Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Love doesn't require perfection!

As Valentine's Day approaches, love is in the air!  But this is also a time when many people struggle.  There is a pressure from society to be loved, and we often have a hard time loving ourselves.  We may feel we are not worthy of love, for many reasons, or we may know, on an intellectual level that we deserve love (both from within as well as without), but we don't really feel it.

There are a lot of thoughts on love, and the way we talk about love as a society says a lot about us.  I always adored the Greek words for love.  You have eros, which is what we tend to talk about as romantic or intimate love.  It is the love that lovers feel for each other.  Then there is storge, which is familial love, often the love between parents and children.  Philia is brotherly love, but also the love we feel for our friends.  Agape is universal love, the kind of transcendental love that we think of divinity having for all things.  Pragma is really interesting, it's sometimes called enduring love, like the kind you find in a long lasting marriage, where a working relationship takes priority over passions.  And finally there is philautia, which is self-love.

I think that, at least in the US, we often have a very stilted view of love.  We twist up the definitions of love and sex and worth, and end up thinking that we have to earn love, and that somehow we have to be 'good enough' to deserve it.  We think that only the best people get love, and we build up this crazy idea of what we need to be or have in order to attain love.

And at the same time, we use the world love for all kinds of trivial things.  We love the new movie, or nachos or pretty dice.  I'm not saying that these things can't light you up, and you can't love them, but I do find it strange that we have no problem saying we love things, but we struggle to say we love people.  And we really struggle to say we love ourselves.

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful husband, and we've been together for 20 years now.  I love him, and he's definitely not perfect.  Our relationship isn't always perfect.  We fuss and fight, and he annoys me at times.  I still love him.  When he snores at night, I don't love him less (though I do wear earplugs).  When he snaps at me because he's tired, I don't stop loving him (but I might snap back).

It's funny, because we often don't think of any of these things as deal-breakers when it comes to loving other people (okay, some things are deal-breakers, but we don't only love perfect people!), but when it comes to ourselves, we often use our faults as reasons why we aren't deserving of love.

The one that I struggle most with is issues of self-image.  I don't always like the way I look, and sometimes that makes it feel like I am not loving myself in the way I should.  But I would never look at my son and think, "He hasn't shaved recently, he must be lazy, that makes him a bad person"  (I have pretty much had that exact thought about myself....)

I saw a meme the other day that I thought was both brilliant and sad at the same time.  It was talking about self love, and how whenever you are feeling bad about yourself, to pretend you are a cat.  Because people will look at a fat cat and gush about how cute it is.  They will look at a tiny (short) cat and gush about how cute it is.  They will look at pretty much any cat...and it is cute.  But we don't see ourselves with that kind of variety.  We think that there is ONE type of attractive, and if we don't match it exactly, then we aren't worth loving.

This kind of thought process is extremely harmful!  We aren't even always aware of it.  We don't realize how many times, throughout the day, we have negative self-talk, and how that impacts our sense of self, our capacity for self-love and our ability to accept love from others.

I am very insecure about my self when it comes to other people.  Hubby tells me (often!) that he loves me, and sometimes I still have to ask, "But why?  What is it about me that you love?  Why do you like me?"  I have to remind myself that my friends love me, and they like me for who I am...and that they don't care if I am having a bad day or if I don't wear makeup...they love me anyways.

Sometimes we need to take a step back, to recognize what matters and what doesn't.  To see what is superficial and what is essential.  Love looks for your heart, it doesn't look for the little things that dress you up.  And most of the things we stress about are little things! 

As we approach Valentine's Day, I want to challenge everyone to start looking at the world through eyes of love....and to start by looking in a mirror!  Look at yourself as if you were a stranger, or your most beloved person in the world.  Look at yourself as if you were a cat!  If you aren't feeling the love...pretend!  Act as if the person in the mirror was the person you adored MOST in the world.  Think about all the reasons why you love this person (who is still yourself....).  Then, try thinking of one thing that you would normally beat yourself up about.  Perhaps you have a bit of extra weight, or you don't like how your nose looks, or you think you should have been working on that big dream of yours more.  And as your thinking about this less than idea thing....remind yourself you love this person (or cat...), and see how this changes how you think about that one small issue.

Because I can tell you right now, I don't think of other people's flaws in nearly the same, critical light that I think of my own.  I know plenty of people who share my flaws (and some who exceed me), and I am harshest on myself.  I hold myself to impossible standards, and learning to be kind, to love myself, is a journey!

If you are still struggling to see yourself in a loving way...turn to a trusted friend.  Ask them to help lift you up, to encourage you and to sing your praises.  I love building my friends up like this, it's really fun to say nice things about other people, and to know you are bringing a smile to them, especially when they are down!

Take some time, this holiday, to do something nice for yourself...just because you love yourself.  Get yourself a little treat (perhaps that favorite chocolate, or a fancy drink you love), spend some time pampering yourself (I like giving myself foot massages...and thanking my feet for all the work they do carrying me around all day!), and send yourself a little love (maybe write yourself a love note and tuck it somewhere you will see it throughout the day). 

Once we start loving ourselves, we will find it even easier to love other people!  If we can all spread just a little love, the whole world becomes a bit brighter, a bit lighter, and some of the nasty stuff that has been running rampant might just be a little less prevalent.  I truly believe that if more people loved themselves and loved each other...SO many problems would be solved!  So love yourself...and know that I love you too!

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