Healing Difficult Emotions, Overcoming Self-loathing and Anxiety, Self-Love and Self-Directed Kindness

Step Seven: Love-Infused Relationships

This is the seventh post in a series about letting go of perfectionism and control in order to reconnect with Love. You can find links to the other posts in this series at the end of this post. Now we will look at step seven: love-infused relationships.

Step #7: I set the intention to infuse all of my relationships with Love.

When we learn to recognize the difference between the Wise and Wounded Self, we realize that the Wise Self is the truest self. This true for both us and in everyone else. When we understand this, it becomes much easier to infuse all of our relationships with unconditional love.

Unconditional love nurtures us, heals us, keeps us safe, and empowers us.

It is possible to infuse all of our relationships with unconditional love. And that is really what we all want. But getting to the point where we are able to do this can be difficult because there are a lot of misunderstandings about unconditional love.

So let’s try to clear up some of those misunderstandings.

What Unconditional Love Is

Unconditional love is consistently showing ourselves and others kindness, compassion, and respect, in order nurture the good and heal the wounded in us.

The practice of unconditional love is based in the notion that all people (including us) deserve kindness, compassion, and respect simply because we are human beings. Unconditional love suggests that we are all worthy right now.

Now if you are a like a lot of people, this definition of unconditional love probably both sounds exciting and also scary. On the one hand, most of us want to be loved unconditionally. And we generally understand that being good to other people is important.

However, we also know that we do bad things sometimes and that other people do bad things. This badness may be general meanness and cruelty. Or it might be significant irresponsibility, life-destroying addictions, abuse, and other destructive forms of behavior.

So how do we address these worries?

First, let’s note that loving ourselves and others unconditionally does not require us to excuse bad behavior. In fact, love requires that we address such behavior and set firm boundaries. I have addressed this issue in other posts, and you can read more about it here, here, and here.

In the rest of this post, I will proceed with the assumption that unconditional love requires us to set boundaries and address bad behavior. And proceeding on this assumption, I will  address why unconditional love is a wise and moral practice.

Trying To Earn Love

Second, let’s consider the opposite of unconditional love, which is conditional love. Conditional love tells us that we are not worthy of unconditional love as we are. And that means we must earn our worth or we must try do enough to be worthy of unconditional love.

Here are some things we try to do to be worthy: We try to be beautiful enough, successful enough, holy enough, smart enough, or religious or Christian enough. Or we try to be talented enough, organized enough, cool enough, rich enough, famous enough, sexy enough. You get the idea.

I will refer to all these endeavors as trying to be good enough.

But there are several practical problems with trying to be good enough to earn love.

When we try to be good enough to earn love, we do this by trying to live up to standards that other people set for us to earn worthiness and love.

But how do we know which standards of worthiness are the right ones? After all, there are hundreds of conflicting ideas of what constitutes beauty, success and goodness. Even people within the same religious or political groups (or whatever other groups) differ widely on what constitutes these things.

How do we know which standards are true or which ones to accept? We could try to be worthy of love according to one standard and then discover we had the wrong standard.

There is a second practical problem with trying to earn our love.

Even if we could know 100% certainty the right standard we had to achieve to be worthy of love, no one can ever meet any standard 100% of the time. For example, can never be absolutely beautiful, absolutely successful, or absolutely smart all the time, even when we are trying our hardest. That is not humanly possible.

Does this mean, then, that we are only ever to approach being worthy and lovable but to never actually be consistently worthy and lovable? This kind of thinking is the very thing that encourages perfectionism and self-hate.

feeling Sad

The fact that chasing our worth leads to self-hate raises a third practical problem. If we are supposed to continually strive to meet some kind of external standard in order to be worthy of love, this takes a great deal of perseverance, courage, and hope. Continually exercising these character traits takes a lot of strong internal resources.

But how can we cultivate internal resources of perseverance, courage, and hope if we never feel worthy? If we feel constantly unworthy, it is very hard for us to strive continually for good things in all areas of our life.

So by striving to be better in order to be lovable and worthy, we defeat ourselves. We actually deprive ourselves of the resources we need to strive consistently to be better.

There is a Deeper Problem

There is also an even deeper, more major philosophical problem with trying to earn love by being good enough.

When we do this, we strive for standards external to us and that are different than how we are right now. But if we are trying to be something different from us, how can we actually ever love ourselves or be worthy of love?

