Learning What Love Is. ~ Amani Omejer

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Love about to wash away...

Warning: F-bombs up ahead.

Love feels unsafe.

To the little girl within me, love is unsafe—she grew up with abuse.

To her, love means hurt.

Love means pain, trauma, inconsistency, insanity, and conditions.

Love was fucked up, twisted, and tied so deep into their self-hatred, that it came out wrapped in violence, rather than gentleness and warmth. Bitterness, rather than compassion and understanding. Jealousy and resentment, rather than supportive holding and cheerleading.

The love wasn’t hers, it was theirs—it had the potential to change any moment. And generally, it did. No matter how hard my inner girl or inner teen tried, things stayed the same.

Why—and how—would they be any different, now?

I remember the first time I got told about unconditional love, almost three years ago:

“You don’t have to do anything for someone to love you?”

I laughed, thinking it was a joke.

When I realised it wasn’t, I felt a sudden sorrow—a deep grief—for myself.

How did I not know this?

My relationship with love had been ‘wrong’ my whole life.

An innately wise part of myself always understood unconditional love existed—as a kid, I remember watching other parents and children, knowing somewhere deep inside that what I experienced at home wasn’t the only way. Somehow I knew, beneath my wounding and fear, that things wouldn’t always be this way.

What I was experiencing was only a chapter, or two, of my Love Story.

As I’ve begun healing my youth and early adulthood, my relationship with love—towards myself and others—is rapidly changing.

I’m learning what love actually is.

But I’m in the messy stage.

My defences, fears, past hurts, and insecurities, feel more tender and in-my-face, than ever—I can’t step round, look past, or dive through my wounding, anymore.

My need to feel safe, feels more important than any other need I have, so it governs almost everything I do.

I struggle to trust people. To believe or trust the love and time they give me, and that they—or it—won’t disappear, feels terrifying, and almost impossible, even though part of me knows it isn’t, and it won’t.

I worry that love I receive will also disappear when the person really sees me and witnesses my imperfections, so I make sure I only share the imperfections I feel safe sharing. Even though I love others for, and with, theirs, and that mine just make me human.

I notice there’s always a desire to rip apart any love or support given, by finding reasons or supposed ‘proof’ that the love wasn’t really genuine—“they were just saying that…they probably felt like they had to”—even though this habit only brings hurt, and I know it’s generally not true. And even if it is, or they were, it’s not my place to take it on.


I take risks, show myself, and share my needs or vulnerabilities—or my authentic rawness and openness—and then freak-out by reading into people’s every move or every word. I disappear for a few days/weeks, convinced I was ‘too much’. Sometimes I find myself laughing, because the theories my inner critic comes up with in these moments are so well thought out, convincing, and hilarious. Other times I find myself unable to laugh or find solid ground beneath the fear and self-judgment, worrying that what I’m believing, is definitely true.

My fear of abandonment feel so great, and so sensitive, that I avoid situations in which there is potential for abandonment—I end up avoiding and declining a lot. Sometimes the fear, or potential risk, of not feeling safe, is one I want—or feel able to—work with and compassionately notice. Other times it isn’t. This part of my relationship with love and trust and people, breaks my heart the most.

I feel like I stranger to myself and my previous life. I almost constantly feel slightly, or completely, disconnected or alone. Even though I’m not.

I let a friend in, become close, and then freak-out with fear of the close connection, and fear that I will be really seen. Sometimes I stay but keep a certain distance, to ensure I feel safe. Other times, I’ve fled out of fear they wouldn’t love me if they continued to get to know me.

If a friend fucks-up, the option of offering forgiveness or compassion feels way too terrifying, at the moment. That’s what I gave my mum for all those years, which—from the eyes of my inner girl—enabled her to keep coming back to hurt me more. I need this time to find my boundaries and learn a balance, and to learn to trust myself. But it does mean that I abandon people.

I don’t value my love enough—I don’t value that my love is a gift itself.

I still slip back into the belief that I can only be loveable when I do, and because I have stripped right back on how much I do for others, out of the need to give almost solely to myself, I struggle with the theory that I’m not as loveable as I used to be during the days that I was Miss Do.

I have a belief that friends love is a pot that only holds a certain amount—it has a time limit or an amount that can be given, and when it’s been used up, it’s gone…they’ll no longer be there. Like, I can’t still be in a pickle and needing advice, or they can’t still be there to support me with another painful experience. This belief used to be so strong and seemingly true, that when people tried to explain that it doesn’t work like that, I felt so fucking confused.

Now, I’m beginning to see that it’s really not true.

Every time a friend is still there, a little part of me heals.

Every time someone still shows up despite me not having ‘done’ anything, or regardless of whether I believed I was loveable the last time we hung out, or whether I’d shown my imperfections, or how many other times they’ve showed up before, a little piece of my unconditional love puzzle is put into place.

As I continue to discover just how twisted my Love Story has been until now, I continue to notice how deeply this impacts the way I love myself—the way I parent myself.I’m almost constantly noticing or realising something different, something new.

Last week it suddenly hit me that I was only loving myself when I was doing or achieving things. I hadn’t realised that that part of the relationship I have with being able to be loved by others, was also the relationship I have towards being able to love myself.

photo by: amani omejer. permission to use.

I wrote this note to myself and stuck it on the wall, with the desire to love myself regardless of whether I’m doing or not doing.

I can love myself just for being.

I’m trying to trust that as this new kind of love—unconditional love—, as well as the forgiveness and acceptance it brings, begins to ripple inside myself, it’ll begin to ripple through the beliefs I have about others love for me, too—that they can love me for just being, also.

