Learning to love

There is something I have always inherently struggled with:

‘If you can’t love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to love you?’

I grasp the general concept and the delightfully positive spin, but am not entirely convinced that many people actually even understand themselves, let alone love what they know. Yes, anyone can like what they stand for on any given day and, if they are exceptionally fortunate, they may even carry this with them for an entire lifetime. But isn’t every single day of life just the start of something incredible? There is surely a lesson to be learned on any one of these days… a potentially dramatic shift in what we were raised to consider the truth. And to love yourself based on who you have become on any given day is quite a tall order in my book.

I like to think I am fairly open-minded and try to walk around my little corner of the Earth without the blinkers I was handed at birth. I know I’m a good person – I find lying impossibly difficult. Stealing from another makes me feel uncomfortable. I have impeccable manners (when I’m concentrating). I smile at strangers. Hell, I talk to strangers. And yes, I try to make people laugh. Somewhere along the course of my life so far, it’s been instilled deep within me that I need to work hard for others to like me. Any and all others. And anything but being liked is bad. There was even a time when I would feel easily intimidated and consequently back down on a principle or an opinion with the notion that I was wrong. Because I wasn’t quite educated enough. Or cool enough. Or thin enough. Yeah, that.

There’s good news. Nowadays, I smile at strangers and talk to random folks in the street, just because it feels damn good. I’ve worked out that the natural high of a shared moment with someone you’ve never before met is really quite beautiful. It can vastly improve an entire day. So, the earlier in the day you make it happen, the better the prognosis – even if you’re expecting a whole heap of shit to fall on your head a bit later. And I suppose I can concede that yeah, I kinda like myself a bit. But love – wow. Love is merely the light at the end of a very long tunnel. Although I can manage to crawl further along the tunnel, provided I avoid mirrors. And smoke. And bullshit.

So, yeah, love. It comes in many guises, I don’t need to spell that out. But that exquisite kind of love you feel for another person can turn your entire stack of principles on its head. If you’re lucky enough to experience it, you will appreciate that this isn’t even in the same ball park as any kind of love you can feel for yourself. You can be surrounded by friends day to day and, if you’re truly blessed, you may have a small handful of close friends for whom you would sell your last vital organ. I am lucky in that respect. I don’t expect even a fraction of what I receive and neither does a day go by when I don’t stop to appreciate what I do have. I never, ever take any of it for granted, especially since I am a lazy friend. I trust and I value the opinions and the advice of my close friends and can only hope to give a proportion of this back in kind as needs permit. And yet, in certain aspects of life, a whole chunk of what they strive to reassure falls completely on deaf ears. It’s not a disrespectful act and I like to think I smile graciously and pretend it’s all cool. But, ultimately, accepting yourself is the hardest task you will ever face in life.

There is always room for improvement, I realise that. Life is just like that – our environment changes, heavily biased opinions wax and wane and we’re frequently forced to adapt to what’s up-and-coming in our personal circumstances. And learning to love yourself becomes that little bit more complex. In many ways, a little bit further from your grasp. And then, as if an inordinately heavy veil has been lifted, someone unexpectedly enters your little world who changes everything you vehemently thought you knew so well.

This isn’t just any someone, though. This is the someone, who truly deserves your ‘I love you’ on the grounds that it comes from somewhere so deep within your soul that even you weren’t sure your personal plumb line would touch the murky depths. And you feel a love for them that’s actually painful – so intense that you have trouble conveying even a fraction of how you actually feel. Everyone can identify with this sensation, but let me tell you, it’s not the same when it’s totally unrequited. To all intents and purposes, the depth of your heartache when you pine for them is the same, yes. It feels the same amount of real. But, until you experience that death-defying kind of love that is categorically mirrored by the other, you will never comprehend how to love yourself. The second that you believe the hype is the same second you begin to believe in you. The you that is completely, unashamedly worthy. And the reason you believe them over anyone else, is that they are the other half of you. And, whether or not you felt you were good enough becomes entirely secondary to the fact that if they feel it, it must be true.

Acting on this brand new information may take some fine tuning, but for starters, the knowledge is enough. Everything else will fall into place with a little time and renewed confidence. And it’s a huge deal – the acceptance that someone has fallen in love with you, even before you learned to love yourself. To my mind, the latter follows the former and not the other way round. You can live your whole life being virtuous and caring and kind, but left reeling in the wake of stale, one-sided love, time after time. And you can be lucky, so blessed that you crossed paths with that one like-minded being – The One. And if The One can love you, then maybe it’s totally acceptable to love yourself too.



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