Submitted by Island_Girl
A friend asked me to participate in a gift she wished to give her sisters. It was to give my thoughts or advice about life. The request had me think of so many things and then I saw a central idea emerge, the idea from which so much growth has sprung for me. It is about love.
For most of my life, love lived as something to be shown by others, something I got and needed from others. That’s not such an unusual response–from we are small children, we do and act in certain ways to gain the attention (approval and love) of our parents or caregivers, the people we depended on for every thing. And then we sometimes get stuck in this need, looking for it outside ourselves and doing whatever it takes to have the experience of love.
The need for approval (love) existed in many of my relationships but I felt the impact of this neediness most deeply in romantic relationships. In this area of my life, so much of my focus was on needing to be shown I was loved, I was in a constant state of longing and yearning. When this was the governing context of my life, I often suppressed my opinions preferring to go with the flow, not wanting to “topple the applecart,” not wanting to risk being rejected by the object of my affection at the time.
I made decisions to be in romantic relationships so I would feel there was someone there who loved me. I did things (nothing illegal mind you) such as partnering with unavailable people for example or not questioning a person’s actions or not expressing my displeasure about a troubling experience–all emotionally lethal since they chipped away at my self-esteem and self-confidence.
Then finally, with this pattern of history repeating, I came to an emotional crossroad. I was tired of this pattern and frustrated that all the self-improvement courses and workshops I had done weren’t working on me. I realized I was totally focused on the outside situation (like I was as a child) and not on my inner world. With this shift in attention, came my liberation. I began to see that I needed to love myself. I needed to care about myself as much as I cared about another person. I had heard this before but I actually heard it this time, in such a way that I could begin to apply this message consciously.
How did I grow to love myself?
It has been a process which began with several practices. I started a gratitude journal, where I wrote the kinds of things I was thankful for each day (living in the city, having friends, a delicious cup of coffee, being healthy, having a career I enjoyed, and so on); I took “me-time” in the form of quiet time each day, nature walks, visits to the ocean, breaks in the middle of the day for tea or coffee, soothing baths, massages, pedicures; I planned activities with friends; I put together a bucket list (things to do before I die). In the process I was recreating the relationship with myself and understanding what I enjoyed and appreciated about life. This doesn’t mean that I never get down or have doubts about myself but with these practices, I am cultivating feelings of self-love in the same way that a fitness program strengthens and firms the body.
I am eternally grateful I now experience love within me and through my relationships and experiences not because of my relationships and experiences. I bring the love to my life. I bring the love to relationships. I bring the love to experiences.