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Read Part I: Chronic Misery: 7 Ways we Abandon Ourselves.
If I ask you what is love, what will you say?
Is there a universal definition or understanding of love?
Maybe not, and it makes sense as to why there isn’t or wouldn’t be one. In my understanding, it’s only because no one truly knows and not many have had the privilege of experiencing the many different ways in which “love” manifests itself.
However, what I have learnt over time is this: to love someone or something is the ability to give all the goodness that you have within you to that person, thing, or relationship. It’s simply giving with the intent to nurture.
Most of us end up “giving” certain experiences to our loved ones based on what we want to give or can give, without the right intent, and here the intent is to give the person the nurturance they need, desire, and deserve. Sometimes it’s our presence, and at times, it’s our absence.
And that’s why we fail. People talk about “love” and “self-love” all the time, but no one knows or tells you how.
Most relationships fail because people are only looking at what they can get out of it rather than what they can give.
Most relationships fail, including the sacred parent-child relationship, because our notion of love is all wrong. For instance:
“I hurt you because I love you and I want to protect you.”
“I restrict you because I love you and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I can hurt the ones I love.”
“I can shout at them because I love them.”
“I can criticize someone because I love them and that gives me the right to treat them the way I want, and of course, it’s for their betterment!”
“Love means taking our loved ones for granted or using them as emotional dustbins.”
And all of this is simply crap. Genuine love requires nurturance. It’s simple. Genuine love says:
“I love you and I will support you in ways that you need.”
“I love you and I will always act in your best interest. If I make a mistake or end up hurting you, I will tend to and nurture that hurt.”
“I love you and I will uplift your spirits when you’re down.”
“I love you and I will help you grow into a better version of yourself.”
” I love you and I understand your needs.”
Thus, a healthy relationship then needs two or more people who come together with the intent of giving this nurturance to each other.
And that’s what self-love also means.
Self-love is the ability to give yourself the nurturance that you need to survive, grow, and thrive. Self-love is the ability to understand yourself, your needs, and act in ways that fulfill them so that you can keep becoming the best version of yourself—each and every day.
And it’s only when we learn to give this nurturance to ourselves can we truly to begin to love another.
How many of us are able to do that? It’s easy for us to also pull ourselves down. Gravity always wins. Doesn’t it? Well, that may be the case in physics—but not in life.
What ultimately works in life is our ability to rise after we fall—to take that gravitational pull and push forward.
We grow into a world that teaches us a million ways to break our spirits or to remind us in various ways that we are cracked, tarnished, and broken. It’s up to us to create a world where we nurture ourselves—where we remind ourselves that “I am worthy of love just by virtue of being.” We need to turn inward and create that world.
Coming from a space of self-abandonment, the idea of self-love seems grand for many. It’s like this utopia; it simply doesn’t exist.
But it does. It needs to be created—by us. And it takes small efforts, every day, till one fine day our mind decides to absorb and translate it into action effortlessly.
Till then, these are five building blocks of self-love that we can begin focusing on (and you can read all about this in my book The Intentional Being):
1. Move toward self-acceptance. You are who you are. Accept yourself without the judgements of “I don’t like myself for…,” “I don’t like my body…,” “I wish I were more or less.” No! You are who are. Period. You don’t have to like or love yourself to accept yourself.
Acceptance simply means acknowledging that something exists in a certain way at this point in time. You can think about what you need to change or improve only after you have acknowledged that you exist. You can’t heal a wound without really acknowledging its presence, can you?
2. Build self-awareness. Be aware of the kind of person you are, how you think, feel, and act. Be aware of what your needs are and your strengths and areas of improvements. Turn inward and ask yourself what you’re struggling with—what’s not resonating with you. Figure out how you can support yourself better.
3. Self-compassion. For someone who has never even come close to the idea of nurturance and warmth, self-love will always seem like a mountain peak that they will never be able to conquer. We can at least begin by appreciating the good things that we are doing, catching ourselves when we’re being critical, and replacing it with a reminder that we’re only human.
Just a gentle reminder that “I’m doing the best that I can and I am willing to consider the goodness in me” is a stepping-stone. We do show kindness and warmth to others in their tough times, we just need to say the same things to our own aching heart.
4. Self-care. We can start by taking care of not just our physical needs—we also need a break, a time-out, or to spend time with someone, or perhaps, even support.
5. Self-respect. Be observant of the ways in which either you or others tend to disrespect or demean you. It could be self-criticism or constant criticism by someone else. A tasteless joke, comments on your body, or making you feel small if you are feeling vulnerable. Pull away or start putting up boundaries. If we don’t respect ourselves, others won’t as well.
The fact is that we receive what we give out.
Self-love is not the end goal. It’s not the peak of a mountain. It’s not a destination.
It is the journey.
The day you decide to get on this journey is when you begin to reclaim your power—that power that has always been yours to begin with.
“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s what you think you are not.” ~ Anonymous