The Hope of Loving
What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?
I think it is the hope of loving,
or being loved.
I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey
to find its source, and how the moon wept
without her lover's
We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither
like fields if someone close
does not rain their
Here's a confession: I don't know how to love myself. It's simple and maybe not factual, but it feels very much that way a lot of the time. In my mid-20s, I realized that everyone's life seemed to revolve around a personal theme. Whatever approaches we take to our ways of living, the interpretations of the experiences we have, the relationships we cultivate, they usually revolve around a certain belief (or related strands of this belief) that threads through everything.
My theme has always been hunger... I was starved for love growing up and ached in the pit of my stomach for a hearty amount of positive attention. My tastes continued to grow until I stopped consuming anything as a huge distraction to what I wanted most of all — unconditional love — but then my appetite came back with a vengeance until I was bingeing and purging everything I could place in my mouth. I gorged on approval and sought it in unhealthy relationships that further validated the misbelief that I was unworthy and undeserving of goodness in life. I craved physical affection so deeply that bear hugs became my customary greeting, yet kisses and tenderness were too ginger of a reminder that I did not know to be gentle with myself. And, because I felt at a perpetual loss of power and had no internal confidence about how to "do anything right," I could not get enough helpings of external validation though I continually misinterpreted it to mean that I would finally receive the love I was seeking after all.
This past week, I realized that it's time to become happily satiated. I'm ready to stop the process of feast or famine and find a way to fill myself up from the inside out. After all, there's no way that I can truly love another person, be it friend or partner or family member, until I can fall in love with all of myself. Otherwise, I'll continue to repeat the pattern of attempting to please another in hopes that they'll end up pleasing me, rather than asking if what I do/say/think is indeed aligned with my heart and soul and living from my personal truth. During my guided meditation today, I was encouraged to think about the things that I own from a physical, emotional, and mental standpoint. After ten minutes of this, I realized the things I truly feel I own are my negative and shadowy feelings about myself and my past experiences. It was enlightening to realize that I have a choice in what I'm holding onto and that now, as in any moment, I can have a blank slate to create fresh.
Yesterday, my friend Wendy offered this incredible article from Psychology Today, which caused me to stop and re-read multiple paragraphs, as though the author were writing it specifically for me:
Accepting ourselves unconditionally (despite our deficiencies) would have been almost automatic had our parents conveyed a predominantly positive message about us--and, additionally, we grew up in a generally supportive environment. But if that really wasn't the case, we need on our own to learn how to "certify" ourselves, to validate our essential ok-ness. And I'm hardly suggesting that independently confirming ourselves has anything to do with becoming complacent--only that we get over our habit of constantly judging ourselves. If deep within us we're ever to experience, as our normal state of being, personal fulfillment and peace of mind, we must first rise to the challenge of complete, unqualified self-acceptance.
By constantly telling ourselves that we've done the best we could helps to reexamine residual feelings of guilty, self-criticisms, and self-putdowns, and gives us an opportunity to practice compassion and understanding with each self-rejection. To fall in love with myself now, I need to make peace with the parts of myself that I've denied, shunned, and ultimately in many ways, hated with a fury. Instead of splitting and compartmentalizing parts of myself in pretty little containers, I can break apart the boxes and call my Spirit back into full, unconditional acceptance.
I love most of all that this article says that self-acceptance has nothing to do with self-improvement, because it isn't about "fixing" anything in ourselves anymore. Instead, it's about non-judgmentally affirming who we already are — strengths, weaknesses, beauty, warts — in this moment. "Self-acceptance is about already being okay, with no qualifications—period. It's not that we ignore or deny our faults or frailties, just that we view them as irrelevant to our basic acceptability."
And, because I've actually always thought that my drive to "be better" has served me well in life, getting me to where I am now and helping me to surmount significant challenges, self-acceptance means that it's possible to accept and love ourselves AND still be committed to a lifetime of personal growth. We can still make improvements that enrich our lives and those around us, but self-acceptance is no longer tied to such changes.
It all starts with seeing ourselves in a refreshed, loving, and nurturing way.
I need to do this now, because I would like to spend the rest of my life in a love affair of all sorts. From my passions and pursuits to the people in my life, I would like to embrace everything to the fullest and know that on my last day on earth, I would have done all that I could do, seen all that I could see, and been all that I could be. I want to love myself the way that everyone else tells me they love me — and then some.
There are things that are hidden in the depths of my heart as things my soul hungers for, but that I won't indulge, because I don't yet feel that I'm worthy of so much goodness. Luckily, I'm learning bit by bit how to melt into my divinity and live from that place of higher consciousness where I am already greater than I may have ever believed possible.
The article quotes Robert Holden who writes in his book Happiness Now!, "Happiness and self-acceptance go hand in hand. In fact, your level of self-acceptance determines your level of happiness. The more self-acceptance you have, the more happiness you'll allow yourself to accept, receive and enjoy. In other words, you enjoy as much happiness as you believe you're worthy of."
How do you fall in love yourself today and every day? How do you embrace the understanding that you are indeed worthy of every great thing? I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback, because each of us has invaluable lessons to share with one another — just by being ourselves right here, right now.