It’s February and everyone’s thinking and talking about love. I’m reading all kinds of posts and ideas about love. Some examples are: “First, love yourself.” and “Don’t only let love in, let your love out.” I have also seen a workshop offered entitled “Fall in love with yourself this Season!” While what they are offering at this workshop looks delightful, I feel concerned when I hear this language. I’m not sure its possible. And now, during our cultural preparation for Valentine’s Day, women (mostly) get to feel more lonely and sad, because they are not able to ‘love themselves” or find someone to “love them”.
In my view love is not a verb. How can you ‘love’ someone? You can’t. You can only say and do things that you think will give someone an experience of love. For example, I might make you a favorite dish for dinner. I’m hoping you will have an experience of caring and love by my doing that. I might make the bed, clean the house, go to work, rub your back when you ask. These are the things we can do. They are verbs, actions.
Love is a need. Like all needs, love is an energy we get to experience. It is not something you do or something someone does for you. If you want to experience more love in you life, there are manyways that it can happen. However, when you believe you must receive it from someone else (especially only 1 person) – or in some magical way give it to yourself, you are actually limiting the possibilities for getting that need met. You are decreasing the likelihood that you will have more of it in your life. It is not resourceful. The thought is not helping you.
Consider this. If I cook dinner for you because I am excited about you having an experience of love, then in that moment, I am also having the experience of love. Love isn’t something I am giving you or getting from you. I am giving you dinner. The life energy being experienced, in this case love, is shared. Always.
If I want to experience more love (which is what I am guessing people mean when they say love yourself), then I can do things that give me the experience of love. Meaning, I can make a friend dinner, rub someone’s back, send a lovely card to someone, offer a helping hand, etc. It is not necessary that someone do those things for me for me to have an experience of love.
You can get into emotional trouble when you link an experience with the strategy -- how you intend to have that experience. Said another way, thinking “I need love.” is resourceful. Thinking “I need you to love me.” is not resourceful. Certainly, you may like to have people in your life who care about you and do nice things for you. It is one way that you can experience love—or ease, nurturing, compassion, etc. It is important to know, however, that it is not the only way for you to have those experiences in your life. If that is your belief, then it is no wonder why you cling to people, hold on, or get mad when they don’t do what you want. You think your needs will never get met if they, in particular, won’t meet them.
I’d like to mention another thing I notice, especially now, during Valentine’s Day. Do you hope and pray, in (sometimes) desperate silence, that your special someone will ‘love’ you. What is the silence all about? I hear so many times from friends and clients, “I don’t want to have to ask them. If they loved me they would just do it!” Please consider asking. Ask for specifically what you would like done that would give you an experience of love, and ask what you might say or do that so that your special someone might have more of an experience of love. Often what we want is quite different from what they want. That’s a good thing to know.
How many arguments start with “You don’t love me!” “Yes I do!”? Since we measure if someone loves us or not by what they say and do, take responsibility for getting more of what you want in your life, be specific and ask. Hopefully, who you ask, how you ask, and how you ‘be and have been’ will encourage compassionate giving, and the desire to contribute to each other’s lives in the ways that you both like.
Finally, when you want someone you care about to feel loved, instead of saying “I love you, try saying what is happening that you love. For a few reasons. One, it is what is so. ‘I love you’ is vague. Their first thought might be, “Why do you love me?” or “Oh no, what do they want now?” If a person had a childhood where love meant work, then saying I love you to someone may promote feelings of distress for that person, rather than comfort and warmth. If you are specific, they may like hearing what you say, and do it again. For example, you might say, “I am feeling so inspired and delighted right now being here with you and having this conversation. I so enjoy and appreciate hearing your viewpoint about the events of the day and I really like being all cuddled up together while we talk. I feel safe and calm and nurtured.” This, I believe, anyone will understand.
And really finally, please remember how I started this article – hearing the words, “love yourself first”. When you are doing things so that another can have an experience of love (partner, friend, family member or stranger) then you are also immersed in the living energy of love. That’s how you can love yourself.