When I work with new clients, I generally ask them if they feel they are taking loving care of themselves. They often tell me they are, and because of this, they can’t understand why they are feeling bad or are having problems in their relationships. When I ask them to describe how they are loving to themselves, these are some common answers:
“I take lots of relaxing baths. I get massages and I get my nails done. I work out and keep myself in good shape. I eat well.”
This woman is being loving to herself physically, but what about emotionally?
“I meditate and pray every day, and I belong to a wonderful spiritually-oriented church.”
This man is taking care of himself spiritually, but what about emotionally?
“I work hard and I’m careful about my money. I’ve invested well and I feel safe financially. I’m a responsible person – I pay my taxes on time, I get places on time, and I keep my home and office organized.”
This person is taking care of himself or herself financially and organizationally, but what about emotionally?
Much of the time, I find that people may be taking care of themselves physically, financially, spiritually and organizationally, but they are abandoning themselves both emotionally and in their relationships, which is why they seek my help. They are suffering from the many consequences of not being loving to themselves emotionally, such as anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, emptiness, anger, addictions or relationship problems.
What does it really mean to be loving to yourself?
You can begin to get a sense of what it means to emotionally love yourself – to love your inner child, which is your feeling self, your soul self – if you imagine what an actual child needs in order to feel loved. If you look back on your own childhood, what made you feel loved? Did you feel more loved by getting a toy you wanted, or by being seen and valued for who you are? When you were upset, did you feel more loved by being given a cookie and told to watch TV, or by receiving kind and compassionate attention?
Part of loving yourself is learning to see your own beautiful soul, so that you can genuinely value yourself rather than judge yourself. Do you see yourself through the eyes of your ego wounded self, which was programmed by parents, teachers, peers, siblings or religious leaders, or through the eyes of love and truth?
Learning to see your own essence comes from learning to connect with your higher self – your source of love and truth. We can’t see our soul essence through the eyes of our ego wounded self, which has been programmed with many false beliefs about our worth and lovability – beliefs such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m essentially flawed,” “I’m inadequate.”
You can see who you are – your essential goodness, lovingness, caring and natural gifts – only through the eyes of truth, the eyes of your higher self, which you will learn to do as you learn Inner Bonding.
Knowing and valuing your own soul essence is essential for creating loving relationships.
What does loving yourself have to do with successful relationships?
Successful relationships are not accidental. From my own life experiences and the experiences of the thousands of couples I’ve counselled over the last 50 years, I’ve discovered the keys to creating and maintaining loving relationships. And learning to love yourself is the most important choice you can make.
Of course, we hear all the time that you can’t love others unless you love yourself, but most people don’t understand what this means. It means that you are taking responsibility for your own feelings rather than making your partner responsible for your pain, joy and self-worth. It means that you are being kind, accepting and compassionate with yourself rather than harshly judging yourself.
You cannot share your love with your partner if you feel empty inside due to abandoning yourself – by ignoring your feelings, judging yourself, turning to various addictions to numb your feelings, or making others responsible for your feelings. In fact, self-abandonment is the major cause of relationship failure.
When you expect your partner to give you the love and attention that you are not giving to yourself, then you will try to control your partner – often with anger, blame, withdrawal or compliance – and this always creates problems. Your intent to get love rather than give love and share love will never lead to connection and intimacy.
For many years, I believed I was loving to others even when I wasn’t loving myself. I enjoyed being there for others, but there was a subtle agenda to my giving – which was to be loved back.
There is no way that you can give to others purely from your heart when you are abandoning yourself. When you are abandoning yourself, your inner child feels alone, empty, unimportant and unloved – just as any child would feel if treated unlovingly. When you feel alone and unloved inside, then you cannot help but hope that the person you are ‘loving’ will love you back and fill the empty hole within that comes from self-abandonment.
Giving ‘love’ to get love back means that you are not actually giving love, because love is a free gift. It has no agenda attached to it. When you truly love, you are not hoping for attention or approval or validation. You are giving love for the pure joy of giving love, which you can do only when your internal ‘love cup’ is filled to the brim and overflowing.
What fills your love cup to overflowing? Loving yourself!
If you believe that your love cup gets filled only from others’ love, then you will continue to abandon yourself and try to get love from others. But this strategy is generally doomed to failure because others don’t feel loved when you are giving to get something back.
So you can’t really love your partner if you don’t love yourself. I hope you can now see that no matter how kind and caring you are with others, if you are not kind and caring with yourself, then your kindness is likely to feel manipulative rather than loving to others. We can’t hide our own aloneness and emptiness, which is always the result of not loving ourselves.
The biggest gift you can give yourself is to learn how to love yourself through learning and practising Inner Bonding. Heal the cycle of shame and self-abandonment that leads to anxiety, depression, addiction, aloneness, and relationship failure: join Dr. Margaret Paul at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 17th-19th, 2019 for Inner Bonding: The Power to Heal Yourself.
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