“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” —ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FORMER FIRST LADY
So somewhere in life we are taught to believe that love is limited and conditional. For some of us this is expressed as self-hatred and self-neglect. For others it means we treat everyone around us like shit. Perhaps for the vast majority there is a combination of both.
Hurt people hurt people, as the saying goes. To begin to change our hurts, it is imperative that we acknowledge them…most of the time many of us run from the hurt feelings – myself included. Adding further insult to injury, I often “layeth down the guilt” when I am not 100% satisfied with my own actions, responses or performances in life.
Self-punishment creates within us a stress response. When we attack ourselves we are both the victim and the aggressor. Our bodies release fight, flight or freeze hormones as if our very survival depended on our next response. The terrible thing is that we cannot flea from ourselves. So on some level, we continually produce stress for ourselves and for this we suffer.
Stress hormones affect our bodies’ ability to function normally. Over time, these stress hormones can lead to: addictions, weight gain, fertility loss, insomnia, hypertension, impotence, constipation, dis-eases (heart, lung, metabolic) and decreased sexual responses to name a few things. Often, we then stress over the effects of our stress and thus create …. more stress.
Learning to love ourselves in gentle ways, looking for the places where we have blocked ourselves to love, and choosing different methods of self-improvement outside of punishment and guilt or shaming ourselves, we can become more accepting and loving of ourselves. The more we love and accept ourselves, the wider our circle of love expands.
This weekend I was shown another way in which I had been limiting love. I saw where I believed that someone, anyone (i.e. my mother, father, friends and even lovers) can only contain so much love. If that person showed too much love for anyone else, singular or plural, then there would be no love left for me. As you can probably see, this played out as jealousy and even sibling rivalry.
Now I see differently! The more people a person is open to loving, the more capacity that person has for love. The more diversity in a person’s interactions with others is a reflection of how much more that person can accept him or herself and others! So people who can only love “their kind” are limiting their love more than someone who can love and accept diverse groups for who they are.
I know, this concept almost goes without saying. Yet, it seems to elude us as a species… So it bears repeating. The greater we can love a broader range of peoples and individuals, the more open we are to love.
So now I’m seeing where I limit my love for others and even more so for myself. When I’m not “minding my p’s and q’s,” the way I believe I should be, I can really tear myself down and apart. In passive aggressive ways I treat myself like crap. This has got to stop. I cannot continue to treat myself like a second-class citizen while expecting others to love & respect me. It’s time, once again, to roll up my sleeves and pull some weeds, then plant new seeds.
People who love themselves can help others to see they no longer need to live in the land of suffering. So today and everyday, let us pull those weeds of self-hatred and loathing. Let us find a new way to open to love.