And that the people around me have been loving me this way regardless of whether I’ve been able to see it and believe it, or not.

I often feel frustrated with my process—the way that my fear and wounding has such a strong hold, and it feels like it’s taking so fucking long to ease or shift—because I long to feel able to be connected and held, rather than scared and un-seen.

When I look closely, though, things are so far from where they once were. And in my heart, I know this messiness and my wounding being so vividly here, is the beginning of truly healing.

And that can’t help but excite me and leave my worry gently soothed.


Relephant to this:

Recipe for Healing. ~ Edith Lazenby

Opening Up To Healing.

How to Actually Love Yourself. Like, Actually. For Real.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives; Amani Omejer

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

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Amani Omejer

Amani Omejer is a writer and editor living in the green city of Bristol, UK. She spends her time writing, drawing cartoons, and tucking herself into pockets of nature. She believes in the importance of telling your story, connecting with nature, laughing, photographing moments, good food, clothes swapping, adventure, cold water swimming, drinking herbs, and napping. She tells her story on her blog. You can follow that and her other writings via Facebook, her website, or Instagram (@amaniomejer).

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anonymous Nov 9, 2015 11:57am

This is so beautiful and feels like it was written about me, because it sums up how i feel and where i am in my healing journey, which some days feels like a never ending road. Whilst its good to know that im not alone in these feelings (and hence not going mad) i am truly sorry for your pain…love light and healing to all of us who survived and are now learning what love is really like ❤

anonymous Jul 21, 2015 6:11am

This, this is where I feel I am, maybe a little bit further, because everyday I dare to love, and to be loved with out doing anything. Thank you, I needed this today.

anonymous Sep 6, 2014 9:49am

I could not stop crying as I read this. This is incredible.

anonymous Apr 4, 2014 2:55pm

Thank you for sharing. I can relate only too well.

anonymous Apr 1, 2014 7:23pm

Thank-you for sharing.

You’ve struck a cord with me.

anonymous Mar 30, 2014 3:16pm

Your bravery to put this into words and post it for others to read blows me away. I have thought and felt many of the things your write, but never thought anyone would be able to give words to it in such a clear and truthful way as you did. Thank you. You've really touched me.

    anonymous Mar 31, 2014 2:52am

    What an amazing comment – thank you! Appreciate your words and feedback, a lot.

anonymous Mar 30, 2014 12:48pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love your raw eloquence. And it’s lovely when you start to realise you are not the only one who carries these scars. I am right there with you struggling and succeeding in this healing journey. It’s been a steady diet of self help/spiritual books including Thick Nhat Hanh’s Reconciliation, Melody Beattie’s the language of letting go, Tara Brach’s radical acceptance and anything by John Welwood. Transcendental meditation, mindfulness, shiatsu, theta healing and learning reiki have also played big parts in the process. I hope some of my suggestions may help others because they have changed my life for the better and allowed for deep personal revelations.. but most importantly for me to feel my heart opening for the first time in years. Much love to you xo

anonymous Mar 30, 2014 12:28pm

Fear of abandonment put into beautiful words. I get it. Thanks for making me feel less alone and messy 🙂

    anonymous Mar 31, 2014 2:54am

    Ah, I'm so glad to hear that.

anonymous Mar 28, 2014 11:44am

Thank you for your raw words and vulnerability ~ you most eloquently described my journey as well! Powerful, hopeful and healing!!

    anonymous Mar 31, 2014 2:54am

    It's amazing how many people have said this relates to their journey, too! Thank you for commenting.

anonymous Mar 28, 2014 10:24am

I am so grateful to you… you are not alone in our battle.. and clearly I am not also… lots of warmth!

anonymous Mar 28, 2014 10:20am

Another reader who needed to hear this right now. Wholeheartedly, thank you.

    anonymous Mar 31, 2014 2:53am

    Thanks for commenting, Betsy – always appreciate hearing my words resonate with people.

anonymous Mar 28, 2014 9:33am

Thank you again and again for this. It is beautiful. It is truth. I see my own reflection here and than you for that, too. You honor that which is seeking, growing, lovely in all of us.

anonymous Mar 28, 2014 4:38am

Thank you for writing this. I know every word.

anonymous Mar 27, 2014 10:12pm

Thank you..I needed that, while newly practicing being gentle with my self instead of seeing my wounds as part of a large fix-it project. For me, even just staying aware of the alternatives is the start to healing.

    anonymous Mar 31, 2014 2:49am

    Oh man, I so related to this – thank you!

anonymous Mar 27, 2014 9:17pm

Thank you Amani… I could relate to several parts of your story… As I was reading I was reflecting on where I have most recently acted this stuff out. Much thanks for your openness.

    anonymous Mar 31, 2014 2:50am

    Thank you Thomas, glad you could relate!

anonymous Mar 27, 2014 8:46pm

Thank you! Your story came at the perfect time for me.

anonymous Mar 27, 2014 6:06pm

One of the most raw and brave submissions I have read to date. Relateable, vulnerable and hopeful. Thank you.

    anonymous Mar 28, 2014 6:29am

    Wow. This comment made me teary – thank you!

anonymous Mar 27, 2014 10:12am

Healing, beautiful, transparent and real. Thank you!

    anonymous Mar 28, 2014 6:29am

    Ah, Carolyn, your words are always appreciated – thank you!

anonymous Mar 27, 2014 7:48am

Thank you so so much for this!! This is much of what I am struggling with right now and your words touched me very deeply this morning.

    anonymous Mar 28, 2014 6:28am

    Jane, I'm so glad it resonated. Love.

anonymous Mar 27, 2014 3:01am

Well said, beautiful words!