To be clear, I’ve never read The Perks of Being a Wallflower; I’ve only seen the movie (I know, the book’s better, boo hiss etc). Yet even through the often watered-down filter of film, that quote instantly cemented itself in my memory as one I shouldn’t easily forget.
Speaking only for myself, this quote tells me “You deserve better than what you have” and “Stop accepting anything less than the best for yourself.”
But here’s the thing — The most fascinating thing about this quote is that its meaning changes based on one’s mindset and experiences. It makes you question what you deserve, which inevitably makes you question your own personal character, which also makes you wonder if your perception of yourself is accurate, which is all pretty terrifying (but necessary!).
In short, I believe the way an individual interprets this quote can speak volumes about how that person views love.
Let me analyze my personal interpretation of the quote: I assume the speaker is calling me out for settling for an unfulfilling love when I deserve better than that. Clearly I think pretty highly of myself; yet from a lifetime of self-confidence issues, I also don’t trust my own judgment enough to think that I can accurately choose a love that’s deserving of the amazing-ness that is me (kidding, obviously. I’m pretty cool but also a damn mess 96 percent of the time).
I view “We accept the love we think we deserve” as a negative, as if we’re settling for a lesser love because we think that’s all our sorry asses deserve.
Overall, this makes sense based on my past experiences with love, the majority of which can best be described as slowly fizzling out for want of effort from my partner, despite my own best efforts. For a long time, I fought the bitter taste in my mouth that these disappointments were somehow a result of my own tendency to enable apathy, a result of my own weaknesses. Eventually this developed into an ongoing fear that I would continue settling for individuals who wouldn’t try very hard to keep me around — and that I deserved this treatment because I was unable to make them try harder.
(Full disclosure: Though it may sound like I’m throwing myself a full-blown pity party, I can absolutely recognize that I live a blessed life. And when it comes to relationships, I’ve been exceedingly lucky to have never experienced physical or mental harm or other detrimental effects as a result of love. All I’ve experienced is a little bit of disappointment from unmet expectations, and that’s all I’m referring to here.)
Now, I’m willing to bet that an individual with strong self-confidence would see this quote differently — not from a mindset of negativity, believing that “what we think we deserve” is something on which we’ll always undersell ourselves, but rather as validation for only accepting the best love.
In this way, our own experiences and self-perception put very specific filters upon Stephen Chbosky’s quote. If you haven’t already, try it with yourself: What does this quote say to you? What does it mean? If someone said it to you, how would you interpret it?