Develop Self Love (and Strengthen Your Relationship)
ShoomKloom Editorial Staff
‘It’s not your job to like me; it’s MINE!’ Byron Katie
Love is to be nurtured within yourself. Self love doesn’t require the presence of the other.
Once you know what love is about, you are free to love. Then love becomes a natural expression of yourself and is no longer something you are looking for or feel you are lacking.
Romantic Love Illusions in the Way of Self Love
‘All you need is love…tatatadadaa’: sounds familiar?
I grew up with a whole range of opinions on romantic love which sneaked into my mind from each love song, Hollywood movie, magazine, commercial and yes, even from those sugary fairy tales.
In my imagination my special person would by coincidence fall into my lap, we would fall in love and live happily ever after. I rebelled in many ways to this concept of idealised love yet I chased the dream anyway.
The result was that I felt deprived of love when I didn’t have a relationship. Whenever I had one, I felt under pressure to be that perfect special person in order to deserve love.
Nevertheless my relationships did bring me many happy and cherished moments. But that true, happy, fulfilled, relaxed feeling I longed for was lacking; and I kept searching for a deeper connection, more intimacy, better sex, less conflicts and more closeness.
Today I can see how romantic ideas were a setup for neediness, relationship struggles and frustrations around love.
My focus was finding love through the other, but therewith I bypassed what self love is all about – that nobody can give me self love, as it can only come from me and be nurtured within myself.
Common Misconceptions About Love:
How you spoil your relationship with demands, neediness, control and possessiveness when you believe the following misconceptions about love:
1. Love equals that you are mine.
Have you tried to own, possess or control love?
Many times I was pissed off when my partner didn’t do or say what I wanted. I had my ideas of what he should do for me and of how his love for me should be expressed.
Often I thought that love entitled me to have my expectations fulfilled and to demand more. I would manipulate and try to make someone do what I wanted, all in the hope that I could secure love.
Can you see that love loses its wings with expectations, should’s and should not’s?
We spend a lot of time trying to control love. But we are trying to do the impossible. Love in itself is free – not confined to rules or ideas. Controlling or wanting to possess someone happens out of fear of losing the other or losing love.
2. A relationship needs to fulfill me and give me love.
Do you use a relationship as a solution for your lack of self love?
Several times I continued staying in a relationship because I didn’t know how to be by myself. I didn’t know what it meant to love myself. I demanded the relationship to give me a sense of fulfillment and happy feelings. I craved hearing those words: ‘I love you’; not seeing that I needed to say them to myself. I believed that without a relationship, I was not loved and not good enough.
As long as we lack self love, each relationship will turn eventually into relation-shit whenever the other doesn’t do – speak – behave in the way we want them to.
Can you see that it is nobody’s job to love you – that it’s your job?
3. Jealousy means I love you.
Do you believe that being jealous means that you love the other and vice versa?
We think that our partners must love us, when they are jealous and we see this as a good sign. Likewise we think there is something wrong when they are not jealous at all and can’t possibly love us in the way we want them to.
Yet, jealousy is nothing more than an indication of our own lack of self love and confidence. But it actually comes with a gift; it can show you your self criticism and self doubts and can become a window to learn self love.
I have suffered many jealousy attacks; always comparing myself to other women deciding where I am worse or better than them. This has been an ongoing saga in my life, accompanied with intense feelings and endless mind chatter about not liking myself.
We need to question the reality of our thoughts and learn to appreciate our own uniqueness. Once we know what it is to be kind and loving towards ourselves; we will prioritise self love over being busy with jealousy or comparison.
Can you see that jealousy robs you from your self dignity and self respect?
Gangaji: Let the whole world break your heart
4. Love comes in a particular look and shape.
Have you ignored love just because he/she didn’t look right?
I had this list of expectations of a potential boyfriend: looking athletic, masculine & confident (but not arrogant), having a gorgeous smile, friendly eyes and behaving accordingly. I disregarded men who were needy, strange looking (too thin or too fat) or behaved clumsily or insecure. Some of these traits actually reminded me too much of myself.
What shattered the image of my ideal partner was the day I met a man who didn’t fit into my usual criteria of attractive, as he was plain fat. Initially I was super judgemental and embarrassed to be seen walking with him. Yet he was the most loving, attentive, present, masculine, funny and wise person I had ever met.
