“Whether other people love you is not as important as whether you love you.”
My mentor, Lynn, and I have been working on this one for years.
It is taking so long because it is a concept I am curiously resistant to.
Somehow, despite my best efforts and intentions otherwise, I consistently fail to see the equivalent value my own love has in comparison with the love I want from others, or the love I want to offer others.
Lynn reassures me that I am not the only one who struggles with this.
She finds creative ways to reinforce what we are working on, sometimes suggesting books or movies that bring the concept to life in ways that are now or could someday be parallel to my own.
Sometimes she tells me this is what she is doing. And sometimes she waits for me to figure it out on my own (I’ll give you one guess as to which method takes longer).
And don’t get me wrong here – I like the concept of loving myself. I like it a lot. I just have trouble doing it.
I don’t have trouble every day anymore, the way that I used to. But there are still some days when I perceive myself as extraordinarily un-lovable.
Those are the days when I see all the way behind the scenes of my motives and perceive an amount of self-love that is in inverse proportion to the amount of love which Lynn consistently offers to me.
That is also when I need my mentor’s perspective the most.
We don’t do well – any of us – without our own love. We need our own love much more than we need others’ love, or even our own approval, and in fact, the latter two don’t even have much to do with each other.
Approval, Lynn teaches me, relates to social and cultural rules and mores I have imbibed. Some of those rules and mores I have investigated as an adult and adopted for my own. Others, I have carried along with me in my little-girl backpack to school and back each day for years, completely unquestioned.
Sometimes, Lynn reminds me, it can be good to feel my own disapproval.
When I feel my own disapproval, I get the chance to investigate where that lack of approval is coming from, what beliefs and values drive it, whether those are my beliefs and values or someone else’s, and whether those beliefs and values are relevant or believable, or valued, in my life today.
Sometimes, I even discover that I am glad I disapproved of something I thought, said, or did, because it frees me to do that thing again in the future without my own disapproval!
But when I withhold love from myself, when I fail to love myself through an experience where I would freely extend love to a close friend or loved one, or even a stranger, that is when I am on dangerous ground for resuming old habits and behaviors that can lead me in very dangerous directions.
When I withhold love from myself, I no longer want to be me, because I don’t want to live in a world without love.
When I withhold love from myself, I refuse to accept love from anyone else either, because I have deemed myself un-lovable, and thus unworthy of love.
When I withhold love from myself, I take an eraser to my presence, to the point where everyone else can see me, but I no longer can.
Most dangerously, when I withhold love from myself, I often don’t realize that is what I am doing, and I need help to figure out what the issue is, have a dialogue with myself, make my own amends, and come back into my own presence with humility, grace, and ….. love.
Today’s Takeaway: Where have you been withholding love from yourself, and what are your reasons for the withholding? How does it make you feel – when you live in your own skin but without love or compassion for yourself? Are you happy living that way? Would you like to be happy again? Then consider what grounds you have for withholding love from yourself. Ask yourself if you would be so harsh with a loved one or a friend, or even a stranger. Then make adjustments accordingly, and ask for help to do so if you need it.