Lori Bryant Woolridge, CSC, ACC
What’s your 4-letter word for love? How has love’s treatment of you impacted your ability to attract and revel in it today? Is your 4-letter word for love–take or give? Hurt or heal? Evil or epic?
Our experiences and history with love colors how we think about it, interact with it, seek or avoid it. But no matter your history, love is the one thing we all crave and yet, understand the least. And whether we see it as negative or positive, there is that four letter word we all, at some point in our lives, associate with love–FEAR. Fear it will hurt us. Fear we will lose it. Fear that we’ll never find it.
And not surprisingly, the fear of love impacts your relationships in ways you may not even be consciously aware of. It reveals itself in behaviors like people pleasing; sabotaging your relationship; ghosting your partner; being afraid to be yourself and fully expressed; settling for less than you deserve or avoiding love altogether. It can also show up as overcompensating and having an inflated sense of self or entitlement. Bottom line: the fear of love makes it impossible to find and maintain the lasting and fulfilling relationship you crave.
But let’s be clear, it’s not love that you fear. It’s the idea of not being loved, of losing love, that scares you. This is an important distinction because you can always work through the fear and make changes, but when you stop being open to love because you’re afraid of being hurt, you shut down the very purpose you are here in this world—to share and enjoy love in all of its various forms.
Interestingly, the 4-letter word we associate the least with love, the kind of love that is the most important and is the basis of all true and enduring love, is SELF. Interesting, but not surprising. From day one, we are enticed by, curious about, and enamored with the fairy tale love we’re exposed to. It’s romantic love we see all around us on the television, in books and movies. It’s the one version of love that we literally grow up and go out in search of. We can spend years chasing someone love from someone else, while not giving any time or thought to cultivate our own.
But not falling in love with yourself in a real and soulful way impacts your sense of self-worth, deservedness, and your ability to give and receive the very thing you crave. It also has a huge impact on the way you perceive the world and your place in it.
So what is self-love? In theory, it’s doesn’t sound like such a puzzling concept. Love yourself. Okay. Makes sense. But self-love, like all other formations of love, is an abstract concept. What does it look like? Feel like? Sound like? How do we know it when we see it?
Self-love is being open and honest with yourself, about yourself. It’s accepting, respecting, and appreciating yourself (faults and all). Self-love is knowing your self-worth and honoring your desires and values. It’s unconditional and is compassionate and kind (to yourself) in thought and deed. Yep, it’s all the things we try to give to those we love, without thinking about giving it to ourselves.
Like fear, it’s quite interesting how this lack of love for ourselves plays out in our everyday lives. And the thing is, most of us don’t correctly identify it for what it is. We write off our inability to see our own unique beauty, speak our individual truths, to feel comfortable in a room full of strangers, to make healthy decisions and take risks, as poor body image or a lack of confidence or shyness. We ignore our constant boredom and feeling stuck in a rut as the coast of eking out a living or raising a family. We tolerate physical, emotional and verbal abuse from the world at large, and most, unfortunately, from those who love us, as a show of our commitment and love.
Because we ignore our emotions and the root cause for them (lack of self-love) we create coping strategies for running away and hiding from what truly ails us—a soul searching for love and not finding it within. And while we’re hiding from ourselves, we’re looking for the love and acceptance of others to make us feel whole. And searching with the need for completion and validation from others is exactly what places on that fear laden path to finding love.
Get to know and do the work necessary to fall in love with yourself. Once you do that, you’ll see that everything—from your view in the mirror to your view of the world—changes in a way that is positive, joyful and jam-packed with love! And with love—all things are possible! To get you started, download my 5 Fake It Til’ You Make It Strategies for loving yourself.