Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a very special day – one to remember. However in recent times there are a lot of people who are very cynical about this time of year. With all the corporate marketing telling us that the more we buy, the more our partner will know how much we love them”. For hundreds of years Valentine’s day has represented love and relationships, but in the era of modern day overload and mobile devices, do we really know what love is? What we do know is that love is a very complex state of being. It can feel good; it can be wonderful; it can be hurtful; it can be confusing. Undoubtedly, however, love is healing and incredibly powerful.
The thing about us humans is that we are social animals and are driven to connect with each other. We are driven to love and to be in relationship, but increasingly do not understand how to. It seems that we have lost our way of comprehending this thing called love. In this article we will explore a little more of the misconceptions, and then talk about the mind set and path of getting to embrace love again through unconditional self love first.
“What is Love?
What Love is Not
There’s an unhealthy mindset in which people have adopted. Most will accept the idea of if someone else loves them, then it will solve everything in life- it will satisfy the deepest desires that makes a person happy; no more work to be done. Not only that, but as humans, people expect others to give them the exact love they think they need or deserve. But, how can anyone expect for that goal to be achieved. As people, how can we expect for someone else to provide us with something that we don’t really understand anymore. In perspective, there was a point in time when our priorities were different and we worked together, primarily for physical survival. We have now evolved and have been able provide ourselves (as a species) with some comforts. Now there is a void that is creating a feeling of wanting to be needed. We have become so comfortable, that we are mentally and energetically living further apart from one another. However, we have now made space to afford to be able to think about ourselves as individuals on a deeper level. We can consider our wants and find the love we need. So in other words, as a species, we are new at this whole thing of “self”. We are rediscovering our “self”, our true needs, our relationship to others, and our new survival focuses, which all effects the foundation of love.
Without knowing who you are on a deeper level; without exploring what it means to give yourself love; there’s no way you can expect for someone else to provide that for you. The truth is, solely depending on someone else to provide you with external love is not enough.
“If you don’t know how to unconditionally love yourself, how can you expect for someone else to love you the way you truly need”.
How do you know what to ask for from others? How do you know what it feels like so when things go wrong, you are able to recognize it and accept that it may not be the right situation for you, so that you can make the healthy decision to move on to your actual happiness?
Understanding Unconditional Love & How it Effects Relationships
There are people who are in relationships, but can’t figure out why they don’t feel connected to their partners anymore.
Why does it feel like their partner isn’t in love with them anymore. Why don’t they feel love for that person anymore. But yet try to force the relationship to continue as is. Even if you’re in a situation that you may describe as a loving relationship, but end up asking yourself, “why is it not as strong as it used to be or as I think it should be”. And for those who are not in a relationship may wonder why they can’t get a partner, or have that opportunity to fall in love.
Perhaps in these experiences there is a missing link. The most important and essential piece of the puzzle that is the very first step to any relationship, but especially a strong and loving relationship: Unconditional love for Self. When making the decision to finally want to fall in love and be in a lasting relationship, this is the most overlooked part that people do not consider. And, what is the biggest key to this piece?… The unconditional part. More and more, we are starting to hear the term “unconditional love“, especially now that Yoga has become popular in the United States.
“Unconditional Love of Self
But what exactly is being unconditional? That is the word we need to study the most in order to understand what we need when it comes to true love. Unconditional means not having any conditions when it comes to a person or thing. It means absolute; unreserved; to surrender. Some great synonyms are: Unquestioning, unrestricted, unlimited, and wholehearted [this one is my favorite].
Conditional love is so common these days. So that there is a clear understanding of what this mean, a very superficial example of this is when people tell themselves; “I’m sure I will find someone who loves me if my hair was different”. “I’m sure this person will love me if I would just lose a little bit of weight”. “I might stay in love with her if her boobs were bigger”. “I would love him more if he would just listen to me and do what I want him to do”. And that’s where it all goes wrong.
Being unconditional means that a person accepts another person as being human. It means having the utmost respect for another as an existing and living entity; respecting what they came into the relationship with (as long as it’s not abusive or harmful in any way). Most importantly, it means you accepting yourself for who you are as a person. It means having the ultimate respect for yourself and demanding your respect from others (especially when you have earned it by not causing harm or distress to others). Gaining your own respect is essential. It means realizing, first, you have your own purpose in this life that doesn’t depend on another person. (To test this, try to define who you are without mentioning what you do for others) Removing barriers and negative thought processes will help you to look deeper into what makes you happy; what makes you enjoy life the most; healthier ways to resolve problems. Knowing all your qualities and having a healthy insight of yourself is your power and your first step towards healthy love.
When you have learned these attributes about yourself, you will then have a better understanding about how to provide unconditional love to others, and how to receive it. Unconditional love is not limited to romantic relationships, it is potent for all types of relationships. If you work on this, you will find that all of your relationships will be healthy.
