For a long time, I hated hugs. As a child, I hated being instructed to hug adults I didn’t know, I hated classmates greeting me with air-hugs that felt forced and fake, but I also didn’t even feel comfortable hugging my own family and close friends.
It took me a while to realize it was because physical touch had been used as a form of control when I was a young child. My stepfather would use his hand on my shoulder at church to hold me still, a captive at the pressure of his fingers. So for years after, a hand on my shoulder would make me cringe. Hugs were obligational. I would hug my mother when she was angry/upset to calm her down, not necessarily because I wanted to but rather because I knew it would help defuse her hostility. I would hug my step-grandparents because it was expected of me. I would hug my unfamiliar relatives because it was a holiday. I would hug classmates because that's what they did, I didn't want to be "weird" by not giving hugs as greetings.
Touch became synonyms with pacifying the people around me. It took me YEARS to get over that mind set: to realize touch - specifically a hug - was a communication of love, care, concern, and sweetness.
In high school I used to tell people I’d give them a hug on Valentine’s Day. Friends would get all excited because that was such a rare thing for me to do. Buuuttt... I’d buy a bag of Hershey’s hugs and instead prank my friends with the candy instead of an actual hug. I repeat: it’s taken years for me to heal— to be able to accept a touch and give a hug. To take pleasure in being physically close to someone.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and rather than buying a bag of hugs, I told the story of the candy to my current friends and coworkers. And you know what their responses were? A little bit of laughter. A lot of smiles. And some actual true ‘I’m happy you’re my friend’ hugs.
It’s good to be loved. It’s even better to let yourself feel loved.
Take care of yourself. You deserve love. And you deserve to feel safe when hugged.