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101 ways to Have True Love in Your Life
By DAPHNE ROSE KINGMA
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2006 Daphne Rose Kingma
All rights reserved.
Loving yourself is of the utmost importance. If you don't know how to love yourself, you won't know how or how well to treat others, and you may have problems with what we call boundaries. Instead of having clarity, you'll stumble through swamps of low self-esteem and thickets of self-loathing that will derail you in your efforts to "love others as yourself."
In order to love yourself, you must first understand that self-love isn't narcissism. Nor is it egotism, self-righteousness, excessive self-involvement, stubbornness, conceit, or greed, all of which have given real self-love a bad name. Rather, it is the solid internal grounding from which you can become your most authentic self.
Learning to love yourself is a process. For when you really learn to love yourself, you'll no longer have to work at it every minute. By continually reminding yourself of how important you are, how important loving yourself is, you will eventually arrive at the place where self-compassion comes almost automatically. From the steady practice of a gentle unconditional care of yourself, you will be able to reach out to others with exquisite generosity and a bounteous open heart.
In time you will see that self-love is also a spiritual matter. It's not just learning to treat yourself better, it's also learning to see and feel yourself as one of the threads in the vast human shawl, as deeply, indeed, unconditionally received by a caring and beautifully ordered universe. It is when you embrace this connection that you can truly love yourself. This true, felt sense of yourself as a precious part of the universe is really the ultimate source from which you can love others.
Begin this beautiful, powerful journey to yourself by taking a single step of caring for yourself today. For you, what would that step be? Write it down on a piece of paper. Paste it up on your bathroom mirror and then take it!
Value Your Uniqueness
When we come into life, our souls step out of the timeless eternal and into the finite moment of living as human beings. In this moment, and in the remarkable context of living on earth, we become both agents and receivers of the gifts of personality. We acquire that vast, amusing, unique, and frustrating array of attributes and attitudes, predilections and possibilities, from which we compose the symphonies of our individual lives. When it comes to personality, no human being is exactly like any other; and no matter how much you may share with, be influenced by, or bond with another, only you can be yourself.
It's a pleasure and a privilege to be yourself. In fact, just being born is a compliment. Having a chance to feel, see, and live your life, in precisely the way that only you will, is a sterling, never-to-come-again opportunity.
It's easy to forget this. We sometimes feel stranded, hemmed-in, and alone, not liking who we are, not being happy to be alive, disparaging our precious selves. But being yourself, living out your uniqueness, is precisely the beauty of being alive; when you ignore or forget to celebrate your uniqueness, you insult, in effect, the consciousness that gave you life.
And if you, who lives, breathes, suffers, and enacts all that is yours uniquely to experience, are unable to value all that you are, who can? And who will? Honoring you is your job. Nobody else can do it. Nobody else has the knowledge or experience. And nobody else should have to, for honoring yourself is your most important work. It is the ground of loving recognition from which your talent for honoring others will inevitably spring. To honor yourself is to know yourself in a truly valuing way. No other love you have or share or give will reach its full dimension until and unless you have first learned to truly honor yourself.
Practice Loving Yourself
If you have trouble loving yourself, imagine that everyone in the world is a hungry soul whose life has been imperfect. Like you, they had imperfect parents. Like you, tragedies and difficulties befell them. If you could hear each person's story, you would probably be moved to tears and want to reach out and embrace that person. You would want to tell them that in spite of everything they've gone through, they have great value.
You might also want to thank them for having the courage to move from where they came from to where they are now, expressing your admiration of their goodness and beauty and uniqueness. You would want to tell them that, indeed, certainly, in the eyes of God and also in your eyes, there isn't any question that they deserve to be loved.
Imagine that all these beautiful souls are standing before you, waiting for your blessing. When you look in your heart and ask yourself whether or not you can unabashedly give it, your heart spills over with generosity and laughter and love. You can't imagine anything easier or more natural than loving each person for exactly who he or she is.
Now take a step toward loving yourself by imagining yourself at the head of the line of all these souls who are asking for your blessing, waiting for your approval, and see if you can't embrace yourself with the quiet heartfelt conviction of knowing that you're alright—that you're perfect—just as you are. As you do this, you will begin to feel deeply, in your own heart, the quiet, steadying gift of your own intelligent love. Loving yourself means that just as you're willing to rush to the aid of anyone else, you will rush to your own aid; you will come to your own rescue. You will acknowledge your talents, you will remember your own value, and you will know every minute that you deserve to live. Come on, take the first step toward loving yourself!
Challenge Your Self-Criticism
Self-criticism is speaking badly about yourself and, in general, evaluating yourself in a negative manner. It is beating yourself up verbally for the sheer knee-jerk habit and indulgence of it, just because it's familiar to pick on yourself and put yourself down. Through self-criticism, you look at yourself and find yourself somehow unacceptable, not worthy of your own love.
