we cannot judge them for the choices they make based on how they value themselves. Those eight words meaning a million things is what made it so relatable. And no matter what is the meaning that you found, it has value, just like you do.