By Courtney Pierce, Quora.
You are an unconditional lover.
This is an astounding quality and asset. Until it becomes a liability.
This is the very real fact of most assets and positive qualities, they can become liabilities when we forget to include ourselves in the experience.
We can forget to include ourselves in our own visions and expressions of happiness, joy, peace, our own capacity to love deeply, to be compassionate with ourselves and remember:
We, who love deeply, richly, can forget to include ourselves in our riches and depth of generosity, kindness, empathy.
It could be said that those of us who grew up in a family of abuse, mental illness, narcissism, cultivated an extraordinary gift:
- The power to love unconditionally.
- The power of compassion.
- The experience of keeping our hearts open, regardless, to the best of our ability.
For every time we were abused, our boundaries crossed, we were scapegoated, we were stonewalled, we were dismissed, we were controlled, we cultivated a strength: we loved them anyway, regardless.
To maintain our experience of love, to keep our heart open, and practice understanding we learned to make excuses for bad behavior; to compensate for another’s shortcomings; to own more than our fair share in relationship.
We learned to disown our desires, our needs, our separate self in a secret hope that we could do something, feel something, enact something that would quite possibly inspire a change.
We were taught that being “good”, “worthy”, “valuable” was contingent on another’s perception of us.
This would have to change.
Maybe, just maybe this person will awaken and see me, hear me, understand me, love me.
Perhaps we felt we had no choice but to love—they were family. They were our mother, our father then, now they are a partner, a friend, a boss today.
So in our great lesson of learning to love and be loved well, we missed a very key message:
I too am worthy of love, regardless. I matter. My thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, creativity, joy is separate from you.
And in our ability to love we discover the very astonishing and grave question many of us will come to eventually:
Am I loveable? Will I be loved? Is it possible I’m unworthy of being loved well in return?
We forgot we must matter to ourselves.
I cried and cried the moment I hit upon this reckoning in my Soul. It was the loss of so much time dedicated to those incapable of sharing mutual respect and regard.
It’s not personal.
I discovered the great grief within of knowing there was absolutely not a single thing that could be done for the one who will not and cannot risk the vulnerability, the openness, the emotional resonance, the inner temporary discomfort and very real terror that accompany the experience of genuine, authentic love and connection.
I am powerless.
I can’t control the narrative of someone else’s mind and heart. So simple to comprehend in theory, so challenging to let go and practice.
Those who grew up in abusive families, narcissistic families, or perhaps even families with mental illness were given the message consciously or unconsciously:
- You must earn my love.
- You owe me your love.
- Love is conditional, contingent on a mood, a thought, or an outside influence and event.
By the time my own daughter was three years old I was giving her the message frequently, that love was within her. I’d place my hand on her chest and say something like, “My love for you is in your heart.”
I’d remind her, “You can always find me in your heart. I’m the one loving you unconditionally, no matter what, in your heart. You’re never alone because I’m in your heart loving you, regardless.”
You don’t have to change anything in order to be loved. I can love you the way you are right now.
I attracted these narcissistic, abusive ones at times into my life as an unconscious effort I suppose to own parts of myself that I had been taught to disown early on. I was attracting them to cultivate a greater strength within—to know, yes, I matter. Yes. I’m important. Yes, very big yes, I’m loveable.
It’s not personal.
And then to reap some of the qualities I had disowned: confidence, I could use a little bit of that. Considering myself in decisions and exercising my freedom to choose, I could use a little bit of that. Boundaries, I could use more of those. Fierceness, yep, I claim it.
I learned the very real sentence: No.
And I suffered the very real anxiety, fear, and discomfort of that sentence.
I faced the very real possibility: Maybe I’m undeserving of love. Maybe I caused this hurt. Maybe it was my fault.
What arrogance to think I can cause someone to do anything. Sure, this idea likes to be perpetuated in the world. But it’s just an idea. I don’t buy into it anymore. That’s what happens when we grow up, not by age, but by individuality and independence and freedom. We claim new awareness, we surrender the idea of blame and fault, and we live true to ourselves.
I learned to trust my anger—it’s telling me something important. My anger is signalling to me, I’m important to me. I matter. I’m a valuable human being. Love wants me to know joy and know it abundantly. Love wants me to include myself in my loving.
Love is not self-less.
It’s self-extending. It’s self-expanding. It’s self-honoring. It’s empowering.
I learned to trust my intuition, my feelings. This calling within is signalling to me: My desires, needs, wants are important to me.
It’s very difficult for some of us to suffer the displeasing stories that have been written for us:
I’m disappointing this one by not doing what they want me to do. I’m letting this person down if I don’t do what they want me to do. I’m hurting this person if I make a choice that’s not in alignment with what they want, what they feel I should do, what they think is best. I’m wrong to not make myself available to this one. I’m wrong to honor myself, my heart, my wisdom. I’m wrong wrong wrong.
