All types of love share common themes, whether it is romantic love, familial love, or love between friends. One of the biggest themes is expectation. Where there is love, there is expectation due to the roles people take on when the label of love is applied. However, expectation is the opposite of love. Expectation binds, love frees. This, in essence, could be called conditional love, but that is an oxymoron because love is not conditional.
This same idea of expectations and conditions applies to self-love. I am learning to have compassion and care and pride in myself which is a step towards love. But the foundation crumbles when I stumble. When I don’t live up to my self-imposed standards, when I act in ways I’m ashamed of or do things I don’t want to do, the self-love vanishes. I’m left in a puddle of angst and shame.
However, I am making progress. I am starting to wake up in those times of being triggered and spiraling down into unworthiness and feeling defective because I’m not perfect. And this, in itself, is an act of love. Instead of being totally identified with that state of being, I am waking up within it.
It happened recently. I did something I am not proud of and felt spun out and ashamed. But fairly quickly, I recognized I needed to tend to myself. I went to the mirror and told myself these words: “Even though I acted out, I still love you.” This affirmation is very powerful. It can be adapted to anything. “Even though I ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I still love you.” “Even though I got up two hours later than I intended, I still love you.” It can be personalized to any situation.
This practice builds the muscles of self-love. When I can demonstrate love to myself at what I consider my worst, this is true love. One definition of love is “unconditional positive regard.” That means unconditional positive regard when and after I’m eating the ice cream, as I snooze the alarm again, as I text that certain someone again.
I’m recognizing this pattern in my relationships now that I see it in myself and I’m applying it, learning to practice unconditional love when someone doesn’t live up to an expectation in some way. I am able to let them off the hook and recognize I can still love them even if I don’t love the behavior.
When we can learn to tend to our own heart and love ourselves first, then we have the tools to give authentic love to others. This enriches our lives and improves all of our relationships, and it starts within our own hearts.
Try out the “Even though…I still love you” affirmation and share your experiences in the comments below.