What does it really mean to love? How do we practice love towards others? How do we practice love towards ourselves? Can we love others without loving ourselves? The word love here is used as a verb. It is an action and, I believe, it can be professed as true love only as much as our actions support it. That is, we have to behave in love in order to actually profess our love. I think sometimes, the words, “I love you” are used too loosely. The actions that would support love–accepting someone as they are, unconditionally–are often lost within this extremely important affirmation. Love is not conditional on someone changing. If someone needs to change to be loved, they are merely ‘fitting in’. If we need to change in order to feel worthy of love from others, it is not true love. To really love someone is to accept them as they are, with all their faults and shortcomings, with all their ups and downs and, especially, with all their shame and vulnerability.
I looked for images of “Love” to include here and almost all of them say, “Love is Blind”. What does that even mean? To love blindly would be like never seeing the person you are loving for who they are, wouldn’t it? I don’t think love should be blind to a person’s shortcomings; I think it should be open to their faults and vulnerabilities and to love them regardless. That is how we practice love! Through acceptance. For someone to be worthy of love, they shouldn’t have to change. If they need to change, it is not true love. Having said that, it does not mean that those we love don’t need to be accountable for their own actions, thoughts and feelings, they do! Just as we need to be accountable for ours.
In my mind, the love we hold for ourselves has to be the same as the love we hold for others or it is not true love. We don’t really love ourselves if we feel we have to change in order to be accepted by others. That is just conforming to others or trying to fit in. It is not self love. In order to truly love ourselves, we need to acknowledge who we are with all our idiosyncrasies and step out into the world bravely, imperfectly! Yes, we will change as we grow but we don’t need to change to love ourselves or to be loved by others. We must, I believe, embrace our shortcomings, accept them, if we are to truly love ourselves. Can we do that? Is self love achievable? I think it is; although, I wouldn’t say I’m quite in the flow of it yet. This kind of love takes tremendous courage, I believe more bravery than it takes to love someone else. We are more critical of ourselves than we are of others! Practicing self love takes heroism to a new and critical level.
I was looking, again, at quotes for self love and I found many that consider “self love” as a prerequisite for loving others. I’m not sure I believe this; although, I could likely come up with arguments for both. Now, as I sit here contemplating this statement, I find myself questioning my own beliefs. I was of the mind that loving others wholeheartedly could be done without loving ourselves in the same way. I think of myself as an aunt and how much I love my nephews–especially when they were little–but how much I would chastise myself during that time. I was never good enough, brave enough or smart enough for myself, but I loved those boys as if they were my own and with every part of my soul. Now, as an afterthought, I have to wonder if I didn’t force some of my own degree of self-hate on them. I remember when they were twelve, I made up a binder of exercises they could do to build themselves up for hockey (they were both pretty good little hockey players). I think back now and wonder was it all too much at once? Did I overwhelm them with my enthusiasm for their little lives? It’s something I would have done for myself and expected myself to work through the entire binder in a week! If I had loved myself back then, would I have introduced them to a smaller, gentler approach? We will never know and I’m not going to beat myself up for it as I was only doing what I felt was right at the time. If one of them comes to me and blames me for their own lack of self-worth, I will honour their feelings but they are old enough to take responsibility for their own decisions now. I think we do the best we can for those we love unconditionally. While we’re always in a growth spurt ourselves, I guess we will make mistakes in the name of love. But we can’t allow those mistakes to control who we are now. We will always need to make amends as we are imperfect. I’ve gone off on a completely different tangent here and I apologize for dragging you all along.
So, I guess, the question is still up in the air, can we love others without loving ourselves? Yes, I’m asking!! What do you think? What are your stories? Thanks, Jaidan
peace balance empathy