The story is: Other people’s feelings are more important than my own. Other people’s thoughts are superior to my own. Other people’s experience should be honored over mine. Other people come first.
How much I wanted to come first in another person’s life!
Yet delegated to second place, second thought—and me the one giving out seconds all the time—second chances, re-considered ideas, re-worked feelings to negate the very real facts:
I was putting myself second. I’d have to place myself first.
Very uncomfortable. Alarms would sound! You’re a terrible, mean person, Courtney, thinking about yourself, considering your needs, considering yourself in the equation!
The trick of thoughts and stories like this one is that we hear them in our own voice, so we think they belong to us. The truth is that’s not my voice. That’s not my idea at all. That’s what someone else has told me. I bought into it. It belongs to someone or something else.
I forgive myself for buying into it. I forgive myself for forgetting I matter. For forgetting my life is valuable and important to me. For forgetting I’m worthy of having a life of my own. For forgetting caring for myself helps me better care for others. For forgetting my joy will inspire joy in others—and if it doesn’t then that person isn’t open to joy—move on, move on! They’re cared for something greater than me. Let that which is greater than me care for them well—it’s not my job, it transcends my ability!
In loving ourselves well we learn to suffer the risk of disappointing someone; the risk of being rejected; the risk of someone being angry with us; the risk of someone thinking something about us that we know isn’t real or true. We risk being unseen again, unheard again. We run the very real risk of being alone.
It’s just a story. Rewrite it.
You’ve never been alone in truth. In truth, your Love is so empowering you’ll discover once you own it you won’t be able to get enough time to simply be with yourself. You know who you are. You’re not a desperate person. You’re a warrior. You’re a lover. You cease apologizing, you cease owing, you cease running the deficit—and start living, fully, wholly, extra-ordinarily!
You’ve been to battle. You can say now to someone else, someone else recovering, someone else healthy and capable, I’ve learned how to love that too—the part in me that forgets to include myself in my loving. I’ve learned to love even that part too. I’ll show you.
We risk losing control over our lives, our relationships, our experiences. We risk losing the imaginary protection this control pretends to offer us.
We want to lose this control, surrender it, so that we may gain a greater personal power that lets us know we’re absolutely loveable just the way we are; we have every right to honor our dreams and visions for ourselves; we actually have a responsibilityto fulfill ourselves, and then we can share of the overflow according to the truth of our heart and Soul.
We suffer the discomfort of limits.
We recognize limits are unconditional —meaning this is my limit. I don’t adjust the limit because you were nice to me momentarily. I don’t stretch the limit because you have something I want momentarily. I don’t move the limit to serve you and your needs.
The limit is created so that I can experience joy and inner freedom, and my own ability to maintain an experience of loving and peace within me.
And in turn, I honor the limits of others, supporting peace, encouraging joy, and accepting personal freedom— the limit of another may be in their capacity to love well.
It’s challenging to accept this limit because our mind tells us—it should be different. They should be able to love me and others well. They should treat people better. They shouldn’t have done this and they should have done that instead.
My mind doesn’t know much of anything. Someone probably told me that along the way. I formed the conclusion that people should love me a certain way and that all people should be capable of this kind of loving.
That conclusion and thinking had to change. That conclusion and thinking caused suffering not freedom.
Freedom is a quality of authentic love; it’s the moment suffering ends.
People will love as they love; be as they are; I have the choice to choose who I spend time with.
Because in truth, no one should be or do anything.
I accept that. I accept the way it is, rather than push inwardly or outwardly for the way I think it should be. There’s a grief in this acceptance as well. A letting go to live more fully.
I learned to love myself, which is not a self-centered expression, but a self-extending one. Not a selfish expression, but a self-honoring one. In honoring myself I can also honor you. In accepting myself, I can also accept you.
This love, honor, acceptance requires the awareness of personal responsibility. It requires that I know what love really is. For one, Love requires I move away from that which hurts me, unconditionally. Love doesn’t instruct me to hurt myself or hurt another.
Love is not the expense of one’s self. It’s the care and enrichment of it.
May you be enriched by life, your relationships, your love and no longer depleted by it. May you love and be loved well.
May you discover this Love in your heart that says, I love myself unconditionally. There’s nothing I can do, think, or feel that compels me to take my love away. My love is present for me. I include myself in my loving. I consider myself in my loving. I share myself in my loving. This love fills me from within inspiring choices that serve me well, and bring me a greater joy.
And let it be your voice, or Morgan Freeman’s if that helps you.
(Smiles and hugs from the inside out.)