For most of my life, I have fought for the right to be loved, feel loved, experience love, feel worthy of love. To experience what seems like so many are experiencing without a second thought - being loved. Just as I am - flaws and all.
This, my friends, is a mind fuck. The fuckery for most of us is the fact that this lack of love is rooted deeply in the messages we received as children - verbally and unspoken - and how those messages taught us to see ourselves through the eyes of critical, rigid, angry, demanding, shaming, parents, caregivers, and people who held power in our lives and were supposed to love us and teach us what love looked like.
These messages got embedded so deep within us that it's made it very difficult to see the truth of who we are from the lies we've ingested. And this can tend to make us more likely to accept what we don't deserve- a performative idea of love based on our goodness, perfectionism, performance, shininess, acceptability, etc.
We ride this merry-go-round of what we think we "deserve" and daring to want more for ourselves, while also dealing with lovers, partners, and friends on this same ride not truly being able to offer us the love we desire (and deserve) because they don't feel worthy of it either.
The blessing and curse is that loving starts with us. This is a hard pill to swallow when we've been given all these messages that we aren't worthy. But it's the truth. We give ourselves the love we want, need, and deserve. Which to some degree is a relief because we aren't waiting for love to come before we can feel it. We aren't worthy of love only when we can receive it - we can give this love to ourselves.
But this also flies in the face of everything we've been taught to expect from love. I have never seen this idea as a romantic trope in any movie.
How do we start?
Practice paying attention: When we practice paying attention, there is nothing to do but notice. What is this feeling? Where does it reside in our bodies? Is there anything that we can notice about it? And, does the inner critic show up with guns blazing to get us distracted by what's wrong with us? Are we distracting ourselves with anything else so we don't have to feel it? Is it cruel? Is it kind?
Sit with the feeling: This can be difficult because we are trained not to give in to our feelings - that feelings are bad and overwhelming - or maybe we think we are bad because we are feeling an uncomfortable feeling. Whatever the reason, feelings need to be felt, deserve to be felt, and there is always a reason why they are coming up. When we begin to practice sitting with them without judgment we are letting ourselves know it is okay to feel whatever it is and letting ourselves feel it is appropriate and it is safe to feel it.
Ask the inner critic to be quiet: Some of us get really embarrassed about talking to ourselves in any capacity. But there is power in language and using our voices (that have been silenced) to speak out even if it's just between us and us. I utilize to tool often - both audibly and inside my own head - trying to keep a running dialog with all the parts of myself: inner child, inner critic, protector, inner wisdom...
I am actively a part of me and the me I was cut off from most of my life. I am building back those connections severed against my will in childhood and that have remained severed in adulthood.
Do loving things for yourself: This isn't where most of us start if we haven't developed the other three. But there is also no right way to do this. Some of you may need to start here and work backward or approach this like a "choose your own adventure" book. But begin, we must.
Loving acts look different for every person: gentle words, self-compassion, warm baths, play, art, doing what makes us happy, figuring out what makes us happy, ending toxic relationships, risking to find relationships, eating food that is nourishing, eating food that feeds our child selves, exercising, not exercising, gentle walks, sprints, engaging our power, sharing our power...
The list is endless and is made by you, sanctioned by you, only for you.
Check-in as you go: As there is no right way to do this, it is important to check in with yourself as you proceed. Ask yourself - Does this feel good? Look at the steps listed above and add your own or subtract what doesn't work. If we embrace, as our north star, the notion that our inner wisdom has our best intentions in mind always, we can build that trust with ourselves that lets us know what feels good and what doesn't, what feels loving and what doesn't, and keep moving towards love one loving step at a time.