For example, imagine that X is the standard that we are striving for to be worthy of love, and if X isn’t us. You can further imagine, then, that by obtaining X, we are no longer ourselves. We are something else. And that means that whoever or whatever we are is always unworthy of love.

When we feel like we always have to do or be more in order to get love, we are forever in danger of losing ourselves.

Losing Ourselves

What does it mean to lose ourselves?

If we continually look outside of ourselves to do or be more to earn love, what we are actually doing is rejecting, refusing, and hating who we currently are. This sets us up into cycles of self-hate and self-loathing.

 

Finding Ourselves

If, on the other hand, we realize that everyone, both ourselves and other people, possess a Wise Self and that this is our truest self, this allows us to find ourselves. We recognize that we are already worthy and lovable right now, and so are other people.

And as we see this, we develop a strong and clear set of principles for living. It gives us a clear intellectual, moral and practical compass and helps us infuse all our relationships with love. For example, if we recognize that everyone is worthy and lovable right now, it will lead us to adopt principles for living like the following.

Treat everyone with basic dignity.

Do not crush people’s spirits with harsh and cruel words

Stand up for those who are being treated cruelly.

Encourage and connect with the goodness in everyone through kind and loving words and actions.

Avoid work or activities that dishonor this basic goodness in myself and others.

And as we hold fast to and live out these principles we become increasingly consistent, internally strong, focused, wise, clear, thoughtful, and loving. This helps us show up more thoughtfully and powerfully in the world. And this allows us to infuse all of our relationships with love.

The more we infuse all of our relationships with love, the more we express our unique goodness with the world and help to create a beautiful world together.

Leaving Self-Hate Behind

This is the concluding post in a series of post on recovering from self-hate and leaving it behind.

Self-hate is a common pattern we fall into when we get cut off from our Wise Self and lose our sense of who we are and of our intrinsic and unconditional worth. This is when our Wounded Self develops. This happens to most of us at some point in our life, and it can be a temporary condition that we experience before connecting with our Wise Self again (even if we don’t know to call it that).

Sometimes, however, we get stuck in our Wounded Self, and this is when self-hate and all of its ensuing problems fester. One of the most important steps in recovering from self-hate is to connect with Love again. We do this when we remember that the truest thing about us is our Wise Self and that we have talents and gifts to share with the world. We are essential. Connecting with the Wise Self reminds us that we are already worthy and lovable, and we are not alone. God, the Universe, the Highest Self, or whatever you want to call it is always reaching out to us to nurture the good in ourselves and others and heal what is wounded. It also empowers us to do the same.

If you want to read more about bringing love into all areas of our life, there are more posts below on this subject.

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing on social media.

This is one of my favorite books about love:

Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love

If you would like to read these posts from the beginning, you can start here:

Seven Steps to Love: Recovering from Self-Hate

Here are some posts on connecting with Divine Love:

Contemplative Practices: A Post for Everyone

Suffering and Prayer: A Post for Everyone

Prayer: When We Believe and When We Don’t

Here are some posts on cultivating a loving relationship with yourself:

Do You Live from the Inside Out or Outside In?

Adopting a Loving View of Yourself

Loving Affirmations and Self-Love

Becoming Your Own Best Friend

Here are some posts on cultivating loving relationships with others:

Develop Your Own Ethical System

Ten Principles of Being Human

Nurture Vs. Control Relationships

People First Politics

16 thoughts on “Step Seven: Love-Infused Relationships”

  1. Absolutely love and agree with your post!! We accumulate so much unnecessary suffering when we keep living with definitions and obligations that are chosen by others that we apply in our choices. It is our privilege and primary responsibility to take care of ourselves, to find love and acceptance for ourselves, so we can better relate to others and allow the same space of freedom for others. It is a beautiful life that way.

    1. You have stated this so well, P. It took me so long to realize that I really don’t have to pay attention to standards others have set for me. You are right that it is our privilege and responsibility to take responsibility for our lives!

  2. Another amazing post and this one deeply resonated with me. I always have that annoying voice in my head that says “if you can’t make this work out then you’re not good enough.” Things from the major (trying to publish a book) to the minor (trying to keep the house clean). Have you seen the new movie out about Mr. Rogers? It’s called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and it has a lot of very moving similar themes to this post. 🙂 “I love you just the way you are!”

    1. I am so happy this resonated with you, M.B.! It really helped me to write it. I struggle as well with a lot of the same things you mentioned. Understanding that I can love myself just as I am has been a transformational experience for me! I will check out the Mr. Rogers movie. He was so wonderful.

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