Do you say any of these terrible things to yourself? My nose is too big, too small, too crooked, too pointy. My eyes are too dark, too light, too close together, too far apart. I'm too fat. I'm too thin. I'm too ugly. Why did I wear that fancy blouse—too dressy! Why did I wear that plain old sweatshirt—too shabby! I'm too wishy-washy. I should have tried harder. I shouldn't have bothered. I shouldn't have said that. I should've said that instead. I should've been nicer. More aggressive. Less blunt. I wasted way too much money on that hotel room, house, car. I didn't invest nearly enough money on that motel room, cottage, bicycle. I should've asked that cute girl out on a date. I was a fool to love him in the first place. It was the biggest mistake of my life to marry her. I should've been more patient with my mother. I should not have gotten angry with my father. I should've blamed him more. I should've thanked him more. I should've forgiven him before he died.
Today, if you catch yourself in a moment of self-criticism, stop, breathe, and then say one beautiful, appreciating thing to yourself.
Stop the Self-Blame
Self-blame is imagining—no, it's being absolutely sure—that whatever's gone wrong is your fault. It's choosing to blame yourself rather than the ordinary circumstances of life or the people who are actually at fault for whatever's gone awry. When your form of not loving yourself is self-blame, you tend to see every problem as somehow caused by you, and you beat yourself up for it.
Does this remind you of you? It's my fault my parents fought all the time—I wasn't a good daughter. It's my fault my child is sick—I didn't keep him away from that kid with the runny nose. It's my fault my husband is overweight—I don't cook him healthy meals. It's my fault my wife is unhappy—I don't earn enough money. It's my fault my favorite team didn't win—I didn't wear my rally cap. It's my fault that it snowed last night—I didn't pray to the sun gods. It'll be my fault if the house burns down—I don't check the electrical wiring weekly. It's my fault the economy crashed—I didn't manage my money well. It's my fault the ozone is depleted—I don't use the right hairspray.
You can always go on blaming yourself, but why not pause for a moment, and consciously remind yourself of one of your real achievements—big or small—and then write it down. This will help you move one—or a hundred—inches closer to loving and enjoying yourself.
Understand Why You Have Trouble Loving Yourself
Deep down, any feelings of unworthiness you may have are tied to your very sense of survival. That's because when you were very young, you were completely dependent on your adult caregivers for survival. Somewhere inside you know this. So, naturally, when you're a child you feel you'd better measure up ... or else. Psychologically, it works like this: If I'm a good and perfect child, my parents will love me. If they love me, they'll take care of me. If they take care of me, I'll survive and thrive and become all that I'm meant to be. On the other hand, if I'm not good enough, they won't love me, they won't take care of me, and I won't survive. I'll be so neglected, I'll die.
This fear of death is not an entirely irrational fear. For example, my friend Tom, the son of an alcoholic, was frequently beaten with any blunt object that was handy, and he legitimately felt that his life was in danger. And my friend Jane, who learned that her mother had tried to abort her, correctly sensed that at some point her mother had wished her dead.
Whether the danger is obvious, or merely implied, the bottom line of all this early experience is that, psychologically, we believe we have to be lovable in order to survive. That's how our sense of our own value becomes related to an unconscious fear of death. This is one of the reasons why, in adulthood, our own acts of not loving ourselves can feel so deeply violating. Each time we don't love ourselves, we are recreating the unloved feeling we had as children. This, in turn, makes us feel once again as if our very lives are in danger. On an unconscious level, we're afraid we might treat ourselves so badly that we will die from the lack of our own self-love, and indeed many un-self-loving behaviors are deeply destructive and do result in death.
Now that you understand this connection, will you start being kinder to yourself? What little or big thing can you do today to show that you love yourself? Go to the gym or take a healthy walk? Listen to some beautiful music? Look for a new, more fulfilling job?
Allow Your Needs to Be Your Guide
When you allow yourself to be guided by your needs, your needs become the path that can lead you to yourself—and also to your beloved. Conversely, denying your needs or endlessly serving others to the detriment of fulfilling your own needs are both ways of not discovering who you are and of not allowing yourself to be loved.
Not needing is an inauthentic state. It's a denial of your humanness. That's because one of our most basic human characteristics is that we are creatures of need. To deny this—by being brutally self-sufficient, by manipulating others into serving you, or by pretending to have transcended need—is a form of hypocrisy. No one who's alive on the planet—not even avatars or saints—has totally transcended need. To be human is to need; and to need is to be human. We need food. We need loving arms. We need air and light and the sun and the glistening fine white shine of the moon. We need to be listened to, to be heard. We need empathy, to be feelingly felt with. We need work that is a true expression of our spirits. We need company, compatriots on the path. We need witness: friends and strangers to reflect to us who we are. We need success—at something. We need peace.
