SELF-LOVE: Being in the ability to love someone else

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. Maya Angelou

“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an AMEN up in here?!” These immortal words from the world’s most famous dragqueen, RuPaul Charles, have become part of our society’s lexicon. But what exactly does loving yourself in order to love somebody else really mean?

One of the most consistent dynamics I find in working with people of all shapes, sizes, races, sexual orientation and social economic stature is feeling like you belong makes all the difference in having a satisfying life. In the beginning, we learn, gain, and take in not only how or who we are as people, but how we feel as people. Especially how we feel about ourselves.

How we feel about ourselves begins not with compliments or rewards. It begins with feeling as though we matter. Most espeically to the people who brought us into this world. Then, to those in the world we choose to have, then.. to THE world. As children we want that feeling of a brightened, joyful face of relief on our caretakers when we enter the room. Without that experience, we wonder. We Question. We become confused. And if the dimmed face of our caretaker(s) (dimmed for whatever reason – that’s a future blog topic), isn’t explained to us via emotions and reactions and eventually words….soon ENOUGH… our wondering, questioning and confusion become INSECURITIES.

“What did I do wrong?” What did I do to make that feeling of unwanted come up from that face and smack me into mine?” Of course noone (especially children) are conscious of these dynamics, but you better believe they are felt! Those questions become obsessions that need to be answered. Voids to be filled. And as the humans we are, we must fill those voids with something.. ANYTHING. For the most part, for the majority of us… those unanswered questions are completed with, “I did something wrong”…. “I didn’t do enough”…. “I’M not enough.”

When we establish that way of thinking as a norm or “hard wiring”… the feelings that follow provide “proof” and confirm or better yet, cement a way of exsisting that behaviors soon follow. Behaviors of “attention seeking,” or “acting out.” Tantrums, definance, eventually self-deprecating or even self-harm. Why? Becasue if we’re not enough for the people who brought us into this world, who will we ever be good enough for?

We find ourselves in toxic relationships, low paying jobs, communities and careers which do not honor or value our input because , well, we’re used to not feeling like we’re enough. This becomes our base narrative and we actually believe it’s who we are.. and who would love who we are (or who we believe we are)? So loving that person becomes less of an option and of course loving anyone who would love that person becomes “impossible.”

Now, of course, not smiling at a child when they enter the room is not the trauma which leads to poor self-worth, HOWEVER… that message sent, that belief system made concreate by “proofs” here and there.. for … years repeated over and over by our own voices in our heads.. THAT’S the stuff we as therapists help to unpack, revisit and provide a safe place for. And then what? Yeah, I know..

Well, and then we uproot that belief system by dancing with those defenses that have been so good to us as children. Those defenses that answered those questions for us, filled the void of: “What happened?” What did I do wrong?” Answers the question with: “It’s your fault” or “You aren’t worthy.”

We dance and then help clients say thank you, but you are no longer needed to “keep me safe.” When we can be vulnerable enough to place our defenses aside (once we first realize what they are.. see whey they call therapy work?”).. then we can see with eyes wide open that the belief system, the thoughts and feelings that followed from a misinterpretation of ourself was false.

Then, and only then can we truly FEEL what it’s like to experience self-appreciation, self-worth, self-love. From there… comes self-esteem and from there.. self-confidence. AND. FROM. THERE…… the ability to ALLOW someone(s) else to love us. and THAT my friends.. is how we know we are in the ability to love someone else. Amen.

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