If you read my last article [Seven steps to be happier with yourself] you’ll remember I wrote about how happiness isn’t conditional; we shouldn’t be waiting for a particular thing, like finding love, in order to be happy. Unfortunately that’s frequently exactly what we do; we don’t feel happy so we begin to believe that our lives are not quite OK and are lacking something. From there it’s only a small negative step to seeing ourselves as not quite OK and also somehow lacking. And rather than working to turn those beliefs around and challenging the expectations that limit and restrict us, we put all our energy in to trying to find an external source for the happiness we crave. That’s when we often start looking for love.
And that’s a good time to ask the following question:
What do you believe about love?
We’ve all constructed a story about love and relationships over the years. The starting point is our experience of parents and family – the science and research is all out there – and then we will have overlaid that with our experiences from other significant relationships formed during our lifetime, with a lot of different influences thrown in. When I say we’ve all constructed ‘a story’ it’s interesting to think about how influenced our ideas of love are by stories – fairy tales, films, books, song lyrics – and how many of the romantic ideas about falling in love (love at first sight, being swept off our feet by passion, carried off by a white knight) are all pretty much straight out of myth and legend. Even that notion of ‘falling’ in love is pretty extraordinary; do we fall in love as if it’s an accident, like falling over, or is it more dramatic and uncontrollable – a plunging, tumbling, sliding into something?
What’s your love pattern?
Whatever you believe, we all carry a template – a pattern against which we’ll measure our personal relationships – trying to get them to fit our ideal, that particular story we have in our heads about how it should be. Part of the problem with this romantic kind of belief about love, is that we find it hard to accept it when things go wrong – infidelity, or emotional/sexual withdrawal or something else we consider to be a betrayal of how our partner should behave – and we then struggle to reconcile that behaviour with the actions of someone who loves us. And this can reinforce those beliefs we have about love. It’s a bit of a cliché but I think lots of us are familiar with the ‘story’ that if we think we’re in some way unlovable then, when we think our partner has stopped loving us or doesn’t demonstrate their love in the way they did at the beginning of the relationship, we feel this proves we ARE unlovable:
I’ve been rejected = I am unlovable.
Maybe you already recognise the pattern that you’ve been replicating; the storyline that you have in your head? Has that brought you the love you are looking for? If it hasn’t then you could ask another question:
What if you started with yourself?
What if your starting point when looking for love wasn’t based on your learned and conditioned notions about love, or on the stories you’ve heard and absorbed from the media and from your culture? What if your first significant relationship was actually with yourself? After all, that’s a relationship that is definitely going to last a lifetime!
Remember, being in love isn’t just about The One, it’s about loving yourself and the big wonderful world around you. Share all that love and passion in every part of your life – with your friends, family and community, through music and creativity, in your work and by volunteering – you’ll get so much love right back.
Nurture yourself in the way you would nurture a loved one – be kind and compassionate when things aren’t going right, don’t blame and admonish yourself for what you see as your failings. Try some loving-kindness practice using meditation, mindfulness exercises or positive affirmations. Whatever you choose, also set aside time to spoil yourself like you would someone you love – candlelit baths or relaxing evenings with a delicious meal. And don’t forget gratitude. For me gratitude is the key that unlocks our hearts and our happiness. Every day that you’re alive is something to be grateful for and every day you’ll begin to notice the little things that make your heart beat faster, put a smile to your face and make you truly glad to be on this earth.
Embrace the things you love about yourself, the things you enjoy doing and the things you dare to dream of doing. Discover and explore what you’re truly capable of and what a big loving heart you have. If you want to discover more about how to love yourself on the journey to the love of your life, then visit our Self Discovery eBooks for a fun and indulgent journey into yourself.