“To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility.” ~ bell hooks
Love, love, love. All you need is love. ~ The Beetles (1967)
I will always love you. ~ Whitney Houston (1992)
My Endless Love. ~ Lionel Richie, Diana Ross (1981)
When a man loves a Woman. ~ Percy Sledge (1966)
You get the Best of my love. ~ The Eagles (1976)
Because you loved me. ~ Celine Dion (1996)
How deep is your love? ~ Bee Gees (1977)
My Love. ~ Lionel Richie (1982)
What’s love got to do with it? ~ Tina Turner (1984)
These songs send my heart into a melting mess of nostalgic twitterpation. (Except for Tina’s song…but couldn’t resist throwing in my favorite icon.)
So much has been written about LOVE!
Do we really know what love is?
According to shame, vulnerability, and fear researcher, Brenè Brown, “we are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to.” The fact is…”A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men, and children.”
I ask, “What is your experience with love?”
And, before you answer it might behoove us to agree on a definition of love.
What are your thoughts on what love is?
To answer that, again I reference research expert, Brenè Brown, because she gives what I believe is the most concrete definition of the word Love. In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brown states:
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”
I would add…”we can only love others when we revert back to our original state of being which is love.”
I first heard the phrase “Stupid is as stupid does” while watching the movie Forrest Gump. It intrigued me, though I didn’t have a clear understanding of what it meant. While I was reading Brown’s book about LOVE these words popped into my head…
“Love is as Love does.”
The meaning became clear! You can say “I love you” but it has little meaning unless there is action behind it. I get it! “Stupid is as Stupid does” merely means that stupidity is not derived from a person’s appearance or stature in life or measurement against another’s smartness. It is, rather, a matter of deeds. In other words, you are what you do. Similarly, your love is an outward action expressing an inner knowledge that you are loveable, respected, worthy, and accepted.
Love is as love does. It’s not something we just give lip service to but rather, a matter of deeds that cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, inclusion, and our innate ability to love and trust ourselves.
If what Brown says is true, “we can only love others as much as we love ourselves”, the next question is…
“How can I cultivate love for myself if I don’t have it?”
What does it look like to trust oneself? To treat ourselves with respect and to be kind and affectionate?
Step 1: Recognition
From my own experience of putting conditional beliefs and hurdles on myself (as in: workaholic, perfectionism, always being right, etc.) in order to gain approval, I can say this, my ability to love others was often rooted in outside proof of their lovability. I was putting conditions on my show of affection…”I’ll love you when/if _________ happens.” I was doing it to myself and therefore, it seeped into every other relationship…just like 2nd hand smoke. The effect was as damaging to me as it was to the people who were closest to me.
This form of love creates a poison to those around us with our self-loathing behaviors. Even when we say we love them.
Step 2: Where did I learn this behavior?
When I was a little girl, I wanted so badly for my mom to be happy. If she was happy I felt loved. If I clean the toilet…she will be happy. What if I do all the chores? Make dinner? Give her a hug? Say I love you? Will that make her happy? Really what I was asking for was acceptance, respect, and love from a mother who did not know how to respect and love herself. Turns out the little things we say and do, like 2nd hand smoke, really do affect us. Years later and wiser, I know now that my mother was merely mirroring her own insecurities that quite possibly were handed down to her through experiences and emotional mentoring from her own family of origin. Another truth for me…
“It is hard to feel love from someone who doesn’t feel it for themselves.”
Step 3: Change the pattern (hardest step, but most effective)
Time heals. And this is true for the relationship between me and my mother. When I truly learned to love myself, that love superseded any barriers or walls around my mother’s heart… I love her unconditionally.
When we recognize that loving and caring for ourselves creates a feeling of belonging that invites others to be in. They feel our love because we practice it.
Showing respect, kindness, love, and affection for oneself is an excellent way to cultivate deep self-love which translates to loving others easily. Here are some ideas…
- Setting boundaries with your time that help you stay grounded
- Honoring yourself with 3 nourishing meals a day, proper sleep, and hydration
- Actively seeking ways to play and ignite passion for creativity.
- Being true to your word with honest integrity in speech and actions.
- Showing compassion when we make mistakes and celebrating the lessons learned that will enhance our next venture.
- Giving simple service to others through a warm smile, kind word, or act of kindness.
My new mantra: “Love is as Love Does.”
What actions help you feel your way back to your original state of love? I would love to hear your comments below!