“Love is not something we give or get; it is something we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” – Brene Brown
By nature I’m an optimist, so my world view tends to place people in a position of seeking to do the right thing more often than not. As I realize this is not true of the world in which we live, I still found myself being hopeful of the best that human nature could produce in any given set of circumstances. Like many, having this idea and actually acting on it can cause one much grief and pain. I was both a recipient and perpetrator of this fact. At times I professed to being in love, but I truly was only in love with the idea of it and at other times someone else professed to love me, but had not come to a full understanding of what love really was. So years ago, as I gained more wisdom along with some traumatic experiences to follow in addition to having three sisters that taught me a lot, I came to an understanding that not everyone loves you, even if they are professing it with passionate heart-felt words.
Although the truth can hurt at times, it is one of the best ways for us to face our realities, whether those realities open new doors with great possibilities or closes others to past harshness. It is the concept of understanding this truth that can bring you to a place of responding appropriately when all hell seems to be breaking loose in your life, protecting yourself more effectively when your faced with sudden hardships and moving forward more progressively in life in such a way that declares your worth and your value. This worth and value is not about shouting anything new to your world of family and friends, or necessarily declaring a new-found disposition to anyone, but more importantly it’s recognizing and owning the scars you have inherited during your life journey and the many lessons that you have acquired because of them. It is then taking those life lessons and applying them to every scenario and situation that you face moving forward.
Relationally this will transcend with you being empowered to say no to abuse of any type, where in the past you accepted it because you felt powerless and believed you were suppose to. It will allow you to recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing more quickly, therefore you can act accordingly. Additionally it will save you from heartache and endless amounts of time dealing with potential life partners that have bad intentions and are out only for themselves. Everything about you may look the same to everyone you know, but they will soon come to understand that a profound shift has occurred in you. That same guy or girl no longer has the license to disrespect you. You finally understand that not everyone loves you and that you don’t have to be indefinitely angry to arrive at this place.
For years I worked with single-mothers with sons at a mentor program I oversaw. I encountered countless women involved in one-sided relationships where their partners consistently betrayed, abused and left them to fend for themselves and their children. It was/is a vicious cycle that unfortunately remains alive to this day, but for the few women that actually began to embrace and practice this concept, their lives changed dramatically. “Joe Blow” was no longer able to woo them over with empty words and meaningless affection because they had come to know him very well, no matter if he came with a nice suit, expensive cars, or blue-jeans and a nice smile. His story no longer captivated them, because they saw him for who he truly was, which in most cases was a manipulator and a liar.
Although embracing this life concept requires determination, something much more is essential an imperative to all that choose to walk down this path. It’s not that you suddenly gain this new-found ability to identify “knuckle-heads” from miles away, although that may be a part of the equation. And it’s equally not necessary that you walk around with a poor attitude that scares every Jonathan, Jerome and Tony away. It is still something deeper.
It is true for women and men alike. Without it we won’t have fulfilling relationships. That truth is learning what love really is and how it looks to actually love ourselves. I could now give you several definitions of what I believe love is, but I won’t. It is something we all must discover for ourselves, but until we understand it, embrace it and practice it daily or our lives will be faced with turmoil, unnecessary hardships and grief that is centered around our own inability to love ourselves.
Now when we talk about doing the work, this is the hard stuff. This is the time when we’re no longer seeking to blame our mothers and fathers for their shortcomings (even though they exist), but we have come to the place where we simply want to work through it once in for all. This is the time when we desire to get past what our abusers did to our psyches and esteem. We know about forgiveness, moving past the pain, identifying the wrong, but when it comes to loving ourselves many times we fall short. We’d rather talk about an easier topic, perhaps someone else’s inability to love themselves. The topic for many of us is just too damn painful to broach. And many of our friends mean well, but they just aren’t prepared or skilled to authentically help us during this time. So at no fault of our own, we could easily become enslaved to a perpetual lifestyle of scratching the surface of many of our most significant core issues. What a tragedy to live this type of life, but many have and continue to do so.
So, what are we to do? Remain in the abyss of a loveless life, entrapped by misinterpretations and abusive indicators of what real love is? Heavens no! Begin your journey of loving yourself by first admitting you are worthy of being loved as you recognize and identify when this was not true for you. Because this could be most of your life, don’t think too long and hard on this one. Now imagine the opposite occurring, where someone who once took from you, imagine another person restoring and giving you a gift without ever a need to pay it back. In other words begin with a moment that declares you are more than the circumstances that have accumulated over the course of your lifespan. However difficult, this is the journey that must occur one day at a time. Commit to yourself that you are worth the resources, time and energy required to learning to love yourself. If professional help is necessary, again remember that you are worthy.
It will always remain true that we must protect ourselves from the bandits that want our most precious gift, which is our ability to love ourselves. It is also true that not everyone will ever love us, but once we are finally able to make those distinctions it won’t matter, because the ones that do love us will shine like stars in the night and the sun in the day. We will see clearly, love with our whole hearts without regret, fear or doubt.