Judgements prevent us to really meet people for who they are. We need to question our idealized views of how love should look like and learn to meet the real person instead of seeing them through our judgemental filters. Truth is that love has no identity and can be found in every shape and form – not just in Hollywood looks.
Can you see that love has no face, boundary, structure or category and comes in any shape, size and age?
5. Every gesture must mean something
Do you spoil the moment, being busy with comparing or searching for meaning?
While walking with my beloved along the beach, I have no care in the world. But I decide to occupy myself with: ‘What is going on, he just dropped my hand. Is he upset with me? Why is he not saying anything? That couple in front of us is kissing; it looks like they have more love than us.’
Our fixations on the meaning we give to behaviours, become sources for feeling miserable. Worries or thinking about worst case scenarios come from being attached to meanings we give to what others do or say. Before we even know what is really going on, we often jump to conclusions from which we measure the love we receive.
Can you see that love itself is never confined to measurements?
We prepared some free eye opening questions for you. Answer them and strengthen your self love.
Playful Steps for Practicing Self Love
A relationship is no longer the vehicle which needs to give me love. I enjoy very much the love, care and joy I experience from a relationship but love itself is not what I am lacking or seeking. Self love is what drives me and all the rest is a welcome bonus.
The following steps can support you in the same way as they have supported me:
#1 Developing self appreciation
We often don’t appreciate the little things we do, but this is a good starting point and a muscle we should train. Self appreciation can be built in many situations, for example in a moment when you realise that you are able to give something into the relationship. This can be a moment in which you know that with what you are doing you have co-created some happiness or fun or taken away some heaviness from your partner (or friend or family member), when he or she had a worry or a problem.
If you want to develop self appreciation then start appreciating the things about yourself that beautify your life or the connection with your partner. This can become a daily habit for yourself or between the two of you. Talk about it regularly, maybe especially in a moment when you have doubts or when you feel down about yourself. It might sound strange to do it, but it will shift the focus away from what is disturbing you towards a better feeling about yourself.
#2 Embracing your mistakes
Accept your flaws and be kind towards the mistakes you make. Don’t get disheartened when you do something ‘wrong’ in your relationship. A mistake is only a mistake when in hindsight you wish you would have done it differently and you keep holding on to your preferred outcome. Try to see those situations as an opportunity to realise that at that point in time you could only act that way with the knowledge you had. This way you can forgive yourself, stop lingering with your thoughts in the past and embrace the moment that is actually in front of you.
#3 Give yourself loving kindness
If you ever find yourself feeling upset, angry, insecure or anxious about a situation it is important to first allow yourself to feel these emotions. When you have a resistance against them or fight them you are only being hard and unjust towards yourself which is the opposite of self love. Whatever feeling arises in your body has a right to be there. It came up anyway and you couldn’t do anything about it, right? Here is a fact: The chemicals released from your brain that are triggered from an emotion only last for 90 seconds in the blood stream. If your emotions last longer than that, then it’s because you have chosen to continue with them.
Allowing emotions totally and giving them the opportunity to leave the body on their own accord – without adding commentary like blaming someone, judging yourself or comparing it to past experiences – is an act of self love.
#4 Beware! Danger from taking your thoughts too seriously!
When a thought like ‘He loves his job more than me’’ or ‘I’m not sexy enough’ comes up and with it you start feeling a heaviness in your body, don’t look for evidence in your memories (thoughts) and don’t let your mind drift off to search for an excuse or a justification. Pause whenever you have disturbing thoughts. You don’t need to get rid of them. Just let the thought pass, watch it disappear. You can wave goodbye, or whistle if you want. It needs concentration to whistle – and the same as when laughing – you can not think while you do it. In a way, you cut off a self offensive thread which would only lead to suffering, if you go along with it.
Don’t let the content of your thoughts define you. Just because you think them, doesn’t mean that they mean anything about you. If you break the chain of discouraging thoughts, you actually free up space in your mind and give yourself the chance to have an uplifting thought instead.
#5 You are the master of your own happiness
Your partner or your relationship can never create a ‘happy’ you. Happiness is an inside job; He or she can enhance the happiness that you create and nurture in yourself, but it is not their responsibility to make you happy.
So do one thing by yourself everyday- something you know that makes you happy. It can be as simple as listening to some joyful music, taking a bubble bath, doing your favorite sport or following up on one of your interests. This will stop you from relying on the other for feeling good and instead of bringing neediness and expectations to your partner, you create a happy and energetic version of yourself, that will be more likely to foster and shape up your relationship.