To love and be loved in return is the greatest gift of life and also our greatest challenge. How can we rise to the opportunities to experience love and successfully handle its deepest pitfalls?
Whether we grew up loved and coddled or unloved and battered, we face a common challenge. We all must learn to love ourselves enough to survive and even thrive when we are inevitably hurt by love. How do we meet this most human of initiations to be able to love again even more successfully?
Self-love is the answer to that question. I am not talking about narcissism, but about healthy love. The advice a flight attendant gives passengers – to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you place it on another passenger is a good metaphor. If you don’t do that and pass out, who will put the oxygen mask on you? What will happen to them once you have suffocated? Caring for yourself means you can care for others better. Self-love is what gives you the strength to succeed in loving others.
To receive love, you must have a receptacle for it. If a person grows up with insufficient love, their love receptors are not developed enough to let love in. The only way to correct this is to love oneself strongly enough to build that receptacle. The reason this works is that who you really are is an eternal Spirit Being entirely made of love. Because of that, there is always a focus of love to partner with as close as your own heart and soul. Learning to partner with this Higher Self, we can build our capacity to share love with others too.
There are all kinds of love. The kind we grew up with creates expectations about love from others, and we probably won’t get the same things as an adult that we knew as children. Love requires us to stretch and make room to love in new ways. Self-love gives us a deep well of security from which to learn new ways of sharing love with others.
We will likely experience some disappointment and sometimes great hurt in loving others. No one will ever be able to love us enough to give us all the comfort and security that we need. This reality either makes us grow whole and strong in our self, or it can leave us at a loss. When we are strong in our inner love built on partnership with our Higher Selves, it gives us strength and courage to traverse the challenges that come from loving others.
Building this relationship with Higher Self is a lifelong journey. It ultimately requires a commitment to self that is deeper and stronger than a marriage – there is no divorcing our self! Our inner love needs to be strong enough to resist the impulse to give ourselves away to a partner, children, parents, job, etc. There is a difference between sharing oneself and giving oneself away. Below is a list of some of the ways that we can build self-love:
– Put on your oxygen mask first – Whatever other’s needs are, no matter how demanding they seem, make time to provide for your own most basic needs before rushing off to care for them. Then make time for your individual spiritual needs as well. Always schedule both basic and spiritual needs into your days and weeks.
– Take time to get to know yourself – many people don’t remember their own preferences because life has always been about others. Explore these questions: What is important to me? What do I want to develop within myself? Explore ways to fulfill your longings and still have the relationships you love.
– Do others give to you, or only expect you to give to them? If the latter, then practice giving time, care, and love to yourself, so that you build the receptacle to receive. Once you have established that, then practice asking others for what you want. Love is a two-way exchange if it is only flowing one way; it is only half alive. Wake up the other half! Don’t worry about equality; just stand up and be counted!
– Being whole is impossible without your spirit self. Your human self was designed as a vehicle for your spiritual self; when the spirit is forgotten, the human is only half alive. Get to know your Higher Self and discover ways that work for you to nurture that partnership. It isn’t enough to join an organization; love is personal and needs your personal commitment and effort to be fully alive.
As you grow in self-love, your relationships will reveal more depth and potential than ever before. I celebrate the potential within each of us to love and be loved in return!