Special thanks to Dr. Gay Hendricks for this guest post!
The issue I want to address is one of the most important any of us will ever confront. Most of us, in fact, will struggle to learn it throughout our own lives. Indeed, it may well be the lesson of life and love. It’s certainly been the major issue people have talked to us about in our thirty years as therapists and relationship coaches. Even if the person brought in a problem of depression or marital misery, this larger issue was hovering in the background. The depression never lifted and the marriage never harmonized until the person learned the following lesson:
The major barrier to a loving relationship with another person is an unloved part of yourself. Most of us have aspects of ourselves that we have never loved and accepted, and this failure to love ourselves keeps us from forming and keeping genuine love in close relationships. The moment you give unconditional love and acceptance to those unloved parts of you, you dissolve the barrier to getting and giving genuine love with others.
Here’s why this principle is so powerful: If you don’t love yourself, you’ll always be looking for someone else to do it for you. It never works, because people who don’t love themselves attract people who don’t love themselves. Then they try to get the other person to love them unconditionally when they’re not even doing it for themselves.
When you love yourself deeply and unconditionally for everything you are and everything you aren’t, you attract people who love and accept themselves. If you feel fundamentally unlovable deep down inside, you’ll attract a lover who feels the same way.
When we don’t love some part of ourselves, we run around in desperation trying to get someone else to love us. Our hope is that if they give us enough love our unlovable part will go away. It never does. Only a moment of loving ourselves unconditionally will do that particular job.
Most of us spend our lives running from that unlovable part of us. When we finally confront it, we will usually discover it’s a fear. It’s usually a particular fear, and there are a very small number of them.
One of them is fear of abandonment. You can probably see why that fear could play havoc in your relationships. It certainly did in our early relationships, before we became aware that this fear was driving a lot of our troublesome behavior. When you’re afraid of being left alone, you’ll either keep people distant so it won’t hurt so bad if they leave you, or you’ll cling to them dependently so they can’t leave without dragging you with them.
Another big fear is the dread of being smothered by the other person. When you’re in the grip of this fear, you’re worried that your individuality and freedom will be lost if you surrender to full union with the other person. So, you stay at arm’s length, just as a person who’s afraid of drowning might stand a yard or so away from the water’s edge.
The good thing to know about fear is that it’s simply a pulsating quiver of racy-queasy sensations in your stomach area. Fear, said psychiatrist Fritz Perls, M.D., is merely excitement without the breath. Breathe into the fear and watch what happens: The butterflies will flutter out of hiding and fly away.
When you love that fear directly, you can actually feel the fear disappear. In the space where the fear used to be, you now feel a big open space into which a wonderful new relationship can enter. That’s what happened to us, and that’s what we’ve seen happen to a lot of people when they mustered the courage to love themselves and all their fears.
FEAR HOLDS YOU BACK…UNTIL YOU LOVE IT AS IT IS
It’s impossible to enjoy good relationships until we give that scary place in ourselves a split-second of love. The reason: The fear causes us to push people away when they get too close. That’s because our fear gets stirred up when we let them in close. To keep the fear under control, we keep people at a distance. We push down the very aspects of ourselves that most need to come to the surface and be loved. Then, having already judged ourselves unlovable, we strain to get others to love us. Trying to get other people to love us when we don’t think ourselves lovable is like a dog chasing its own tail. The more they try to love us, the faster we run from it.
The good news: You don’t have to do it perfectly!
We’ve never met anyone who loved him or herself deeply and unconditionally all the time. Don’t expect that you’ll be perfect at it, either. Begin with a second or two of loving yourself and work up from there. Begin with a commitment to loving yourself. That way, you’ll have the commitment to fall back on when you find yourself in the grip of your unlovable part.
Remember, too, that loving yourself has nothing to do with egotism or self-flattery. Egotistical people are desperately trying to get other people to love them, even though they feel deeply unlovable inside. That’s why egotism and boasting look so tacky: Everybody knows it’s phony.
We’re talking about genuine, sincere, heartfelt and humble love for yourself. It’s a feeling of accepting yourself for everything you are and everything you aren’t. Unless you’re super-human, you won’t ever feel absolute love and acceptance for yourself all the time. You can, however, make a commitment to feeling that way. Making a commitment to loving yourself gives you a firm ground to stand on throughout the ups and downs of your life.
MORE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Thanks to Dr. Gay Hendricks for this guest post. Visit the link below to get his free “Lasting Love Made Easy” video series.
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It has great insights for both single people and those in relationships. You’ll discover some amazing insights that will immediately improve the quality of your life and your relationships.