Self-love brings to mind: me time, positive affirmations, massage therapy and um masturbation. Guess what? There’s way more to it than that.
We all know we need to love ourselves before dragging someone else into the mix, yet time and time again couples break up and within weeks one or both of them is in a serious relationship with someone else. People become interchangeable love-holders. Rebound relationships don’t last for the same reason the original relationship imploded. One or both of the pair has not taken the time to learn how to love themselves. In fact, they don’t even know that love and independence can co-exist.
I am no love expert. I’ve stumbled and made mistakes as much, if not more, than the average lovebird. The only difference between me and the serial love-chasers is that I hit a wall (a head-on collision between independence and security) in a relationship that took my breath and energy away, hence making it impossible to keep chasing. I had to slow down and re-evaluate or fall apart irreparably.
I don’t have all the answers for every individual or relationship, but I’d like to share the steps that put some light on the path for me. Below is what I have learned so far regarding a true love of self and life:
How to Stop Chasing Love and Start Feeling It
1. Get Comfortable with Being Alone. Introverts don’t have a problem with this but extroverts dread alone-time like kids dread fat Aunt Frieda’s hot moist kiss. But let’s face it, the only way to get to know yourself is to remove distractions and get down to some personal ice-breakers. Who are you without a to-do list? What are you drawn to when no one is there to entertain you? When there is no leader, what do you do?
What if you die of loneliness? You’ll be fine.You don’t have to live in a shed in the woods cut off from humanity. Sit with yourself for a while, then take your centered self out to glow in the company of others.
What if you die of boredom? You won’t. You’ll gravitate toward activities and if you persevere long enough you will stumble upon something that puts you in flow. What if there is nothing creative, reliable or wonderful within you? Studies have shown that people are more creative when they know their work will never be viewed by others. How can you know how imaginative you are without having wide open space to go nuts? Look deeply and listen.
2. Hear Your Inner Voice and Trust It. All that alone time should provide enough quiet to make your soul’s voice audible. It won’t come through like a Marshall amp on 11, but your gut will jabber on if given enough stillness. I suggest going for a walk in the woods or by a lake. Nothing fosters going internal like the vastness of nature. I also use prompt or intuitive writing to tap into my subconscious. It’s a fantastic way to clear the garbage out and allow the stream of thoughts to run clear. Meditation is a perfect option for tuning in to your party of one. Consistently following your breath is the simplest way to re-focus and connect with yourself.
It took me a long time to make the leap from hearing my inner voice to giving it street cred. I heard it, but still believed others knew better than I did what to do. When I finally started paying attention to my intuition, there was a lovely feeling of self-sufficiency. I am enough. I began to listen to my heart regarding the disciplining of my children. Instead of constantly punishing and taking away privileges when they misbehaved, I made sure they were feeling included and listened to. I worried they would run all over me but instead they perked up and wanted to keep that openness present.
3. Know and Accept Your Flaws. I’ll admit once I became friendly with my self I thought I was hot shit. I’m good. I’ve figured out the universe via my own divine voice. Then I got knocked down a few pegs. I was so awake to myself and everything else that I became overwhelmed with all the details. The result was me waking in the night with a racing rabbit heart regarding all the external work I needed to do before I could pause and reflect and a tremendous load of guilt for even thinking about putting myself first. My husband and children told me in their own gut-wrenching ways that I was not present enough for them.
You’re not hot shit.
I was exhausted trying to keep my family happy and keep my own internal conversation alive. I had to restrict focus to a select few meaningful areas. At first, I threw a pity party and wallowed in my shortcomings but then I zeroed in on information I gathered while alone —what I am drawn to and what I find meaningful (family, writing, health). I began to know how to love independently, from the inside to the outside because my inner voice told me where I loved the deepest.
Fears, flaws and failures will always gnaw at us but if you can alchemize them into empathy and compassion then love will flow effortlessly. Realize others struggle too, reach out.
I also learned that you have to go out into the world imperfect. If you wait to be perfect, you’re dead, as in not really living, because you are striving for an elusive end-product instead of living with a few cracks. And Leonard Cohen says the cracks are where the light comes in.;)
4.Take Action. You knew all this reflecting was going to lead to some action, right? We can’t just sit around all day in the lotus position (damn it). Once you have completed steps one through three, you should have a strong sense of who you are and how much love is within and around you (nature, flow) at all times. This love is what you return to over and over after every action step.
The love you feel for yourself allows you to venture out and screw things up. It propels you into the unknown, then says, Remember you’re OK, even with your mistakes. There’s more to you than what other people think. At this point you are free to make a move to the career path you’ve been drooling over, end or start a relationship, go deeper into an aspect of your life you’ve been marginalizing, take up surfing, deliver mosquito nets to Zimbabwe, get on stage, write a book, bust a move, whatever!
- I Belong Deeply to Myself But I’ll Let You In: The Ebb and Flow of Introvert Intimacy (space2live.net)
- The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo? (space2live.net)
- Introvert Relationships: Love Me or Leave Me But Please Don’t Need Me (Too Much) (space2live.net)
- Emotional Intimacy: An Introvert’s Ultimate Turn-On? (space2live.net)