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The other day, I posted an article on Elephant Journal. It was my first one.
It only had a few views, but no “hearts”—not overly surprising on such a large platform which features so many amazing writers. Still, I felt sad.
I placed certain expectations on myself and I didn’t reach them. The heart remained empty.
I linked it into a couple of groups, full of hope. And still, nothing came from that.
Then, this morning a friend wrote to me. She had read the article and thought it was great. She went on to tell me that my words had made her think about things in a different way.
Meanwhile, her words made me think about things in a different way. I went from thinking about how I might never be noticed as one of a million voices, to feeling happy I had been heard by someone at all and started excitedly planning what I would write next. And next.
Attention and praise have a profound effect on the way we look at ourselves—more so than we would like to admit—and I started to wonder if that is where all self-love begins.
Does it grow within the self or is it given to us?
At first, I thought it’s got to be a bit of both, yet I believe we need to be given the seeds of that love by an external force, in order for it to take hold and grow.
Whitney Houston insisted self-love to be the greatest love of all, and it probably is. But how do we start loving ourselves?
There are so many different types of love, and yet there is only one.
Within the parent-child relationship, love is unconditional from the start. There is no love more powerful in the world than that of a parent for a newborn baby. The attachment is so strong and so powerful that for the mother to be separated from the newborn is almost physically painful. This is a biological instinct—a cub separated from its mum is unlikely to survive long in the wild.
Within our romantic relationships, things are different—and sometimes never about love at all.
We can think we are in love when we are really in thrall. We can easily confuse attachment with love, and that attachment can become unhealthy or even obsessive. Our true loving relationships start the same way as our attachments—with attraction, fire, and passion—but over time, take a different direction. Sometimes fast and sometimes slow, love blooms and takes hold.
When talking about romantic love, we are often told that we cannot allow someone else to complete us—we must be whole before we enter into a new connection. This advice is given with the intention of preventing us from forming unhealthy attachments.
But some of us have a lifetime of inner work to do. Trauma and childhood difficulties—among other demons—can cast shadows that are difficult to break free from. Should we then be denied the comfort and joy of a loving relationship, forcing ourselves to work through that darkness alone before allowing ourselves a chance with a potential soul mate?
There are plenty of healthy connections out there, and the truly loving ones are beneficial.
When we build ourselves up to be the best version of ourselves, we are full of confidence and love and we have so much to give. Yet if we are feeling low, dark, or insecure, we don’t have a lot to give.
Should it be frowned upon to let someone else take our hand and lead us back toward the light? Being sad, lost, broken, or confused does not mean we are not allowed to love or be loved.
We try to do so much, alone.
There is a popular saying I came across when my children were small: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Yet so many adults in Western societies are doing it alone. We try to do too much, alone.
Then we start to suffer from mental breakdowns and burnouts, fueled by loneliness and being overwhelmed with a weight that is simply too heavy for us to shoulder without help.
Is it a weakness—a flaw in our society—that we encourage each other to be so independent of one another?
We praise people for isolating themselves. She did that all by herself, without any help!
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy time alone and feel proud to have accomplished certain things alone. But why are we made to feel like it’s better—like it’s the more heroic path to take?
It’s a choice, and we are free to choose.
I go to a dark place sometimes. I suffer from anxiety, fears, and sometimes excruciating self-doubt. But I see a beacon of light from my boyfriend, little rays of sunshine from my children, and candles burning in the hearts of my parents, my sister and her family, and my close friends. These people believe in me, they support me, and they love me.
And they light up my path.
And somewhere along that path I started to love myself and to believe in myself because they believed in me.
And I am not afraid to admit that.
They say we shouldn’t need anyone.
But I do. I need them.
We need each other.
I need you.