Our needs are like weeds that spring up between the rocks on our path—insistent, organic, demanding. They are the barest, boldest truths of ourselves, the essential grit at our core. But often we don't treat them as such. We tap them down, shut them up, and talk ourselves out of them; and by the time someone's ready to meet them in a relationship, we don't even know what they are.
The opposite of not knowing your needs is becoming conscious of them—discovering what they are and then finding the words to express them. As their size, shape, and content are all gradually revealed, you will gain a map of yourself. You will see who you are, what you really do need, and what joy it will give you to have your needs fulfilled.
So discover what you need; speak up about it; and be open to receive. For knowing what you need and asking for it—clearly, strongly, directly—is an act of personal strength. It will allow you to be honored through the meeting of your needs, and it will allow the person who loves you the joy of loving you well.
Use the Expression of Your Anger As a Way to Love Yourself
Anger is a complicated emotion. It can go all the way from rip-roaring destructive rage to the firm and quiet expression of the fact that you are holding the emotional energy of anger about something that's been done to you. At its worst, anger is flying off the handle, blowing your stack, beating somebody up, being a raving, roaring maniac. These expressions of so-called anger represent the emotion of anger and the physical power of aggression combined, and they are immature and inappropriate forms of anger, unleashed primarily for the benefit of the person who's unleashing them.
But anger is also a beautiful emotion. It's the emotion of self-care and self-protection. It is the emotion by which you can tell others that you are a worthy, valuable human being. It's the way you can tell other people that they've gone too far, that they've crossed an invisible boundary they shouldn't have crossed if they want to remain in your good graces. It's the sword by which you can cut away behaviors that dishonor you, the emotion through which you can teach others how to treat you as well.
Because there's always a strong negative energy connected with anger, people generally don't like it when other people are angry at them. There's a certain threat embodied in the energy of anger, the sense when you're the recipient of it, that some negative effect could be unleashed in your direction. It is the presence of this potential threat which makes anger such a powerful emotion, and which also enables it to serve on behalf of your well-being. It takes a lot of energy to express anger; and it takes a lot of receptive strength and energy to be able to receive the anger that has been delivered.
Loving yourself by speaking your anger doesn't mean becoming a raving hysterical maniac and letting it all hang out. Healthy anger has four parts: determining exactly what you're angry about; expressing it strongly and clearly; elaborating, if you choose, about what it refers to in your larger life; and asking for what you want instead. By elaborating, I mean explaining why it is that this particular behavior has the power to affect you so deeply. For example, "I'm angry that for the third time this week you're late. It makes me feel as if you don't care about me. It reminds me of how I used to sit waiting on the curb after school for my father, who would often make me wait for hours, and one time completely forgot to pick me up."
Elaborating is important because it gives the other person an opportunity to see you in the context of your life experience, and not just in the moment of your irritation with them. It gives that person a chance to see what you've been through, and in doing so, to love you better. And it gives you an opportunity to love yourself better because when you see how the infraction of the moment is part of a long and knotted skein of infractions that have hurt your spirit over many years, you can decide to protest instead of getting hurt again. You'll feel better because you will have stood up for yourself, and they'll feel better because they'll have regained your love and restored the harmony between you.
I hope that understanding all this will help you to use your anger to honor, cherish, and protect yourself.
Taking action is a very powerful way of loving yourself. In psychological terms, acting out isn't ordinarily thought of as being a good thing. It usually means that instead of behaving like a conscious, forthright human being and talking about what you need, feel, or want, you "act out," that is, perform despicable behaviors like egging someone's car windshield or beating someone up in a dark alley. In this view, acting out is a kind of immature emotional behavior through which you indirectly express your feelings through action instead of simply stating them. In psychological terms, this kind of acting out is "passive-aggressive" behavior.
In the cliché marital transaction, for example, the woman who doesn't want to have sex and creates a headache to avoid it is acting out to create the outcome she desires. Rather than telling her husband she isn't interested, she feigns a headache and gets what she wants. The use of an action—in this case, getting sick—to communicate something she doesn't have the courage to communicate in words is what constitutes passive-aggressive behavior. It's called passive because it isn't direct, and aggressive because it actually constitutes a kind of emotional violation of the person against whom it's directed. Rather than acting out in a positive sense, it's a subtle emotional assault.
Excerpted from 101 ways to Have True Love in Your Life by DAPHNE ROSE KINGMA. Copyright © 2006 Daphne Rose Kingma. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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