I know that the intention of this article is to acknowledge Valentines, but remember, unconditional love is also the first step towards romantic love. I feel that this is so important to accomplish first before moving on to the deeper levels of romantic love expectations. The “How to” is in my story below.
I Learned My Lessons
Just before I first met my husband; I was going through transition. I had those same questions about how to achieve a “real” and lasting loving relationship. I couldn’t figure out why I kept ending up in the same ole, non-ideal situations. Why could I not find “that“someone who wanted to be with me, to want to stick with me, wanted to love me and respect me for me. Then I realized that it’s up to me; and I then asked myself, “how can I expect for someone to love me, if I don’t even know how to love myself or know what love is” (because at that time, I really didn’t know what love was). I became fully aware that in order for me to expect for someone to authentically love me for me, I needed to authentically love myself first. I want to be the type of person that someone wants to love. And in order to achieve that goal, I knew I needed to do self-work. My first step; incorporating unconditional love for myself
How did I do that?
I took time for myself, a mini vacation to just be (for the moment, no family or friends. I love them, but they tend to reinforce the continuous cycle of negative patterns) I wrote in a journal all my questions that would lead to my goals of understanding me. I took into consideration how others viewed me; and what potentials were deep within me that, before, I did not dare acknowledge. I had questions like:
- Who am I really?
- Am I really spoiled like family say I am? (Note, this was time for pure honesty. And if the answer was yes, then I needed to accept that without badgering myself or holding on to it. My goal was to work on it). My answer, by the way, was yes. So how can I restore my own power and depend on me for a change?
- What do want from life? Meaning how do I want to feel most of the time? I knew that music and dance made me “feel” like myself. I wanted to explore new places, learn new things, live in peace. I did not want to be in constant arguments over things that did not serve me or that was not for the benefit of life.
My second step; I considered all of my failed relationships and made an effort to cleanse them (no need to talk to that person). On a sheet of paper, I wrote out the names a each person and in my heart I forgave each of them and asked for my own forgiveness, then burned the paper and let them all go (not in a mean spirited way, but with the understanding that those days have been lived and now I can move on). Now it was time for me.
I took the time to learn how to like being around myself. My mission was to comprehend the Why’s around my likes and dislikes so that I could fully understand them. I wanted to know, what makes parts of me likable or unlikable? For the unlikable, are they characteristics I can improve? If so, I needed not to be attached to the old story. I needed to have the will, and to dare myself to step outside of the usual story and explore more practical ways of being.
If I didn’t have a full understanding of something as simple as of my likes & dislikes, then how do I know that those ideas were actually mine. Through discovery, I found that other people’s unhealthy likes or dislikes do not compliment me. When I realized that, I was able to let them go.
I developed the ability to enjoy my own company, and to not be shy about it. At that point, I came to accept what ever I might find in the process without running away from it. Even if it meant never finding the “love of my life”. I accepted the possibility that my destiny may led me to being on my own for the rest of my life. I would have been ready to be my own true love for the rest of my life, if it came down to it. For me, I noticed that when I was able to let go and energetically sit in that space for a while, I felt a sense of release and authentic freedom. Trust me, it was challenging to get into that head space, but I worked at it and it was worth it.
I told my husband that before I met him I made a vow to myself; I loved martial arts so much, that if he had not come into my life by the time I turned 40, I would have gone to a Shaolin temple to immerse myself in martial arts lifestyle. Now we have this “joke” that we could still do that together. Maybe some day.
I learned that when dealing with other people and an issue arises that I may have initiated, it bodes well for me to come to terms with my responsibility in it; then do something about it in a healthy manner. The effort is to admit to my role I played in the issue, apologizing, accepting my own responsibilities and my own consequences.
“The more I am honest with myself, the more doors that open. The more doors that open, the more I know about myself. The more I know about myself, the more in love I am.
Through this work, that I took time for and did for myself, I gained healthier and loving friends who embraced me for me, and continues to help me see my strengths and worth. Also as a result of this work I was able to be in the relationship that I have always wanted in a healthy way. I married my best friend, my partner, my crush, and most importantly; someone who respects me for me, as I respect him from him.
Relationships are not easy and it is not the end game when you are or finally get in one. There is always work to be done. I continue the essence of the self work I’ve done; unconditional self-love and respected. I know what to ask of my husband when I really need it, and not be selfish about it. I know when I need to take time for myself to refresh, and when to authentically give him space and to honor his needs. Even after 15 years (at this point), I know that unconditional love and respect is essential. The key is being open and accepting.
Through understanding that there is always an answer – there’s always a way out of hardship, I know there is no need for me to fear anything about life and the decisions I make. And that is the foundation of true love.
Stay tuned for more post about practices that will lead to achieving healthy relationships, unconditional love, and self love through yoga.